Roger L. Simon

The Tax Bill and Freud's Narcissism of Small Differences

Our friends at The New Yorker — who once delighted us with witty authors like James Thurber and S. J. Perelman but of late have been non-stop purveyors of doom and gloom – now inform us “The Final Version of the G.O.P. Tax Bill Is a Corrupt, Cruel, Budget-Busting Hairball.”


Imagine for a moment if the exact same bill had been proposed by the Democrats, not entirely impossible since by far its most dramatic feature, the substantial lowering of the corporate tax rate, was recently proposed by Barack Obama himself. Would The New Yorker have written about it in remotely the same manner?  As it might have been phrased during the magazine’s glory days: Pshaw!

What we have here is what Freud referred to as the “narcissism of small differences.” But before I get into that, let me address the accusation in The New Yorker’s headline, that the tax bill is a “budget-buster,” i.e. will explode the already mammoth deficit.  Besides the obvious that The New Yorker — and similar institutions like the New York Times, etc. — were not at all that concerned with the deficit during the Obama years when it really did explode, there is the larger point: no one knows.

Various economists, interest groups, and committees have weighed in on it one way or the other, but I suspect their views were heavily endowed with wish-fulfillment on both sides.  It wasn’t that long ago, after all (Nov. 9, 2016) — speaking of wish-fulfillment — that economics Nobelist Paul Krugman predicted in the aforementioned New York Times not only that the stock market would crash on Trump’s election, but that it would never recover. (He actually used the word “never.” It would be interesting to know if Krugman followed up on his Armageddon-like prediction, er, monumental blunder, in his personal investments.  I suspect not.  The number of Trump’s worst critics currently making an unprecedented killing in the market is, shall we say, yuuuge.)

So you will excuse me if I cock a somewhat jaundiced eye on John Cassidy’s (The New Yorker writer) view that the bill is a budget-buster.  What the Republicans have done is take the position from the Laffer Curve that lowering taxes will stimulate the economy to such a degree that more revenue will ultimately be brought into the government at the same time the people get to keep more — exactly what JFK and Reagan did before them.  Those presidents were proven right. Booms occurred for all levels of society. Does that mean that it will happen again?  Not necessarily.  But JFK and Reagan were optimistic men, just as Trump is.  And their optimism ignited things.

Economics, it is often argued, is as much emotional as scientific. Most of us, I hope, would like to be on the optimistic side.  The Democrats, however, have a problem with this.  For them to root for the success of the economy is to root against themselves.  They know this full well because it was one of them who invented the famous phrase “It’s the economy, stupid.”

They are more vulnerable than ever in this area because if the economy continues to grow near the rate it has been, it will start to affect many strata of society.  Identity politics, that reactionary linchpin of Democratic survival, will be at risk.  Suppose, come summer, Trump and other Republicans venture forth into the black community and point out how their economic plan has done so much more for that community than decades of pseudo-liberalism?  This is a potential catastrophe for the Democratic Party, which has offered nothing beyond  attacks on Trump.  Chuck Schumer’s plan was intended to be that, but it was so little and so incremental no one can remember it.

So, apropos, back to Freud’s “narcissism of small differences.” The closer we get to each other, the more enmity occurs.  I submit that it is epidemic in our politics, not just in the tax area where you watch talking heads go apoplectic on the Sunday shows over a two percent rise or fall in a rate or a small change in this or that deduction.  You find it in the war between the parties on almost every issue and in the intra-party wars on both sides.  To simplify the concept, it’s akin to a sibling rivalry with all its lifelong inherent mutual envy and contempt.

What does, for example, a Nancy Pelosi stand for that’s so different from Trump that justifies all the fire and brimstone?  She’s not as rich as he is, maybe, but she’s got one helluva vineyard out there in Napa.  Yet, she yammers on as if she were a tribune of the people and Trump was, well, you know…..

And why do the mainstream media hate Trump so much?  What exactly has he actually done to incur their ire (other than insult them, of course)?  He undoubtedly wouldn’t admit it, but I bet even Jim Acosta, were he president, would quietly go about vetting every immigrant from the Syrian civil war to be sure they weren’t coming here to blow up a bus for Allah.  He’d be an imbecile if he didn’t.  But he hates, hates, hates Donald Trump.  It’s all about the narcissism of small differences.

Now, in saying this, I have not gone soft on the radical left. Not in the slightest.  I am merely pointing to a psychological provenance.  It’s a question of education.

An illustration of how dangerous this can ultimately get appears in this video from the indispensable website Campus Reform.  This is what happened when they interviewed students from George Mason University 100 days into Trump’s presidency:

When disguised as something Donald Trump did, for instance, what did students think of President Obama’s “Apology Tour?”

Why, that’s “dangerous” and “overstepping his bounds,” they cried.

What about Obama’s stimulus package?

When credited to Trump, they found the idea reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

And President Obama’s order to loosen statute of limitation laws to make lawsuits easier?

That’s just a secret ploy to make Trump more money.

Nothing is based on fact.  Everything on feeling.  Sigmund Freud would not have been surprised.

Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media.  His latest book is I Know Best:  How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If  It Hasn’t Already.