Nero’s Tax Cut

During Senate debate one day, Nero, Rome’s stupidest emperor, suggested that since nobody liked taxes, they should be abolished entirely. Only a few senators — a pack of obsequious, fawning cowards — dared tell Nero that his idea wouldn’t work. But all of them praised him for his magnificence. Sound familiar?

This year’s Republican tax bill too is the vile bloom of a slavish, obsequious Senate: men with less courage or understanding than Nero’s lickspittles.

Once the so-called “greatest deliberative body in the world,” today’s U.S. Senate is dominated by cowards whose only semi-truthful argument for the tax cut is that Republicans need “a win” this year.

A win for the party, not for the nation.

The man to whom these cowards bow, Donald Trump, is as malignant and ignorant as Nero was, and of the same character type: spoiled, self-centered brats who were born into privilege and to whom nobody ever said no. That’s fine — you go, guys — but not when it affects the state of nations.

Nero’s only real achievement, aside from the ruination of countless families, was to bring the 99-year-old Julio-Claudian dynasty to a dismal end. And the men who ended it were not his mewling and puking Senate, but his armies.

Trump today is doing to the Republican Party what Nero did to Rome, for the same reasons and by the same methods: a greedy, incompetent man seeking glory, and a self-castrated Senate. And — shades of Rome — America’s only hope is that a military man, the White House chief of staff, might save us from him.

But this column is not about the tyrants; it’s about their Senates: wealthy men of immense privilege, dozens of whom inherited their jobs from their families — then and now.

It’s about self-centered, greedy cowards who are afraid to oppose a powerful, perverse moron for fear of what he could do to them — not to their country. This is a fear that has nothing to do with the jobs the senators were elected to do; it’s a fear felt by preening, self-seeking men interested only in money and power and their perquisites, and in retaining the ability to keep preening, and unaware of how to do this except through imposing fear upon underlings and begging for favors from their masters.

Consider Trump’s pitiful fear of journalism. The New York Times’ motto is “Without Fear or Favor.” The motto for Republican time-servers in Congress should be “Only Through Fear or Favor.”

Trump’s knee-jerk Twitter attacks upon his imagined enemies are not reasoned argument: they are just whining. Trump hates reporters because they’re more well-informed than he is, which makes them look smarter, too, every day.

But being smart doesn’t count for much. Mussolini was smart. Stalin was smart. Sen. Joe McCarthy was smart — for a while, and up to a point. But how did they use their smarts?

To oppress, insult, taunt, humiliate and grasp for power.

Like Trump, they had an insatiable need to do this, and to do it every day, and if possible, to see their victims suffer. Nero sometimes watched men being tortured while he ate dinner.

Little men, trying to be big. Devoting themselves not to serving their nation, but to trying to impress it. To make it kneel before them. So long as they don’t do it on a football field.

Readers have asked why I’ve spent so much time lately writing about the Roman Empire. It’s because comparing the modern United States to the fall of the Roman Empire used to be a cliché —  it’s still a cliché now, but it’s accurate.

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