Thursday, July 17, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 5 of 10): "Tax-cuts-for-the-rich are good for everyone!!"

We’ve been cutting taxes on the wealthy for a very long time. Top marginal, capital gains, estate, and corporate tax rates are all historically low, helping super-wealthy Americans become even more wealthy while everyone else is buried in debt and stuck in meaningless low-wage employment (if they have a job at all).

It can be argued that President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, started the tax-cutting frenzy, calling such cuts a "rising tide" that would lift "all boats." Interestingly, Republicans at the time disagreed (see "JFK on the Economy and Taxes"). But when Ronald Reagan entered the White House in 1981 he injected steroids into JFK's tax-cutting philosophy. For example, he advocated & implemented decreases in top marginal income tax rates, from 70% to 50% to 28%.

So, since at least the time of Reagan, Republicans have become the party of tax-cuts-for-the-rich, a.k.a. trickle-down economics. They've sold much of the American public on the idea that, if you just give the super-wealthy colossal tax cuts, they'll take that extra after-tax income and invest it back into the economy and create lots of good middle-class jobs.

Have they?

Right now, the super-wealthy are enjoying some of the most favorable tax rates of the last 100 years. They are also enjoying a historically high percentage of our nation's wealth. You would think, if massive tax-cuts-for-the-rich was really such a great thing for job creation, we'd have jobs falling on us like manna from heaven.

Are we?

(Nick Hanauer, a super-wealthy man, discusses why the super-wealthy are not the true job creators. Original YouTube link at

Here's the truth: Tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy, when done in the religious, fanatical, and obsessive way that the political right does it, doesn't help the middle-class & poor. It just widens the income & wealth gap. Our national debt is high, our real unemployment levels are high, our labor force participation rate is low, middle-class wages are stagnant, and the middle-class itself is shrinking. Does that strike you as a set of good policy outcomes? Also, Republicans are always saying, "we can't afford it!!" when presented with any type of infrastructure or social program spending. Well, wait a minute, I thought tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy was supposed to broaden the tax base and bring in more revenue? That was one of the outcomes it was marketed on. Well, why can't we afford anything? Where's that great bloom of revenue we were promised when we coddled the rich with massive tax cuts? (Revenue, when measured as a percentage of GDP, has been historically low for 4 out of the last 5 years).

One of the most frightening aspects of trickle-down economics is that those who peddle it never acknowledge their failure. For example, in 2012 Kansas lawmakers instituted tax-cuts-for-the-rich in their state. The state's revenue has since plummeted and the predicted job growth never occurred. Republican Governor of Kansas Sam Brownback's solution? Hand out MORE tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy. This is akin to a doctor saying, "Well, Mr. Smith, I see you've ingested rat poison. I have the perfect remedy for you: A nice large cup of rat poison!" (See "Kansas Governor Wants To Double Down On Massive Tax Cut That Tanked State Finances" and "After Huge Tax Cuts For The Rich, Kansas’s Economy Is Foundering")

And, of course, we see this tax policy foolishness on the national scale as well, with some Republicans even pushing for tax immunity for the rich. We have Republican & Tea Party politicians stumbling over each other, promising tax cuts and regulation reduction, in an effort to solicit super-wealthy campaign contributors. "Pick me, pick me! Let me kiss your feet! Bribe me with campaign money and I'll lower your tax rates and allow you to pollute and defraud the public as much as you want!!!" (See, e.g., "House GOP cuts IRS, SEC funding," and remember that they are doing this after one of the most financially fraudulent periods in American history. They have become advocates & facilitators of white collar crime; and this compounds the problem of the Obama administration's light-handed approach to corporate wrongdoing.)

(WPA workers building a bridge in Harford County, Maryland, 1936. New Deal policymakers didn't wait for the mythical, super-wealthy "job creators" to come to the rescue. They simply paid unemployed Americans to work on projects designed by local communities and local governments. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

New Deal policymakers understood that, from time to time, you have to level the playing field a little by taxing the rich more and funding programs that give middle- and lower-income Americans a fighting chance, e.g., job training, reduced tuition for college, and public job programs for those who fall through the cracks. They understood that if you just let things run amok the super-wealthy will vacuum up every last penny. It's human nature. Like a wolf pack, people at the top will gobble up all they can and leave only scraps for everyone else...or perhaps nothing at all.

When President Franklin Roosevelt advocated for the Revenue Act of 1935, which increased taxes on the super-wealthy, he said, "Our revenue laws have operated in many ways to the unfair advantage of the few...wealth in the modern world does not come merely from individual effort...(T)he people in the mass have inevitably helped to make large fortunes possible" (from The New Deal: A Modern History, by Michael Hiltzik, 2011). In other words, increased taxes on the wealthy are a way of "paying it forward," especially when the wealthy are not following through on their promise to create good jobs with their enhanced wealth. Unfortunately, many Americans today have a different philosophy: "It's all mine! Mine, mine, mine! Screw you!" And so, the children of the rich show us pictures of themselves bathing in bathtubs made of gold, while broke residents of Detroit have their water shut off.

So, what do you think? Have tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy created a great society?

(Watch Kevin O'Leary, of the television show "Shark Tank" explain how he is extremely happy that the 85 richest people on the planet have more wealth than the bottom 3.5 billion people. He explains how the poorest of the poor will now be motivated to become part of the 1%. Original YouTube link at

(Photo of snake at top courtesy of Wikipedia)

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