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Ebenezer Scrooge and the ‘tax scam’

12/29/2017, 1:40 p.m.
One of my favorite Christmas pastimes is looking through my television content guide, finding a scheduled airing of “A Christmas ...

Dr. E. Faye Williams

One of my favorite Christmas pastimes is looking through my television content guide, finding a scheduled airing of “A Christmas Carol” and tuning in to watch. I don’t know how many iterations of this movie classic have been made, but I’ve viewed multiple versions made from the 1930s to the recent past. It seems like each generation produces a film with a modern twist designed to keep the message of the movie fresh for new viewers.

I find that this story and its original message maintain a relevance that doesn’t diminish with age. For clarification, it’s not a scary story written for one of the most joyous holidays of the year, and it’s much more than the simple story of the renewal and redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge. Its message is, in fact, a social commentary by author Charles Dickens that provides a critical analysis of the social order of Victorian England. In it, I find the parallels with the contemporary United States to be uncanny.

The story was written in 1843, approximately six years into the reign of Queen Victoria. Mr. Dickens was extremely critical of the established social order of Great Britain. Observers suggest that during that period, people either were financially secure or poor — with little room in between. Describing conditions with the use of the contemporary term “income inequality” would not be incorrect. Poor families suffered and, as is always the case with the vulnerable, the children of poor families suffered most.

Like modern public housing, workhouses were established to house those who couldn’t independently afford living space. Men and women were physically separated to prevent “breeding.” The physical separation of children from their parents contributed to the dissolution of the nuclear family unit. Debtors prisons were common to the times and required inmates to work off the cost of their debt and the expense of their imprisonment.

Mr. Dickens was greatly disturbed that those least capable of correcting these social ills — the poor and uneducated — were given that task. Scrooge symbolized the greed, avarice and indifference of the wealthy class to the masses. He famously offered these solutions to the problems of the times, “Are there no prisons?” and “If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”

That same Scrooge-like indifference seems to be baked into the Republican psyche. They have illustrated this with their hysterical efforts to repeal Obamacare, removing millions of Americans from the only health care insurance they’ve ever known, and throwing the remaining masses back into a commercialized, profit-driven system run by insurance companies.

Their recently passed “tax scam,” approved by only 29 percent of Americans, offers questionable temporary tax relief to the masses of earners while giving major corporations permanent relief. Under this plan, the top tax rate for corporate income will be lower than the top tax rate for “labor” income. Although the standard taxpayer deductions are increased, deduction for state, local and property taxes have been capped at $10,000.

Time will reveal the full implications of this “tax scam,” but, from where I stand, I now see Ebenezer Scrooge incarnate.

I’m always mindful of this time of year as a period of renewal and of a coming together of humanity. I urge people to remember that the differences that divide us are far fewer than the commonalities that could unite us, if we give them a chance.

The birth of our new year serves as a starting point from which we all can work for the betterment of our nation and our world. I pray for your prosperity and health throughout the coming year.

The writer is national president of the National Congress of Black Women Inc.