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Tax cut fever

Tax cut fever

It is easy to pass a tax cut because the benefits are individual while the costs are collective. At some point, those diffused, collective costs may grow painful enough that people start to notice. We might be approaching that point.

Today’s post at Forbes focuses on the cost of lower taxes by placing them in the context of lost benefits. A fat reduction in taxes is nice, unless you have to use that money fill the gaps in government services. As our infrastructure crumbles and public services suffer, it gets easier to connect the dots between taxes and benefits. Maybe. We’ll see.


  1. These tax cuts are just a kickback to their donors as a plea to continue funding their political lives. Republicans are banking on the same goldfish-memory and poison-water politics that put them into Congress to survive the 2018 and 2020 push. All they need to do is not be Trump or Moore at an individual level, and have enough money to run stock tribal ads through their gerrymandered states.

    Democrats are continuing to underestimate and underplan and underperform for the 2018 and 2020 cycle. They’re fighting against Republican spite, recalcitrance, and misinformation at a national level with the same vigor and fervor as a pool noodle. They still aren’t playing to win.

    Democrats can’t simply take for granted anti-trumpism sentiments. The milage on it is terrible, because they aren’t doing what they need to and make it about Republicans, not Trump. They need a war plan to flip red states and undo gerrymandered bastions, even their own. All I’ve seen them do is hide inside their cities and blast the freak show, with no long term game.

  2. Why is Moore’s election so important to Republicans? The Republican Party has already committed itself to ethical suicide, it’s simply impossible for them to break from this path. That is why they “must” support Moore, and why they “will” denigrate Mueller – a man whose personal character, public and personal service are legendary – even among Republicans. But,here’s the problem. Mueller is making it harder for conservatives to control public opinion, and nothing, nothing, is more important to them than delivering to their donor base….the deep pocket ones. Moore is adding yet another quirk, and so the GOP continues in its downward spiral of degradation.

      1. I don’t understand the logic for this tax cut. Corporations and the wealthy are sitting on cash as it is…what will more accomplish? Not to mention the plan polls at abysmal rates:
        I live in NYC and pay City and State income tax besides property tax. Average 1 bedroom apt is north of $850,000. I am going to get hosed. I could reconcile myself to that if the new revenue was covering CHIP, stabilizing ACA and supporting infrastructure but just giving 1.1 trillion away hoping someone will “make good jobs” is right up there with Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy thinking. Republicans can kiss their California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticutt, Massachusetts and possibly their remaining Pennsylvania and Virginia seats goodbye in 2018. If I was a Democrat running in 2018 repealing and replacing this steaming unpopular bill would be JOB 1.

      2. Here’s the rub, Koctya. Corporations aren’t being “forced” to choose which of their taxes to deduct – high property taxes or high state and local taxes. Big business got to keep it all – their original loopholes plus this new Permanent tax cut (does this not seem criminal to grant permanent status to one group and only temporary to the other?). Plus they do get to deduct their property taxes and declare other expenses as “business expenses”. The inequity is huge.

        Some people with high incomes will feel the pain but it won’t cripple them. Many working class and middle income people will suffer, as will our elderly and the disabled. The elimination of medical deductions while cutting taxes for the wealthy deserves its own special corner of hell.

        Is it right to make those who struggle the most bear the greatest percentage burden in the plan to reward themselves (after all, the majority of MoC are very wealthy) and their donor base? Shouldn’t the goal of any tax reform be to improve the lives of more people and equitably re-distribute income and taxes? As Creigh so simply noted: we help all people because it is the right thing to do. Evidently, this Christian concept made it to the cutting floor when Republicans designed their plan.

  3. Just reviewing this entire post and I picked up on the following from Chris’ introduction: “At some point, those diffused, collective costs may grow painful enough that people start to notice. We might be approaching that point.”

