So Donald Trump has unveiled his tax plan. It would, it turns out, lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit.
This is in contrast to Jeb Bush’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, and Marco Rubio’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit.
For what it’s worth, it looks as if Trump’s plan would make an even bigger hole in the budget than Jeb’s. Jeb justifies his plan by claiming that it would double America’s rate of growth; The Donald, ahem, trumps this by claiming that he would triple the rate of growth. But really, why sweat the details? It’s all voodoo. The interesting question is why every Republican candidate feels compelled to go down this path.
You might think that there was a defensible economic case for the obsession with cutting taxes on the rich. That is, you might think that if you’d spent the past 20 years in a cave (or a conservative think tank). Otherwise, you’d be aware that tax-cut enthusiasts have a remarkable track record: They’ve been wrong about everything, year after year.
Some readers may remember the forecasts of economic doom back in 1993, when Bill Clinton raised the top tax rate. What happened instead was a sustained boom, surpassing the Reagan years by every measure.
Undaunted, the same people predicted great things as a result of George W. Bush’s tax cuts. What happened instead was a sluggish recovery followed by a catastrophic economic crash.
Most recently, the usual suspects once again predicted doom in 2013, when taxes on the 1 percent rose sharply due to the expiration of some of the Bush tax cuts and new taxes that help pay for health reform. What happened instead was job growth at rates not seen since the 1990s.
Then there’s the recent state-level evidence. Kansas slashed taxes, in what its right-wing governor described as a “real live experiment” in economic policy; the state’s growth has lagged ever since. California moved in the opposite direction, raising taxes; it has recently led the nation in job growth.
True, you can find self-proclaimed economic experts claiming to find overall evidence that low tax rates spur economic growth, but such experts invariably turn out to be on the payroll of right-wing pressure groups (and have an interesting habit of getting their numbers wrong). Independent studies of the correlation between tax rates and economic growth, for example by the Congressional Research Service, consistently find no relationship at all. There is no serious economic case for the tax-cut obsession.
Still, tax cuts are politically popular, right? Actually, no, at least when it comes to tax cuts for the wealthy. According to Gallup, only 13 percent of Americans believe that upper-income individuals pay too much in taxes, while 61 percent believe that they pay too little. Even among self-identified Republicans, those who say that the rich should pay more outnumber those who say they should pay less by two to one.
Well, consider the trajectory of Marco Rubio, who may at this point be the most likely Republican nominee. Last year he supported a tax-cut plan devised by Senator Mike Lee that purported to be aimed at the poor and the middle class. In reality, its benefits were strongly tilted toward high incomes — but it still drew harsh criticism from the right for giving too much to ordinary families while not cutting taxes on top incomes enough.
So Mr. Rubio came back with a plan that eliminated taxes on dividends, capital gains, and inherited wealth, providing a huge windfall to the very wealthy. And suddenly he was gaining a lot of buzz among Republican donors. The new plan would add trillions to the deficit, which conservatives claim to care about, but never mind.
In other words, it’s straightforward and quite stark: Republicans support big tax cuts for the wealthy because that’s what wealthy donors want. No doubt most of those donors have managed to convince themselves that what’s good for them is good for America. But at root it’s about rich people supporting politicians who will make them richer. Everything else is just rationalization.
Of course, once the Republicans settle on a nominee, an army of hired guns will be mobilized to obscure this stark truth. We’ll see claims that it’s really a middle-class tax cut, that it will too do great things for economic growth, and look over there — emails! And given the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism, this campaign of obfuscation may work.
But never forget that what it’s really about is top-down class warfare. That may sound simplistic, but it’s the way the world works.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 2, 2015
One of the most important pieces ever posted at Politico Magazine was written on January 14 by Evan DeFilippis and Devan Hughes. Titled The Myth Behind Defensive Gun Ownership, it’s worth revisiting again:
What do these and so many other cases have in common? They are the byproduct of a tragic myth: that millions of gun owners successfully use their firearms to defend themselves and their families from criminals. Despite having nearly no academic support in public health literature, this myth is the single largest motivation behind gun ownership. It traces its origin to a two-decade-old series of surveys that, despite being thoroughly repudiated at the time, persists in influencing personal safety decisions and public policy throughout the United States.
