There's an expression we hear or see all too frequently, one that is particularly odious: "collateral damage." Some military types, or civilian leaders who are pursuing their own ambitions, use that phrase to sterilize the death and maiming of innocents as battle operations rage nearby.
In a less violent way, that same kind of offensive mentality permeates the rationalizations of too many political leaders, that is if they even bother to think about the human consequences of their rhetoric or schemes to manipulate voters or to generate special-interest campaign contributions. The millions of people who become uninsured and die because they can't afford health care, become incidental, as do the refugees from fear who suffer because of brutal immigration machinations concocted by demagogues to satisfy the worst xenophobic instincts of Americans -- they also are "collateral damage."
So, too, were the million-plus federal government workers and contractors whose financial lifeblood had been cut off to the point it was necessary to go begging for food and other basic essentials, all because a mindless president was chasing his own rants about impossibly walling off the United States' southern border.
Every once in awhile, the warfare practitioners sometimes are forced to have at least a twinge of conscience about the carnage from their destructive handiwork. In the case of Donald Trump and so many of his associates, obviously their introspection mechanism either has been surgically removed or has experienced the atrophy that comes with decades of underutilization.
It's not just Trump, whose "I love them," "I respect them," I really, really, do protestations set the bar for insincerity; he is more than matched by those who flit around him. Billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is one of several in the administration who have refused to shed themselves of conflict-of-interest entanglements or have bathed in inappropriate perks. Ross just couldn't "quite understand" why so many destitute government workers were forced to rely on food charity. They could just take out loans, he insisted. Kevin Hassett, Trump's chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, argued the workers were "better off" because they were really taking a "paid vacation" -- they would be compensated, after all, once the shutdown unshuts. Those are just a couple of examples of Trumpsters spewing the garbage of entitlement because their minds are addled by their wealth and privilege.
There are now a few on the left who are finally embracing a way to counter the gross financial inequality in the United States. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed an "ultramillionaire" tax, a 2 percent added levy on those with a net worth of over $50 million, and an additional 1 percent when income and assets top a billion. Meanwhile, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrats' upstart congresswoman from New York, is proposing a 60 to 70 percent tax rate for the obscenely wealthy. While it's interesting that politicians are now feeling confident enough to increase taxes on the filthy rich, others contend they are too hesitant, that they have not gone far enough.
They would like the debate to include a confiscatory tax for annual income and assets of, say, $10 million, or some insane amount that would allow not only the biggest spendthrift to make ends meet, but also leave incentive enough to inspire the most selfish entrepreneurial impulse. How many vacation homes does one family require? Does super-rich Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington professional football team with the bigoted name, really need that $100 million yacht he's purchasing, complete with an IMAX movie theater? He's earned his gazillions by running his sports franchise into the ground. He's not known for empathy, to say the least, so it's no surprise that he's friendly to President Trump, who has to be constantly reminded that his every preposterous action leaves collateral damage, and also that he should care.
Bob Franken can be reached on Twitter, @frankenb.