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“The Angriest And Least Moral”: Republicans Going For Broke On The Angry 20-30%

Texas governor Greg Abbott had choice words for President Obama and his plan to use executive power to expand gun safety laws:

“Obama wants to impose more gun control. My response? COME & TAKE IT.”

Grover Norquist went farther, comparing Obama to Darth Vader. So what is the President planning to do, exactly, that makes him some combination of Persian Emperor and Sith Lord? Mostly, expand background checks and clarify a federal rule or two:

The Post said Obama would use executive authority in several areas, including expanding background-check requirements for buyers who purchase weapons from high-volume dealers…

Thousands of guns are sold yearly by dealers who fall between licensed dealers and occasional sellers who do not need a license. Clarification could define which sellers need to meet rules and do background checks. Alcorn said.

It’s worth remembering in this context that a full 88% of Americans support stronger background checks for gun purchases–including 79% of Republicans. This is not a contentious issue except to a very small percentage of Americans who consider owning unchecked and unregulated arsenals a sacred right (while insisting that access to healthcare is not.)

But this isn’t unusual. Seventy percent of Americans support comprehensive immigration reform, for example. That’s not particularly contentious, either, except to America’s most bigoted elements.

63% of Americans support raising taxes on the rich and on large corporations to reduce income inequality. Only 31% oppose, with the rest uncertain. Again, this isn’t a terribly problematic issue in a normal democracy where supermajorities rule the day.

Republicans, however, are increasingly trapping themselves into a strategy that doubles down on the angriest and least moral 20-30% of the population. They do have the advantage of knowing that demographic votes more reliably and consistently than the other 70-80% of the public. It’s true that many of these voters, especially the ones with the deadly arsenals, are incredibly passionate about their views and will not only vote but work hard to encourage others to vote their way as well.

But it’s also true that this particular demographic is declining in number. And in the long run a political party cannot succeed by continuing to court an ever slimmer set of out-of-touch voters, particularly in a high-turnout election.

Nothing in this analysis is new, of course. But it’s worth noting that this year is different in the degree to which the GOP has placed its bet on the rump 20-30%, the virulence with which it is doing so in its rhetoric, the obvious disadvantages it is working with in polling not just on the issues but also with candidate head-to-head matchups, and the rapid decline of the very voter base on which it is depending.

Yes, the GOP will probably do quite well in the House for the next few years. Yes, it will continue to control large numbers of mostly rural and Southern states.

But electoral gravity cannot be defied forever. Tipping points turn into breaking points. And it’s going to be very ugly when the worst fifth of America’s population realizes that it really isn’t the silent majority anymore, and just how few friends it has left.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 3, 2015

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Greg Abbott, Gun Control, Gun Dealers | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Marco Rubio Has An Arithmetic Problem”: Anyone With Access To A Calculator Should Recognize Just What A Joke This Scheme Is

At first blush, it’s tempting to see Marco Rubio’s economic plan as a dog-bites-man story: Republican presidential campaign proposes massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, even while saying the opposite. The Florida senator isn’t alone on this front, and it all seems sadly predictable.

But in this case, there’s more to it. Even if you’re unmoved by Rubio’s odd inability to handle his own personal finances in a responsible way, the way he intends to deal with the nation’s finances as president is arguably a national disqualifier.

The trouble started in earnest at the last debate for Republicans presidential candidates – the one pundits decided was a triumph for Rubio – when CNBC’s John Harwood pressed the Florida senator on his tax-cut plan.

HARWOOD: The Tax Foundation, which was alluded to earlier, scored your tax plan and concluded that you give nearly twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top 1 percent as to people in the middle of the income scale. Since you’re the champion of Americans living paycheck-to- paycheck, don’t you have that backward?

 RUBIO: No, that’s – you’re wrong.

It turns out, analysis from both the left and right scrutinized Rubio’s plan and found that he was completely wrong. I can’t say whether he was deliberately trying to deceive viewers or simply unaware of the details of his own policy, but in either case, the senator’s claims were false.

In the days that followed, scrutiny of Rubio’s plan intensified. Vox’s Dylan Matthews talked directly to Rubio staffers and discovered that the senator’s plan includes even more generous tax breaks for the top 1% than Jeb Bush’s and Donald Trump’s plans. An analysis for Citizens for Tax Justice also found that the bulk of the benefits in the Rubio plan would go to the very, very wealthy.

Indeed, New York’s Jon Chait added, “Rubio’s proposal deliberately provides some benefits to Americans of modest income, which means that its enormous tax cuts for the very rich come alongside some pretty decent-size tax cuts for the rest of us. All told, Rubio’s plan would reduce federal revenue by $11.8 trillion over the next decade. The entire Bush tax cuts cost about $3.4 trillion over a decade, making the Rubio tax cuts more than three times as costly.”