    I sincerely hope so. National polling seems to indicate that this tax bill is overwhelmingly unpopular. My personal experience seems to bear that out. As I mentioned several days ago my hairdresser who is generally somewhat apolitical and if anything tends to be somewhat conservative, was very definitely opposed to it. The letters to the editor in the Seattle Times have overwhelmingly been negative. Several days ago there were 4 letters and they were all negative. In my personal circle, the opposition is overwhelming. I am very much aware that I live in a very liberal city and within that my circle of friends and acquaintances all intensely dislike this administration. For the most part they are associated with environmental and conservation organizations.
    Also the family is overwhelmingly liberal. Since I am retired, I no longer have any exposure to other engineers who generally tend to be conservative. I realize that I am living in a liberal bubble. But I do not believe my situation is atypical for the West Coast in most of the metropolitan areas.

    One interesting side note is that generally speaking the West is one of the most highly urbanized regions of the country. That seems contradictory, but the vast majority of the people in the West live in high density urban enclaves, whereas the rural areas have very few people. That is very true of the three West Coast states, and is becoming more so in some of the Mountain states, such as Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Montana and increasingly Idaho. Wyoming is still an exception.

    Though my thinking and experience, is certainly skewed from that of the heartland, I have a strong suspicion that it is not that much of an outlier. Certainly the way the Congressional leadership developed and hurriedly forced voting without thorough committee hearings and markup indicates they were scared to allow the normal process to occur. It seems to indicate that if they allowed the normal Congressional process to occur that this bill would never be passed. Also using the reconciliation process shows that they realized there was not a satisfactory argument that could be made to justify passage of the bill. I believe the Congressional leadership is quite isolated and that they realize that.

  4. Another critical event is starting on Sunday, that the U.S. media seems to be missing. Now, Politico picked up on it, but that is the first place I have seen it. In fact, I did not even know about the meeting until read the article. The key takeaway in that article, for me, was the fact the current regime is blocking new appointments to the appellate group, which is slowly killing any rulings on appeals inside the WTO mandate.

    Once again, destruction from within by neglect.

    1. I’m going to “tuck” this little off topic article in as Dins opened the door by asserting the US media is “MIA”. While he may have a point on what is happening with the WTO, generally media has been working their fannies off – finally. (Their Mea Culpa for not doing so in a balanced way during the ’16 campaign and frankly because they uniformly cannot abide T – excepting Fox/Breitbart, of course.) The Maddow Show had a very taut one-hour program on the Michael Steele Dossier, entitled “The Dossier” on last night, which is worth watching.

      But what I am interested in sharing is this Guardian article about possible plans for dissolution of the Murdoch empire with a Disney merger….At least, I hadn’t heard of it. It’s interesting on many levels for what it could do and why it is being done.

      1. Sorry Mary, poor writing on my part. Note the comma in the first sentence. I am not suggesting that the U.S. media is constantly MIA. I was suggesting this was another critical event.

        But when I think about it, yeah, the U.S. media likely misses out on many key stories. Not so much from negligence, but because of the constant, light-speed creation of events being generated by this current regime. There is no way investigative media can keep up. That and the historical myopia of the U.S. viewing public creates market forces that forces virtually all stories presented to be U.S. centric.

        And sorry, you are right, this should be in the off-topic area.

    2. The good thing is that 45 not filling all these positions means less career bureaucrats (“swamp monsters”) he leaves behind for the next administration to purge.

      The bad thing is that this hit to the United States’ international reputation is simply not going to be recovered from the way W. Bush’s was. When Obama came on board after W fucked up our international relationships, the world was largely, “Yeah that last guy was super weak, but hey welcome back on board.”

      With 45 it’s not only worse, it’s a pattern. 50% of post-Cold War Presidents have been complete morons that precariously threatened other countries’ well-being. Reputation like that will take a generation to recover from, not just an administration, and that’s assuming we not only not elect another complete moron for another two decades, but that we do some exceptional and recognizable international leadership in the interim.

      As the old Irish saying goes, you can live 50 years as an loving and giving member of a community, but shag a sheep once and you’re known as the sheep fucker. And 45 is a sheep fucker without the loving and giving member of a community part.

