Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Response to Not Quite Better Than Nothing

(See Just above Sunset/Not Quite Better Than Nothing)

I agree with Nancy LeTourneau and disagree with Kevin Drum, at least this once.

I think the Republicans are approaching everything they do these days like those football players when they try to explain themselves in those post-game press conferences — they have no idea what the big picture is, since they play just one game at a time. That way, even if they’re headed for the Super Bowl this year, next year they might end up totally out of the running based on things they’re doing now. But meanwhile, ignorance is bliss.

But what amazes me is how Trump’s base — which, let’s face it, is the new Republican base, whether Republicans are ready to admit it or not — goes along with all this! I don’t blame them for voting against their own self-interest. I do that, too, but in my case, the GOP tax bill, which probably will neither help nor hurt me, will (I think) probably hurt the U.S. economy, and at least hurt the middle class and the poor.

I’m pretty sure Trump’s base votes for him because they like his style, not because they believe he’ll get things done that they like. Sure, they’ve depended on Obamacare to stay alive, and sure, Trump is killing Obamacare, but they don’t seem to understand that he’s really doing that. They believe him when he says Obamacare’s failure is Obama’s fault, simply because they didn’t like Obama, and they do like Trump. Before they ever learn the truth — that Trump himself sabotaged Obamacare and blamed it on the Democrats, just as he said he would — it will be just someone else’s version of history that nobody really cares about.

And speaking of history, if you’re interested in where Republicans first came up with this “trickle-down” stuff, you should read this Isaac Martin article in the NY Times from a few days ago. You may have heard that Arthur Laffer invented the idea…
But the man who first put this strategy to work for rich people was Andrew Mellon, the millionaire who became secretary of the Treasury after World War I. Poor veterans of the war were clamoring for expensive public benefits. Rich men wanted their income taxes rolled back. 
Mellon squared the circle by inventing a supply-side argument: Cutting income tax rates would actually increase tax revenues. In particular, he said, cutting the top income tax rates would encourage rich people to pull their money out of tax shelters and invest in creating jobs… 
Instead of an economic model, he gave his readers a folksy anecdote about an overtaxed farmer. He also raised money for a grass-roots campaign to mobilize support for income tax cuts in parts of the country where almost no one was rich enough to benefit personally from those tax cuts. These activists did not have to win a majority of the public. They just had to win enough grass-roots support to intimidate members of Congress in a few key districts... 
Veterans of the campaign for the Mellon plan kept campaigning for income tax cuts through World War II. When runaway inflation put tax reform back on the agenda in the 1970s, conservative activists dusted off those old policy proposals. They copied the old tactics, too, including the recruitment of organizers to run grass-roots campaigns far outside Washington. These conservative activists picked up Mellon’s book and they copied Mellon’s argument: Tax cuts for the rich will pay for themselves with economic growth. 
Today’s Republican Party is the party that those activists made. Congressional Republicans who came up in the populist tax revolts of the 1970s abandoned the old party orthodoxy of balanced budgets and rebranded themselves as the tax-cutting party. They embraced the idea that deficits don’t matter as long as those deficits result from Republican tax cuts.
So did Mellon’s tax cuts for the wealthy pay for themselves? Here’s tax historian Joe Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analysts in WaPo:
Did the 1920s tax cuts bolster economic growth? Probably. Did that growth help defray the cost of the tax cuts? Probably. Did that growth cover the full cost of those tax cuts? No... 
Historically, tax cuts have tended to generate some economic growth that in turn helps cover part of the cost of the cut itself. But to my knowledge, no major tax cut has ever generated enough growth to pay for itself completely.
But what I’m really curious about is how much Republicans believe that a bill that cuts middle class taxes in the short run and helps rich people and corporations in the long run — especially one that seems to be tremendously unpopular with most Americans because of those things — will really help America in spite of its massive unpopularity. Yes, economists don’t like the bill, but economists are “experts", and in fact, it certainly doesn’t help that more of them are liberal than aren’t.

But I guess the idea is that, after we (Republicans) get past the vote and all this crap becomes law, the people will eventually learn that they (economists and citizens) were wrong and we (Republicans) were right, and that someday they’ll — what, maybe thank us? Maybe America will apologize to Trump and the Republican party for not believing in them?

I don’t really know what silliness is going on in their brains. Maybe somebody should ask them if they can explain what they're doing.

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