| Back to gregoryharms.com |

December 19, 2017

Inequality, taxes, GOP agenda

This post is something of a roundup of material I've been meaning to share. The items, three in all, address the interrelated issues of worsening income inequality and the Republican agenda on Capitol Hill, specifically, tax legislation and healthcare.

The three are:

1. Noted economist Thomas Piketty and others have launched the World Inequality Report, and this article in the Guardian is their introduction to some of the issues addressed in the WIR. Sober, rational analysis by people who know what they are talking about.

2. Good piece on Trumpism and Republicanism, also in the Guardian, by economist Nouriel Roubini. Go deep; in it Roubini links to, for instance, a worthwhile article by Fareed Zakaria (who does decent work when the subject isn't foreign policy), which in turn links to some interesting pieces and studies. (Some will recall Roubini's name from the 2010 documentary Inside Job. If you haven't seen it, I strongly recommend doing so; it superbly examines the causes of the 2008 financial crisis—and provides context for the one we are possibly headed toward.)

3. A clear, informed interview with political scientist Jeffrey Winters concentrating on the Paradise Papers, inequality, and the GOP tax plan. The discussion aired on Jerome McDonnell's Worldview (WBEZ) in November. Worth a couple listens.

The current drift of the Republican Party's agenda—neither secret nor concealed—is to reward the top at the expense of everyone else. The assertion made by party leaders, in an attempt to justify and sell their agenda (tax cuts, deregulation, privatization), is that the "conservative" approach will raise the tide and therefore all boats.

Specifically, it is maintained the GOP's tax plan, with its enormous reductions, will stimulate growth and pay for itself. The Congressional Budget Office disagrees. So does the Tax Policy Center. Also,

In a recent University of Chicago survey of 38 prominent economists across the ideological spectrum, only one said the proposed tax cuts would yield substantial economic growth. Unanimously, the economists said the tax cuts would add to the long-term federal debt burden, now estimated at more than $20 trillion. (NYT, Dec. 3)

In the same Times article, economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz suggests there's only two possibilities concerning the mindset of those pedaling trickle-down economics: it's either a religion or cynicism.

The lack of popularity of the GOP tax plan is also noteworthy, sitting at around 30 percent (five points lower than the president himself). The only major piece of legislation less popular in the last 25 years has been the Republican initiative to repeal Obamacare: 23 percent. (See Michael Tomasky's recent op-ed in the Times, looking at political scientist Chris Warshaw's analyses.)

The Republican Party is doing highly unpopular things, while working alongside a highly unpopular president. From a distance, one wouldn't guess the United States to be a democracy. Yet, we ponder with skepticism, for example, as to whether the people of the Middle East are "ready" for such a responsibility.

This of course is not to suggest that the Democratic Party is the country's knight in shining armor. The Democrats have played a damaging and shameful role with regard to the economy and inequality; operationally, they are now the Republican Party. The GOP, on the other hand, as pointed out by a number of commentators, has degenerated into a cult.

So, when presented with two options, one bad and one (far) worse, the logical choice is the bad. Because less bad is better. And getting to the polls helps get this done. Alabama recently showed the country how it works.

Part of why the Republican Party is making frantic haste to do all it can for the billionaire/donor class, I suspect, is because party managers and their financial backers have seen the future. And the future is minorities and millennials voting their interests. Indignant white men who take issue with "liberals" giving "everything away" to "[insert disparaging label]" are precisely a dying breed. As a result, the GOP inhabits a sinking island, with mortifying irony.

Blog Archive