Sex Sells! The Ad man’s motto since modern advertising began has never been truer or more evident than in our latest “Cultural Moment” of coming to terms with sexual misconduct itself.
Is it just coincidental that just as the most momentous tax shift in recent history is working its way through the halls of Congress, potentially affecting the entire economy and every American’s life for decades to come, the news is dominated with story after story of sexual misconduct by powerful men?
Sex sells because of both its attractive and repulsive qualities. But its most notable quality at present is its tremendous power to distract. Certainly the issues raised by overly aggressive or predatory behavior need to be vigorously aired and legal or social boundaries re-defined. But with its magnetic public appeal, sex is dangerously drawing media and national attention away from other critical issues: in particular the egregious Republican effort to shift the tax burden from corporations and the already-wealthy to nearly everyone else.
"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"
The Wizard of Oz, 1939
Credit: Creative Commons
The role that mainstream media might be playing in explaining and analyzing the tax “sausage” as it’s being made in unseemly haste in private party caucuses, without open hearings, serious debate or attempts to assemble a bipartisan coalition has somehow been superseded by the demands of reporting on the latest sexual harassment scandals.
From Roy Moore to Harvey Weinstein to Al Franken and now Charlie Rose (with the specter of Donald Trump’s behavior looming in the background) sex has dominated both the news and the debate over national ethics and morals. One result, New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg has pointedly noted is that because of their responsiveness to issues of sexism, it “feels as if liberal institutions are devouring themselves over sex while conservatives, unburdened by the pretense of caring about gender equality, blithely continue their misrule.”
This is the climate in which a massive, detailed and highly controversial tax bill which permanently cuts corporate taxes from 35% to 20% and ends the estate tax while greatly reducing, phasing out or eliminating middle class benefits such as deductions for medical costs, state and local taxes, school loans and mortgage interest is being rushed through Congress. Not to mention the recent approval of more than a trillion dollar addition to the national debt which seems miraculously to have left deficit hawks in the GOP unfazed!
All under the guise of tax reform—surely a topic worthy of everyone’s serious attention—but now being railroaded by the demands of major donors and a Senate rules deadline.
Donald Trump’s election and presidency, for complex reasons, has clearly allowed a number of previously repressed and unresolved national issues to rise to the surface, some largely symbolic such as the removal of Confederate statues, and others such as sexism and racism painfully real.
Yet behind the scenes, and certainly taking advantage of the fortunate distractions provided by juicy sexual scandals, Trump’s tweets about black athletes disrespecting the flag, and border walls, powerful and very determined masters of the universe are moving to alter the basic economic ground on which we all stand. Whether by design or coincidence, the explosive “cultural moment” provided by our current obsession with sexual wrongdoing may just create the necessary conditions to allow them to prevail.