There is nothing beyond anecdotal evidence and one very flawed study suggesting that defensive use of firearms has benefits that outweigh the obvious societal drawbacks. The conclusion to the article needs to be ingrained into the DNA of the gun control debate:
The myth of widespread defensive gun use is at the heart of the push to weaken already near catatonic laws controlling the use of guns and expand where good guys can carry guns to bars, houses of worship and college campuses—all in the mistaken belief that more “good guys with guns” will help stop the “bad guys.” As Wayne LaPierre of the NRA railed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
But the evidence clearly shows that our lax gun laws and increased gun ownership, spurred on by this myth, do not help “good guys with guns” defend themselves, their families or our society. Instead, they are aiding and abetting criminals by providing them with more guns, with 200,000 already stolen on an annual basis. And more guns means more homicides. More suicides. More dead men, women and children. Not fewer.
In the latest mass shooting in Oregon, of course, the “good guy with a gun” hypothesis fell on its face. Just as the potential “good guy with a gun” in the Gaby Giffords shooting came very close to firing on the wrong man and thankfully kept his weapon in check, an armed veteran in Oregon also wisely chose not to fire his gun lest he cause greater danger to himself and others.
There is no reason to believe that guns serve much if any social benefit beyond a few news stories now and again that are massively promoted by the gun lobby to further entrench the myth of effective self-defense.
Comedian Jim Jefferies also exploded the “self-defense” myth in a blisteringly funny and effective 3-minute bit:
But sadly, the same false arguments will continue to be used by gun proponents, in the same way that false arguments about climate change, taxes and abortion are consistently used no matter how often they’re debunked. The American right has gone so far off the rails that reality is no longer a relevant boundary on discussion. As with supply-side economics, the benefits of gun culture are taken not on evidence but on almost cultic faith by the right wing and its adherents.
By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Wasington Monthly, October 4, 2015
“Mass Shooting Talking Points”: Conservative Media Use Oregon Community College Shooting To Revive “Gun-Free Zone” Canard
In the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, conservative commentators instantly referred to the school as a “gun-free zone,” falling back on conservative media’s go-to mass shooting talking point.
At least 10 people were reported killed, and many others injured October 1 during an Oregon community college mass shooting, and as facts concerning the shooting remained scarce, media figures immediately made references to the campus as a “gun-free zone” on CNN, Fox News, Fox Business Network, the Drudge Report, and other conservative websites.
But these references of “gun-free zones” represent a red herring because they rely on the assumption that more people carrying guns would stop mass shootings, when in reality there is no evidence to support such claims.
The overwhelming majority of mass shootings actually occur where guns are allowed to be carried. And according to an analysis of 62 public mass shootings over a 30 year period conducted by Mother Jones, not a single shooting was stopped by a civilian carrying a firearm. Mother Jones also found that gunmen do not choose to target locations because guns are not allowed, but rather other motives typically exist for choice of location, such as a workplace grievance.
As Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes explained in a commentary for The Trace, the idea that “gun-free zones” attract mass shooters is based on the faulty assumption that the shooters are “rational actors”:
Perhaps the most glaring flaw in the argument against gun-free zones, in the context of mass shootings, is its underlying assumption that shooters are rational actors. Lott himself admits that about half of criminals who commit mass shootings have received a “formal diagnosis of mental illness,” yet his model requires them to act precisely as we know they don’t: as hyperrational, calculating machines, intentionally seeking out gun-free environments for the sole purpose of maximizing causalities.
In reality, many shooters target a location based on an emotional grievance or an attachment to a particular person or place. An FBI study of 160 active shootings (defined as a shooter actively attempting to kill people in a populated area, regardless of the amount of fatalities) between 2000 and 2013 — including the high-profile mass shootings in Tucson and Aurora — shows that of the shootings that occurred in commercial or educational areas, the shooter had some relationship with the area in 63 percent of the cases.
By: Timothy Johnson, Media Matters for America, October 1, 2015
The employees at Hewlett-Packard, where Carly Fiorina was CEO for six years, don’t seem interested in seeing their old boss become commander-in-chief.
