With a hefty price tag of $1.6 trillion, the new tax bill is primarily funded by combining magical thinking with a cleverly executed bait-and-switch that ultimately leaves hard-working Americans holding the bag and paying the tab. Little more than a cursory glance at the numbers is required to reveal the true outcome of the biggest tax code overall in thirty years—a trillion-dollar giveaway to corporate America and the wealthy elite, representing one of the most successful scams ever perpetrated against the middle-class since Reaganomics and that Nigerian Prince who definitely wants to send you money.

As anticipation builds for what some are calling a massive blue wave heading into the 2018 mid-term elections, the GOP’s blatant looting of U.S. tax-payer coffers would seem a death sentence for any party looking to hold on to both house majorities. And yet, the GOP may not only survive the passage what is arguably one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation in a half century—they may even thrive.

The unfortunate truth for a modern age of short memories is that winning for the moment is good enough. In a first-past-the-post democracy, a winning political strategy need not be one of ultimate and universal integrity—just good enough to get to the next election cycle. And that’s exactly what GOP leaders are banking on.

Republicans aren’t concerned about any facts or figures that might draw attention to the massive hole in their tax bill funding. Nor are they concerned about confirming the further enrichment of the wealthy with tax increases on middle-class Americans. That’s because the GOP’s winning strategy isn’t based on the timely revelation of truth, but rather, its continued obscurity and delay. Such a tactic requires only that the deception of tax relief for the middle-class last long enough for voters go to the polls in November.

But selling the biggest financial scam of an era takes more than rosy rhetoric, especially when Trump’s base represents a cohort of voters who are more likely to be less educated, white, and have less access to independent sources of information. Even with the majority of Trump’s base neatly quarantined within the reality silos of Fox News and Friends, republicans know they’ve got to come up with some beef to show for this nothing burger. That’s the real reason why the middle-class and working-poor will see their paycheck rise in the first few years of tax form—to distract them from the fact they’ll pay much more later.

It’s the same bit of political theater seen all over impoverished urban communities during any local election year, when the frustrations of working-class citizens are actively quelled by the overt display of tax dollars at work. Suddenly, streets are being paved, playgrounds and parks are being cleaned up, and the local beat cops smile without resting a hand on their sidearms. Give the starving people some crumbs and they might just forget that you’re the one starving them.

But the desperate theatrical facade needed to loot the pockets of hard-working Americans doesn’t stop there. One of the most vehemently contested myths about trickle-down economics is the assumption that, given more money, profitable corporations would share the windfall with employees. If the GOP hopes to sell the whole package and entice citizens to embrace their own demise, the play must come full circle with the debut of suddenly benevolent corporations that care. Queue AT&T.

While in the homestretch of the new tax bill’s passing, AT&T suddenly announced that it would give out $1,000 bonuses to its 200,000 employees. Pretty awesome, right? Doesn’t that mean trickle-down works? Not so fast.

Corporate profits have been soaring, more or less, for nearly twenty years now, save for a minor setback brought on by the 2008 recession. And never mind that productivity has outpaced hourly pay since, oh 1973, or that a huge bump in corporate profit growth for Q1 of 2017 saw almost no benefit go to workers’ compensation. In fact, corporations have been sitting on—literally—trillions of dollars in idle cash. And yet, after all this time, suddenly, they’ve decided to pass it on to the little guy? The script practically writes itself.

The timing and explicit public announcement of a textbook trickle-down prophecy come true is curious. AT&T is, after all, being sued by the Department of Justice over its bid to merge with Time Warner. Perhaps a little PR for the President’s tax scam might grease the wheels on that deal? It doesn’t hurt that Trump is insatiable for praise and glory, wasting no time touting AT&T’s announcement as proof in the pudding.

But as great as it is to see workers getting something off the high table, the granting of meager bonuses may not be the benevolent act of corporate America that republicans claim. In preparation for the new tax bill, AT&T’s announcement stands to save the giant telecom behemoth nearly $8 million simply by stating its intentions publicly before the end of 2017. And that’s on top of the savings they’ve acquired by firing nearly 700 highly paid cable installers in early December of 2017.

Look, let’s get something straight: critics of the new tax bill, like myself, are ecstatic that working-class families are going to see some receive in the form of employee bonuses and initial tax cuts. But the disproportionally greater and more permanent relief experienced by corporations and wealthy Americans who don’t need it, is absolutely appalling. Equally alarming is the timely and desperately well-coordinated PR campaign involving republican lawmakers and top U.S. corporations.

The result is a time-tested bait-and-switch production that uses distraction in a crucial election year. By providing a short-term palliative reward to Trump’s base, the GOP needs only for the bread and circus to last until voters go to the polls in November. So from now until the fall, you can count on Trump-friendly media camps happily visiting and revisiting the measly increases in working-class paychecks as a reminder of how the president has finally delivered for the little guy. Because by the time the lights come on and the curtain closes on this classic scam of misdirection, both corporate America and the GOP senators that stand to profit from the bill will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Also published on Medium.