      The only thing I wish was that the GOP’s reputation was being as clearly ruined nationally as our national reputation was being ruined externally, but I guess identity politics are so ingrained that people are more than willing to exert the mental effort required to try to promote sheep fucking as a fundamental traditional practice of our culture.

    1. This whole situation is as alarming as it is disgusting. The use of “dynamic” scoring and all the other shenanigans “fuzzy math” are the greatest public swindle of our lifetimes. I will state for the record, I despise every MoC who voted for either of these tax cut plans. I abhor their selfishness and narrowness, their lies and their celebration of taking from others to enrich themselves. As Chris so aptly put it, there are so many places where true tax reform would benefit our country and its people and would enjoy broad support. That has never been the goal of the Republicans and it will expand into welfare, social security, medicare, medicaid, destruction of our institutions through funding cuts, and so much more.

    2. Thanks for the link. It was an interesting article, but mush the same as I’ve read elsewhere.

      The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that an additional 0.8% of economic growth would occur over the next decade and the net result of the Tax Bill would add $1 Trillion to the national debt. That 0.8% growth was enough to enable the R’s to push through the bill. The conveniently claimed that the JCT had underestimated the amount.

      First, 0.8% is negligible over a 10-year period. That is nothing more than rounding error. There are too many unknowns. That estimate can best be described as a SWAG – Scientific Wild Ass Guess.

      IMO, the JCT actually grossly overestimated the growth. I believe the tax bill will depress the growth rate and lead to a much higher deficit. To make a simple tabulation:

      First as the article above makes clear, tremendous amounts of money are transferred from the people who depend on earned income to the higher income people and corporations. This loss of income by the lower income groups, will result in lowering their expenditures on other items. Thus, depressing economic growth.

      Second, the corporations will not use the extra income for investments. They will only invest the money if they can project a reasonable return. Since demand will be depressed, there will be less likelihood of being able to project a good return. Besides there are better means of financing organic growth, such as borrowing.

      Third, the prime purpose of corporations is to enhance the return to the shareholders. Distributing the money as dividends and using the money to buy back stock is a perfect means of doing so.

      Fourth, the income pass through provision creates a massive loophole that will be abused. Many professionals will incorporate and use this as a means of lowering their taxes. I strongly suspect this effect was significantly underestimated. I am sure there assumptions made that will not prove accurate.

      Fifth, the nickle and diming aspect of the tax bill, will have numerous bad effects. One of the worse, is the elimination of interest deduction for student loans and the taxation of graduate student tuition waivers. This will have the serious effect of depressing higher education in the US. We desperately need highly skilled workers. Over a decade this alone will have a significant depressing effect on the competitiveness of US corporations. They will not be able to make it up by immigration, because immigration is also being restricted. Also we do not want to forget the elimination of the deduction for teachers purchasing supplies. That will mean elementary education takes another hit.
      That is where one of the biggest problems is in American education. Another factor is that state and local governments are going to have to increase taxation to compensate for the various hits included in this bill. I have only mentioned a few of the hits.

      All in all, I think this bill will prove to be a disaster and will significantly depress growth. The final increase in the national debt will be far larger than the $1 trillion the JCT estimated. I would expect the net increase will be several trillion dollars. That is consistent will the history we’ve had with these ‘dynamic scoring” tax cuts. That is what Reagan found in the 80’s and taxes had to be raised several times, just to keep the deficit from becoming so high that it would have been untenable. Bush 1 had to continue those increases, and that cost him reelection. The experience under Bush 2 was much the same, but he got away with it until 2006 because of the Iraq War. On the other hand, Clinton raised taxes and was able to have the first balanced budgets, since the 1960’s. Obama also raised taxes and in conjunction with the improvement in the economy, the yearly deficit declined substantially. Simply speaking the marginal high income tax rates are already so low that there is little likelihood that a cut in taxes will have a significant impact on available funds for investment. There is a plethora of money available and as a result the investment class only seeks high return, risky investments. Investments in organic growth and productive capacity, are typically low return and less risky, so they are not attractive to the investment class. However, they do create jobs and earned income.

