Usually when someone says that to me, it’s a signal to shut up and ask no more questions.
So let me say right off the bat—this is not complicated.
Three months before the 2016 presidential election, a New York Times videographer recorded the voices and actions of supporters at several Trump rallies. The result was ugly but illuminating. This is the third time I’ve included the disturbing video in an article, and as with the other times I will warn you that it is uncensored, vulgar, and repulsive. It will remind you of what you probably envision Nazi Germany to have been like during the rise of Hitler.
But this is not about Hitler or any other well-worn though obvious historical references. Not directly. This is about TrumpTax and the sworn goal of the Republican party to keep America stupid. The bill is anti-science and anti-education in one neat package. It’s win-win for losers.
Here’s how it works in the case of one Dacen Waters. He’s in his his fourth year of pursuing a doctorate in physics at Carnegie Mellon University. He receives an annual stipend of just under $30,000 and a $43,000 tuition waver, Under the new tax plan, tuition that universities waive in exchange for working on campus as researchers and teaching assistants would be deemed taxable income. The result? Mr. Waters would incur a $7,000 tax increase, an eventuality, he says, that would force him out of school.*
“It’s pretty unheard-of to do anything in physics [without a] doctoral degree,” he said.
But of course, the current anti-intellectual and anti-scientific Republican ethos has no room for advances in physics, let alone some sheepskin that looks pretty on a wall. The party of coal, of deregulating pesticides, of the already leaky Keystone Pipeline, of lowering automobile mileage requirements, and of demolishing the EPA already knows everything. Further research and discovery are nice and all that, and the Republicans might even utter lip service about a cancer cure, but they already have enough knowledge to take us through the 19th and 20th centuries…and that should suffice.
That video again—the iconic young man in the blue t-shirt, the Islamophobe in the black. Contrast those two with Dacen Waters—a young man pursuing an advanced degree from a prestigious university. Of course we’ve known for years what Trump’s base looks like, sounds like, and thinks like. It’s disheartening though to see so many other Republicans—many of them educated, bright, and sensible—selling out to the same false god.
There remains, even now, a chance to make things better, and some of the Republican senators have in fact balked at this tuition measure; but in the end there is little hope that these objections will prevent passage—will keep us from (in an utter perversion of Fitzgerald’s beautiful wording) being borne back ceaselessly into the past.