Over the weekend, Robby Strong, a clinical psychologist with the County of Los Angeles Department of Mental Health, hand-delivered a Christmas present to the Bel-Air residence of Steve Mnuchin.
That present: a gift-wrapped box of literal horse shit along with a greeting card that read as follows:
Dear Mr. Mnuchin & Trump, we, the American people are returning the ‘gift’ of the Christmas tax bill. Because it’s complete and utter horseshit. Warmest Wishes, The American People.
Prior to dropping the box off in Bel-Air, Strong posted pictures of the card (and the horse shit) on Facebook:
“I was talking to a friend about the tax bill and we were both complaining about how it’s total horse shit,” Strong would later say, before explaining that one of his other friends who was present for the start of the revolution has a horse ranch in Sylmar. “I wrapped it up Christmas style,” he added, noting that he “wanted it to be nice and festive.”
Before delivering the box, he posted the following message on Facebook:
I need someone to ride along and document my Secret Santa project. I'm going to hand deliver boxes of horse shit to Steve Mnuchin over in Beverly Hills. Because if money is free speech, so is horse shit. PM me. We'll go down in the anals of history. No disguises, no fake names. Totally owning this one. You're only powerless if you do nothing!!!
Well, the bomb squad was not amused and neither was the Secret Service, but ultimately, he’s not expected to face charges because hand-delivering horse shit isn’t a crime. “It was a gift-wrapped package of poo,” Strong said Sunday. “Is there a law that you can’t drop off a box of poo? Not really.”
Yes, “not really.” And it’s a good thing, because if that were a law, it seems likely that working class families would have a case against the GOP and Donald Trump. Simply put, for low income Americans, the tax bill does indeed resemble “a gift-wrapped package of poo” (to quote Strong again).
Here’s the thing. I don’t begrudge the wealthy the benefits that are set to accrue to them from the tax bill, nor do I think it’s some kind of crime against humanity to encourage corporations to buy back more stock and further enrich shareholders.
Rather, the problem with this bill is the dishonesty inherent in the sales pitch. Back on November 29, in a speech to an invitation-only crowd in Missouri, Trump said this about the tax plan:
This is not good for me. Me, it’s not so — I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that’s OK. You know, I keep hearing Schumer: ‘This is for the wealthy.’ Well, if it is, my friends don’t know about it.
Obviously, that is absurd. And underscoring the absurdity was an eyewitness account of Trump telling members of his Mar-a-Lago club that “you all just got a lot richer” at a dinner on Friday night.
This administration is mind-bogglingly tone deaf. Not only has there been no attempt to even nibble around the edges of the truth when pitching this tax plan, they’ve seemingly gone out of their way to create horrible optics.
I would say it’s not lost on Steve Mnuchin that part of the reason he ended up with a package of horse shit on his driveway is due to the fact that last month, he let a picture of himself holding up a sheet of actual dollar bills bearing his actual signature escape onto Twitter right in the middle of the extraordinarily contentious debate about the tax plan, and that picture featured Louise Linton striking the most nefarious pose imaginable as she sneered at camera while clutching the newly-printed money with one black-gloved hand. But I’m not entirely sure that would be accurate. That is, maybe it is lost on Mnuchin.
After all, the bad optics surrounding that photo op were apparently lost on him and when Chris Wallace gave him a chance to try and do a bit of damage control, Mnuchin literally said, on national television, that he “takes it as a compliment” when the American public compares him and his wife to “James Bond villains.”
So again, I’m sure the biggest affront to working class families who have taken the time to understand what this tax plan actually means is the fact that by 2027, households bringing in more than $1 million (the top 0.6% of filers) will be getting 81.8% of the benefits.
But to me (and probably to anyone else who doesn’t expect to be absolutely fucked by this plan but who nevertheless does not enjoy having their intelligence insulted), the biggest affront is the sheer brazen disregard for decorum. It reminds me of a bumper sticker I once saw while driving through the backcountry in Georgia (don’t ask what I was doing there). Turns out you can order these stickers so I have a screenshot for you:
Apparently, this is common courtesy in the South.
Well, there hasn’t even been a nod to common courtesy from this administration when it comes to the tax plan. Not only have they gone out of their way to rub how rich they are in everyone’s faces, they’ve also generally eschewed efforts to explain why trickle-down may actually work this time in favor of 450-word one-pagers that, unlike dollar bills, Mnuchin couldn’t even be bothered to put his signature on. In other words, they’re not even putting in the requisite effort to lie about the expected benefits of trickle-down economics.
And speaking of trickle-down economics, have a look at this chart from Pavlina Tcherneva:
Someone needs to remind Trump and Mnuchin (and the rest of them) that if you’re going to go ahead and supercharge the dynamic illustrated in that chart (which, incidentally, shows that this is not a phenomenon that’s confined to Republican administrations), you’ve at least got to put in an honest effort when it comes to lying to the public (did you catch the oxymoron there?).
You can’t just trot out the billionaire President in front of an invitation-only crowd and have him say things like “rich people don’t like me” and “this isn’t good for me, believe me.” Especially not when the Treasury Secretary’s wife is poor-shaming people on the ‘Gram and finger fucking actual dollar bills when the ink on her husband’s signature isn’t even dry.
For now, America is just calling it horse shit. But if Robby Strong decides he really wants to make a difference, he’ll drop off photocopies of the dictionary definition of “Kleptocracy” on the driveways of low income Americans. That’s when things get really interesting.