    3. As discussed previously, I don’t care about the deficit, and would actually like to see the corporate income tax eliminated in favor of higher personal rates–confiscatory at the higher income levels if necessary to prevent rich people from buying things they should not be allowed to buy (democracy, for example, or a two-tier market in things like health care, education, and advancement opportunities or anything else really important to a fair society).

      But the estimates of growth due to the tax bill is, as you point out, ridiculously small. Our economy is driven not by hoped-for investment, but by consumer spending. A tax cut putting sufficient spending power into the hands of people who would actually spend it could eliminate unemployment (which by the way is far greater than 4-odd percent quoted, if you count people who would like to have employment but have given up looking, etc.)

      The problem is not that the rich have too much money. If some rich SOB wants to spend $450M on a Picasso because he thinks it makes his dick look bigger, fine with me. The problem is that poor people don’t have enough. And I can’t think of any way to solve that problem that doesn’t involve taking money and power away from rich people who are standing in the way of economic changes that would put more money into the hands of poor people.

      1. A couple of comments – first, I do believe deficits matter. But not as the deficit hawks do. Reasonable deficits incurred for productive purposes and investments are fine. Large deficits incurred to stimulate the economy during recessions are fine. Investments should be for education, infrastructure, and productive capacity. Deficits should ensure that the people including the middle and working classes have adequate services, to include education, medical care, infrastructure, policing, shelter and civil services, to name just a few. As you mentioned earlier, government should “promote the general welfare.” Deficits should not be incurred to give more money to the wealthy. Over the long term the federal budget should be reasonably close to balance and annual deficits should generally be kept below the rate of economic growth, so the federal government has borrowing capacity for emergencies.

        Second, I also think the investor class has too much money. There is so much money floating around in the investor classes that productive investments are deemphasized because they do not have a sufficient rate of return. Rather the surplus of money, is directed towards high return, high risk investments. Those include political contributions, including the 501c’s. The risk is reduced because the losses or the contributions can be deducted. These things are exactly inflated the bubble leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Far better to reduce the available money by higher taxation on the investor classes and use that to provide for the “general welfare.”

        I don’t have much comment on corporate taxes, except that they should be structured so that organic growth is encouraged, predatory acquisitions discouraged, and excessive distribution of profits to the shareholders discouraged. Corporate governance should be for all the stakeholders including labor, shareholders and the community at large. A lower corporate tax rate might be justified at this time, but the various loopholes that are used to reduce corporate taxes should be severely reduced. This tax bill does not do that.

        Definitely taxation on the wealthy should be increased.

      2. Deficits matter because they affect real economic parameters like unemployment and inflation. Unemployment and inflation can make your life miserable. A deficit on the other hand is just a number indicating how many dollars the Federal Government has “printed” and spent in some fiscal period and not taxed in that same fiscal period. It also indicates how many dollars the private sector has added to its stock of dollars during that fiscal period. All dollars held by the private sector are dollrs created out of thin air by the Federal Government and not yet taxed back.

        In order for the economy to continue to operate efficiently as it grows with population and productivity growth, it needs an appropriately growing stock of dollars. The only way the private sector’s stock of dollars can increase is if the Federal Government “prints” and spends more dollars than it taxes. A deficit of about 3-5% of GDP on an ongoing basis is not only appropriate but is actually necessary.

        The Federal Government’s “debt” and the private sector’s stock of Government dollars (base money) are just two sides of the same coin, and one cannot exist without the other. This is simply a matter of accounting logic.

        So, if the Federal Government can print and spend at will, why does it tax at all? Taxing drains dollars–and spending power–out of the economy and preserves the value of the remaining currency held by the private sector. Bottom line rule of thumb: if the amount of spending power is too small, goods and services offered for sale will go unsold, and the deficit should be increased to prevent unemployment. If the amount of spending power is too great, competition for existing goods and services will bid up prices and the deficit should be reduced.

      3. Creigh,

        First let me say that I think we are basically discussing which side of the coin is more important or expressing the concept another way, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Practically speaking there does not appear to be much difference in what we both think. You obviously have a better academic understanding of monetary matters, than I. My understanding is limited to one university level economics course plus my layperson reading.