It’s against this backdrop that Rubio has also proposed a vast expansion of the U.S. military, while leaving Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees untouched.

In any version of reality in which arithmetic exists, Rubio’s plan is simply indefensible. Massive tax breaks for the rich, coupled with significant increases in military spending, leads to ballooning budget deficits. It’s not theoretical – we tried this in the Bush/Cheney era and it led to predictable results that we’re still trying to address.

The difference is, Rubio wants tax cuts that are triple the size of the ones created by George W. Bush and Dick “Deficits Don’t Matter” Cheney.

As this relates to the 2016 race, the central problem relates to policy: Rubio’s numbers don’t, and can’t, add up. Anyone with access to a calculator should recognize just what a joke this scheme is.

But the other problem is what we’re learning about Rubio as a candidate. There is, like it or not, a character aspect to presidential hopefuls’ platforms – because they offer Americans an opportunity to learn about candidates’ honesty, priorities, values, and candor. The Florida senator who talks about his ability to appeal to maids and bartenders has gone to almost comical lengths to craft a plan that benefits CEOs and hedge-fund managers, all while pretending to be an expert on fiscal responsibility.

Marco Rubio’s economic plan tells us something important about his candidacy, and it’s not flattering.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 9, 2015

November 10, 2015 Posted by | Economic Policy, Marco Rubio, Tax Policy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Jindal’s Trumpism-Without-Trump Tax Plan”: His Distinctive Tax “Idea” Is One Of The Dumbest In The Conservative Arsenal

With all the excitement going on this week, I totally missed the fact that my favorite Republican presidential candidate, the Gret Stet of Loosiana’s Bobby Jindal, released a tax plan, or at least a tax-based messaging document. WaPo’s Catherine Rampell informs us it’s everything you’d expect from the candidate who’s offering the GOP Trumpism Without Trump:

Jindal — who once declared that the Republican Party needed to stop being the “stupid party” — decided he, too, wanted to pander to stupidity.

That is, he decided to out-Trump Trump.

In a sprawling, largely detail-free plan released Wednesday, Jindal tried his hand at the tax-cut buzz saw. On a static basis, the Tax Foundation estimates, Jindal’s proposal would cut revenue by $11.3 trillion over the next decade.

That’s in the same ballpark as Trump. Yet rather than denying or trying to draw attention away from the gigantic hole he intends to blow in the budget (as Trump and Bush, respectively, have done), Jindal touts it with pride.

“Governor Jindal’s plan reduces the amount of money the federal government will be able to spend,” his Web site boasts, invoking long-ago disproven “starve the beast” rhetoric. The main effect of previous attempts to “starve the beast” through tax cuts, as Jindal surely knows, has not been spending decreases, but subsequently legislated tax increases.

But here’s the fun part:

Jindal’s plan is also, impressively, even more regressive than Trump’s. While Trump would raise the after-tax incomes of the top 1 percent by a mere fifth (21.6 percent), Jindal would increase their incomes by a full quarter (25 percent).

Then, in addition to lowering taxes on the rich, Jindal — but not Trump — would raise taxes on the poor.

Yes, you read that right. Jindal wants to engineer a reverse Robin Hood, taking money from the poor to give to the rich.

As Dylan Matthews explains at Vox, Jindal’s plan would eliminate the child tax credit, the standard deduction, the personal exemption, and the dependent exemption, with the very explicit goal of making everybody, even the poorest Americans, pay income taxes (hey, he does keep the EITC, but maybe that was an oversight!). So in effect his most distinctive tax “idea” is one of the dumbest in the conservative arsenal: going after the “lucky duckies,” the 47% who don’t pay income tax (though they do pay payroll taxes, state and local sales taxes, property taxes, etc. etc.).

At least Bobby’s being consistent: he spent years unsuccessfully trying to get Louisiana to shift from an income tax to a sales tax system for financing state government. Don’t want those job creators to have to pay taxes if they can instead be borne by those proles lucky enough to work for them, right?

Maybe the very conservative voters of Iowa, with whom Jindal is spending most of his time these days, like this approach; you should not underestimate the power of resentment of those people when two or more conservatives gather. But I dunno: as with his efforts to be Mr. Christian Right in a crowded presidential field, I suspect most voters otherwise attracted to Trumpism-Without-Trump would also prefer Jindalism-Without-Jindal.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 9, 2015

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Donald Trump, Tax Policy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Basically Impossible”: Chris Christie Promised To Tell It Like It Is. Here’s What That Would Actually Sound Like

In his presidential campaign announcement Tuesday, the reliably brash and blunt Chris Christie vowed that “telling like it is” would be both his campaign motto and his promise to voters.