Of the 302,000 employees at the company, not one has given a reportable amount to help Fiorina fund her 2016 presidential campaign, according to the campaign’s most recent FEC filings, which lists all donations over $200. HP’s corporate leadership also doesn’t seem keen on the idea of Fiorina in the White House. Among the 12-member board of directors, just one, Ann Livermore, has given a donation above that threshold.
Also missing from the donor list are current CEO (and former GOP gubernatorial candidate) Meg Whitman, any members of the senior leadership team, and all but one member of the HP Board during Fiorina’s tenure there from 1999 to 2005. Tom Perkins, a venture capitalist and former board member who voted to fire Fiorina in 2005, has since had a change of heart and donated $25,000 to CARLY for America, the super PAC supporting her.
The lack of early financial support from almost anyone associated with Hewlett-Packard is hard to square with Fiorina’s own description of her achievements there. While she acknowledges the “tough choices” she had to make as CEO, Fiorina aggressively defends her six-year run as a time when she transformed the company from an aging dinosaur into a market leader.
“We doubled the size of the company,” she told the audience at the recent CNN debate. “We quadrupled its topline growth rate. We quadrupled its cash flow. We tripled its rate of innovation.”
But Fiorina failed to explain during the debate that the company doubled in size because she pushed HP to merge with Compaq in 2001. That merger led to a company with two times the revenue, but only half of the value.
Fiorina also laid off 30,000 HP employees, moved thousands of jobs to China and India, and was fired by the board after a period so tumultuous that some disgruntled employees continue to refer to her as “Chainsaw Carly” or “Carly Failorina.” Her severance package was worth an estimated $42 million.
Interviews with HP employees during and after Fiorina’s leadership reveal a deep and simmering well of discontent 10 years after she left the company.
Dean Soderstrom, a sales operations manager at HP from 1999 until his retirement in 2015, said he saw feelings for Fiorina among rank-and-file employees sour quickly after she took over.
“Right from the get-go with Carly, it seemed like it was a two-class company. It was her and the rest of us,” Soderstrom said. “Many of her employees were very disenchanted by her. When she was let go, I think for the right reasons, there was a lot of singing ‘Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead.’”
To Soderstrom’s point, Fiorina’s first year at HP not only included an immediate overhaul of the company’s famous corporate culture, widely known in Silicon Valley as “the HP Way,” but also instant celebrity status for Fiorina, who was the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company. She appeared on the cover of more than 40 magazine covers in her first year, had her portrait hung in the company’s Palo Alto lobby next to the founders, and bought a Gulfstream IV for her travels. The previous CEO, Lewis Platt, famously flew coach.
“I don’t care if she’s a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. I would not support her for president,” Soderstrom said. “I would not give her two cents.”
Another former employee, who is now a CEO in Silicon Valley, and did not want his name used, said he would never consider supporting Fiorina for president and knows of none of his former co-workers who would. “My thoughts are no employee would donate to her campaign, ever,” he said. “She is a terrible leader, really, really bad. As bad as they come.”
A current employee, who also asked that his name not be used, said he felt HP never recovered from the changes Fiorina made. “HP is still not a happy place to work. It’s pretty much been a disaster for years, but I think Carly set the tone.” The company recently announced another round of 30,000 layoffs and a restructuring that will split the massive company into two smaller units.
Peter Burrows, the author of Backfire: Carly Fiorina’s Battle for the Soul of Hewlett-Packard, who covered Fiorina’s tenure at HP and remains in touch with current employees, said Fiorina started at HP with high hopes among staff that she would change the company, making it more relevant and nimble. Instead, she became the symbol of its demise.
“Everybody at HP knew the company needed to change and she sounded like she had the answers,” Burrows said. “That faded pretty quickly because it became clear that it was not translating into action and it began to seem empty.”
As her time at the company went on, the company’s performance sank, and layoffs were implemented, Burrows said people inside HP and throughout Silicon Valley began to put the blame for the company’s failures on the once high-flying Fiorina, an opinion that persists to this day.
“Most people think that she did not improve the company, that she made the company weaker, that she tore away some of its strengths,” Burrows said. “She had a small but incredibly loyal core group around her, but she lost the vast majority of employees.”
The Fiorina campaign did not respond to several requests for comment on this article.
By: Patricia Murphy, The National Memo, September 30, 2015