        That being said, I would like to see the national debt as a percentage of GDP decline over a period of time. Given that at present the US seems to be in a lower growth rate period, I would probably prefer a lower annual deficit in normal times than you, perhaps a 1-3% range with a surplus or very low deficit occurring during boom periods. My current thoughts are that since our population is more mature, with the actual growth largely driven by immigration, the realistic highest sustained annual GDP growth rate would likely be around 3%. It definitely needs to grow to allow for increased living standards and to create opportunities for immigrants and the less advantaged. I do not expect to see 4-5% or higher sustained GDP growth rates as was the case during the 1940’s – 1970’s and some earlier periods.

        To me the bigger problem is so much of the growth is being skimmed off the top by the investor groups, i.e. the top 1 percentile or higher, that very little is reaching the groups that largely depend on earned income.

      4. Right, we are largely arguing the same thing from different directions. I don’t worry so much about the top having too much as the middle and bottom having too little. Either way we agree that trickle down doesn’t.

        I get a bit obsessive about the deficit because all too often our own side argues for a level of austerity when the other side has demonstrated over and over that they don’t care about deficits and only make the argument when it furthers their anti-government agenda. And worse yet, they are right. The deficit or surplus that the Government runs is merely a mechanism for ensuring that combined private and public spending is neither too little or too much, thereby preventing both unemployment and inflation.

      5. The GOP may be “right” on the relative importance (or lack thereof) of deficits, but they are wrong to manipulate opinion to their political convenience…which I know you know, but there’s really nothing worse than spinning the truth because you know most people don’t understand the fundamentals.

      6. What would be a financial disappointment to many people, could be a catastrophe for others. One major health event, car issue, or the like, can be a financial nightmare for people who live paycheck to paycheck or have little savings. How anyone in power can not see this situation exists for many Americans is where the problem starts. That they take advantage of people who can’t fight back effectively, is the next blow. The final blow occurs when they take what little support system is keeping many people from personal ruin by diverting funding from critical programs and giving it back to the uber wealthy for “more” tax cuts? is unconscionable. Summed up pretty well in this article.

      7. Creigh – I’m glad to have found this writer/thinker. “He who has the gold, rules” pretty much sums up his article but also interesting is the focus on balance of power. We are certainly not experiencing balance in any respect, and this has drifted into making yet greater disparity in wealth, and, subsequently, class. It is shocking to read that 47 % of people couldn’t absorb a financial crisis that exceeded $400 – yet, I know it is true. What Zunger didn’t touch upon is how living in this daily fear and financial fragility wears at people’s lives, health and happiness – measures that are even more important to each individual. There are so many dimensions to fairness in how we treat one another which all too often is measured in pure monetary terms, (which is of great importance when you lack it when you need it) but so much more is lost by being financially oppressed.

        As I continue to read about the changes the Republican Party is making, I worry about our country’s future – my children and grandchildrens’ future, and the lives of those who are always hurt the most by selfish, powerful people. It is good to read well-articulated articles without undue reference to politics, just human nature at its most self-serving.

      8. That financial shock article is fantastic, Mary. Great thanks for sharing!

        I’m a big proponent of personal finance and for quite a while have held off launching into explanations of how personal finance is also a political stabilizer in addition to a lifestyle one. This article is a great stepping stone to that discussion, now I just have to consider how to draw that bridge between and what community / audience would care to cross it.

    4. That is correct. this bill is a huge tax cut to corporations and the wealthy and then a tax increase to pay for it resulting in at least a 1.5 trillion increase in debt! of course, that 1.5 trillion assumes fairy tale increases in the economy. and since most economists say the economy is humming along just fine, it is all voodoo economics.
      the gop is already saying we have to cut entitlements, which help the poor and middle class, to pay for all these decreases in taxes for the richer americans.
      and, the tax cuts for individuals expire in i think 2026. the cuts for the wealthy, well, they are so important they are permanant.