Even for Christie, whose entire political persona is based on no-nonsense candor, consistently “telling it like it is” is basically impossible. Can you imagine if the New Jersey governor — or any of the other Republican candidates — really told it like it is about the most important issues and challenges facing America? What would that even sound like? Well, maybe something like this:

“…and that’s why I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States! [Applause.] Thank you! Thank you! Now during my campaign, I’m going to tell it like it is. I’m going to let ‘er rip! [Applause.] Hard truths need to be spoken, and I will speak them.

‘What are these truths?’ you ask. For starters, we Republicans are way too focused on President Obama. Trust me, I’ll have a lot to say during this campaign about the president’s mistakes. Heaven knows, there’s been a lot of them. [Extended applause.] But he’s gone in a year and half. [Extended applause.]

Here’s the thing: The U.S. economy didn’t run into trouble the day Barack Obama took the oath of office. Even before the Great Recession, there were signs something wasn’t quite right. The economy grew by 4 percent annually and created 20 million new jobs during both the Reagan and Clinton booms. But in the [candidate makes air quotes] “Bush boom” of the 2000s, we couldn’t even hit 3 percent growth. And we created only about seven million jobs. Income growth was also a lot slower. I could go on and on. Productivity growth has been terrible during Obama’s Not-So-Great Recovery, but the slowdown started in 2006, when we had a Republican president. We’ve had problems with jobless recoveries and middle-income job lag since the early 1990s. Heck, the new business startup rate in this country has been falling for 30 years!

You can’t blame ObamaCare or Dodd Frank for all that. [Confused murmurs from audience.] The truth is technological automation and global competition are presenting new challenges to American workers. To meet those challenges and to turn them into opportunities means embracing new approaches, not recycling old ones. Certainly tax reform is part of the answer. I mean, we’re Republicans after all. Tax cuts are what we do. But you have to be savvy about cutting taxes when you’re already $18 trillion in the red. You need to pick your spots and get the most bang for your buck, like tax cuts and credits that boost working-class incomes — a rising tide is not lifting all boats right now — and spur business investment.

You want to do deep, across-the-board tax cuts like President Reagan did? Fine. God bless you. But keep in mind that for every percentage point you cut from those tax rates, you lose about $70 billion a year in revenue. And don’t expect to make up anywhere near that in economic growth. Even the Reagan tax cuts lost money, and the tax code was in far worse shape back then. [Unintelligible shouts from audience.] Heck, 40 percent of Americans don’t even pay income taxes.

Oh, and while we’re thinking about tax reform, keep in mind the federal tax burden will almost certainly need to rise in the future because we’ll have a lot more old folks. [Booing.] And we’ll have to pay for their pensions and healthcare. Smart entitlement and healthcare reform can reduce that tax increase — in that way it’s like a future tax cut — but it’s highly unlikely to eliminate it. Democrats need to accept that projected future benefits will need reduction, and Republicans need to accept a higher tax burden. [Extended booing.] Republicans should also be in favor of spending less money on rich people through tax breaks for homes and health insurance. [Several fist-shaking audience members stomp out.]

There’s just too much short-term thinking in this country. I mean, I’m no scientist, but we are doing something new to our planet and it hardly seems crazy to take out some insurance against a worst-case outcome. [Boos continue, get louder.] Let’s invest more in basic clean-energy research and remove regulatory barriers to more nuclear power. Maybe also eliminate the corporate income tax and replace it with a carbon tax. I note that even my friends on the Wall Street Journal editorial page said the other day that might be a good idea. And let’s not let Corporate America off the hook here. Too much short-termism there, as well, not just in Washington. Too much cash being returned to investors rather than going to fund new investment and innovation.

Now turning to foreign policy… Wait, where did everybody go?”

 

By: James Pethokoulis, The Week, July 2, 2015

July 5, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, Economic Growth, Economy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What The Godfather Of Reaganomics Gets Wrong”: Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge; More Distorted Reagan Nostalgia

Chris Christie just announced a big tax-cut plan. Well, of course he did. Offering such proposals is de rigueur for Republican presidential candidates. And it pretty much has been since the Reagan presidency.

No surprise, then, that Arthur Laffer, intellectual godfather of the Reagan tax cuts, remains in high demand on the right. Many GOP 2016ers — including Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Ted Cruz — have been publicly consulting with the supply-side economist who continues to joyfully preach the wonder-working power of cutting top marginal tax rates.