      1. Individual tax cuts expire in different years, depending upon the bill, and, of course, big businesses get a large, permanent tax cut. The temporary tax cuts for individuals expires in 2023 in the House bill and 2026 in the Senate bill.

        Of course, Repubs are sneaky. Individual tax cuts have delayed implementation to 2019…so people won’t feel or notice the cuts until after mid-terms. This is why we read quality sources so we aren’t duped by games like this.

  5. Greetings, my fellow Political Orphans!

    While I was browsing the Twittersphere, I happened upon a video of a Frank Luntz focus group that was interviewing several AL voters that were going to pull the lever for Roy Moore. It’s only a few minutes long, so if you can spare a moment, it’s well worth your time.

    Frankly, while I’ve a lot of feelings about these people that I can’t rightly find the words to describe, perhaps the best thing I can say is that my resolve to see their worldview defeated only came away stronger than before.

    1. The one charitable thing I will say about them is that it is only human to look for excuses to defend your tribe. My quibble is that the bad actions they are rationalizing (molesting underage girls) used to be something everyone agreed crosses the line, and of course all the hypocrisy and outright lies (there are no “9-month abortions” on viable pregnancies and Jones doesn’t support abortion on demand, no restrictions, anyway). We will not persuade such people; we can only work on outvoting them.

      I expect Moore to win in a squeaker, because there are too many people in AL just like that little focus group. But Moore is going to be heavily damaged goods.

      1. Also it would be veeerrry interesting if you could get this group together with a group of Black voters who are backing Jones. Notice that when asked about why Jones has such overwhelming support, no one brought up the successful prosecutions of the domestic terrorists behind the Birmingham church bombing?

      2. These people and all like them are heavily damaged goods. Of all the hypocrisy in the world, that which is done in the name of religion is the worst. You are more charitable than me, Fly. The interviewer was incredible, however…

  6. I have come to believe that this newest diversion of wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich will have little social impact. People in general (not talking about folks on this site) are too ill-read, or not at all interested in day-to-day politics to grasp what is happening. And even when they do clue in, they will blame the gov’t at the time, not the architects of the theft. And fundamentally, 5 years from now, most of the population will still be very well-off, relative to any global misery index.

    What will have more global impact is when the debt rises further, affecting global financial market confidence. And naturally, that will lead to further cuts in the social net directly attributed to this latest tax cut. (Not talking about Ryan et al gutting stuff next year based solely on ideology.)

    But fundamentally, even the poorest americans are far above the wealth threshold to do what is necessary. The U.S. is no where near the critical mass of people whose lives are so desperate that they are willing to rise up against their masters and take back what should be theirs.

    Most revolutions ( I can’t comment on the U.S. revolution) occur not in countries where the poorest are still well-fed, and their children have an excellent chance of surviving into adulthood. Revolutions like Cuba, Iran, France, Russia, the Arab Spring nations happen when people have nothing to lose.

    I have come to believe that armed insurrection in the U.S. is far more likely to be driven by the far-right in defence of their value system, if a democratic movement actually started to make inroads again against said value system. And I see nothing to indicate that democracy and fairness are winning any battles in the U.S. or even globally. (Australia legalizing same-sex marriage was a nice step though).

    I guess my cynicism runs too deep. Even revolutions are just cyclical. There is an attempt at evening out of wealth, lots of blood in the streets, the overall economic pie gets a bit smaller, but then whatever dominant economic, political, or religious groups that remain begin the cycle again of acquiring more power to themselves, at the cost of the weak and dumb.

    The U.S., and the rest of the world for that matter, won’t see lasting change until there is a global existential crisis (read as global warming kicking into high gear). If humanity and the rest of biosphere survives the coming wars over water and arable land, plus the enormous global warming refugee wave that is also coming.