But Laffer is, shall we say, less than enthusiastic about my recent column here at The Week, in which I argued that some presidential wannabes were misinterpreting and misapplying the lessons of Reaganomics. As I wrote a few weeks back:

Republicans sometimes misuse Reaganomics to justify fantastical tax plans that promise deep rate cuts for the rich — both Cruz and Paul favor low-rate flat taxes — that will pay for themselves and boost the middle class through explosive economic growth. … Republican policymakers and voters have little reason — either from historical experience or empirical studies — to assume tax reform will generate a prolonged period of 4-5 percent GDP growth such that concerns about budget deficits and income distribution are irrelevant. [The Week]

In other words, a flat tax won’t supercharge growth enough to prevent us from losing big bucks. This is a rather modest claim and critique, one perfectly compatible with the idea that the Reagan tax cuts were still good policy. Reaganomics was a home run — just not an impossible five-run dinger.

My comments are also compatible with the consensus among economists on the left and right. Yet Laffer felt compelled to respond to my article with a three-chart, five-page, 2,000-word rebuttal.

Laffer is one of the most important public policy entrepreneurs of the 20th century, right up there with John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman. His official bio asserts his work was responsible for “triggering a world-wide tax-cutting movement in the 1980s” — and that is no vain boast. His famous Laffer Curve — an illustration of the trade-off between tax rates and tax revenue derived from the ideas of philosopher Ibn Khaldun — is indeed one of “the main theoretical constructs of supply-side economics.”

So it is disappointing that Laffer, in responding to me, offers such an odd, airy, and ultimately unnecessary defense of his life’s work. For instance: While Laffer doesn’t explicitly say the Reagan tax cuts paid for themselves, he doesn’t say they lost revenue, either. Yet he spends hundreds of words countering my claim that they didn’t pay for themselves. What Laffer basically argues is that since (a) income tax revenue rose during the 1980s, (b) the rich paid a higher share of GDP in income taxes, and (c) there were more employed people as a share of the entire adult population, then that must mean the tax cuts paid for themselves. Except he doesn’t actually say that. “Well, I hope you get the idea” is how he puts it. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Put aside for a moment that Laffer mostly avoids my evidence, such as a Treasury Department study concluding the Reagan tax cuts lost $200 billion a year and one by former Bush II economists that found income tax cuts only recoup a sixth of the revenue they lose through higher growth. A bigger flaw in Laffer’s argument is that he ignores everything else happening in the U.S. economy during the 1980s. Tax rates matter plenty — Laffer’s key insight — but they aren’t all that matters. Laffer ignores the big role of easier monetary policy in driving the recovery after the awful 1981-82 recession. And, yes, the employment-population ratio rose in the 1980s — as it did in the 1970s. Did the Reagan tax cuts cause the Baby Boom, too? Laffer also ignores the revenue impact of $115 billion a year in 1980s tax hikes and how the Tax Reform Act of 1986 nudged rich people to shift how they took their income to the personal income tax base from the corporate one. Laffer ignores a lot as he attempts to make a stronger-than-necessary case. The economist doth protest too much.

Laffer’s other big objection is that I downplay the growth effects of the Reagan tax cuts by cherry picking dates. Since the tax cuts did not go fully into effect until 1983, Laffer argues that’s the appropriate start date for the Reagan boom. Indeed, real GDP grew at a snappy 4.5 percent annually from 1983 through 1988. But Laffer’s timing is problematic. The recovery likely would not have been as strong if not for the 1981-82 recession itself. Sharp recoveries after downturns were the rule of the postwar era through the 1980s. And since the 1981 downturn was the deepest, a strong rebound would be expected. For example, the economy grew by 5 percent during the first two years after the awful 1973-75 recession.

Again, none of this means the Reagan tax cuts failed. It would be hard to find a reasonable economist who denied they boosted growth in the 1980s as the Fed battled inflation. The effects just were not ginormous enough to fully offset the direct revenue loss. More importantly, perhaps, Reaganomics — tax cuts, deregulation, entrepreneurial optimism — changed America’s longer-term economic direction. Economist Michael Mandel contends that “the impact of the policies Reagan set out in the 1980s, which slowly worked their way through the economy, helped lay the groundwork for the Information Revolution of the 1990s.” So, yeah, you can give Reagan a bit of thanks for your smartphone.

This is the data-driven, evidence-based analysis Laffer and other old-school Reaganauts should be making to today’s GOP and center-right movement. The real Reaganomics. With fantasy tax plans again abounding on the right, the presidential race could use a reality check more than more distorted Reagan nostalgia.

 

By: James Pethokoukis, The Week, May 13, 2015

May 14, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Reaganomics, Supply Side Economics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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