    1. First of all, successful revolutions are always initiated by what Lenski identified as the “retainer class;” affluent, educated elites just outside the aristocracy. In modern US terms, think of attorneys, pastors, doctors, teachers, military officers, bureaucrats, and knowledge-economy workers. These are educated people with an intimate understanding of the machinery of politics, often a better understanding than the wealthiest citizens possess. They are usually very aware of the wider world. The US in the present day is unique for the sheer size of this class. In an early agricultural society they might be an elite 1-2%. In Europe and Asia today, this is a still small slice of the public, maybe 10%. In the US it’s closer to 20% of the adult public, an unusually enormous mass.

      Who did the retainer class support in the last election? Think about that. Even among Republicans, the retainer class largely dissented.

      The poor never initiate successful revolutions. Ever. The poor often fight and die in successful revolutions, but they lack the information and connections necessary to know which buttons to push. They can burn their own neighborhood, but they never figure out which police station to destroy. Revolutions happen when the interests of the retainer class are brought into alignment with the interests of poorer classes.

      Lenin was a member of the educated elite. Michael Collins was educated in London and worked in a global insurance firm in New York (which eventually became part of JP Morgan). Ho Chi Minh’s father was an magistrate and he received a French education, joining a socialist organization in Paris. Pol Pot came from a minor aristocratic family with loose ties to the monarchy. He was educated in Paris. Revolutions do not come from poor people. They come from well-educated, well-connected people who find their interests lined up with the poor, rather than the elite.

      Legitimacy is the currency of the retainer class. They protect their wealthier, more privileged peers because legitimacy dictates that outcome. Legitimacy comes from the gods, or the church, or the line of succession, or tradition, or in a modern democratic context, the rule of law. Retainers will impose unthinkable conditions on the poor to benefit the rich, so long as those conditions are consistent with their view of what makes the authority legitimate. When the very wealthy flout the constraints of legitimacy beyond a certain breaking point, they can lose the support of the retainers.

      When wealthy people lose the allegiance of the retainer class, very bad things happen to them. Ask Charles I about this. Or rather, ask his head.

      I can think of four historical moments in the US in which the retainer class rebelled against the elites above them. The Revolution, the 1850’s, the Great Depression, and the 1960’s. The first two exploded into organized violence. The second two did not. They didn’t because of two factors – 1) The retainer class was able to peacefully gain enough political authority to impose just enough of their political will on the wealthy through formal, legal channels. 2) Warfare beyond our borders constrained the scope and length of those revolutions.

      Key to restraining the scope of the presently pending revolution (which amounts to the unfinished business of the revolution from the 60’s, tamped down by the constraints of the Vietnam War), are two developments – the Mueller investigation and the 2018 election. If those two developments work together to bring the Trump administration peacefully to a premature end, then there’s a chance to defuse this conflict via something like normal, peaceful political channels. It’s a slim chance, but it could happen.

      It is impossible to envision anything like a conventional US election in 2020 with Donald Trump still on the ballot. Barring the peaceful, premature termination of the Trump administration through legal means, this administration will be ended by our generals, senior law enforcement (FBI, mostly), and the intelligence services (not, as some might imagine, by riots in the streets). What comes next is all gray-space. If legitimacy fails and the legal system cannot end the Trump administration, we can’t presume to know what name, flag or anthem we’ll be using when the dust settles.

      You don’t lose the retainer class and survive for long. By the way, this is why there was only a tiny retainer class in the old south. They didn’t waste money educating people. There were vanishingly few attorneys in the Antebellum South who weren’t drawn directly from the slaveholder class. You could almost count on your fingers the number of college professors in the old South outside theology schools. The retainer class is expensive, volatile and dangerous. You only need them to run a sophisticated society, not a simple one.

      Elites cannot retain their wealth and privileges absent the support of educated, slightly-less wealthy and privileged elites just beneath them who keep the machine running. You can ignore the poor. They have little political importance. Ignore the lawyers and there will be consequences.

      1. I posted an article about the campaign that is emerging to discredit the Mueller investigation. On Maddow’s program last night, she noted that the WSJ had published an editorial calling for replacing Mueller. What are your thoughts about this new effort to discredit Mueller and his ability to surmount this and gain any support from those who “are” the people needed to actually indict this man?

        Also, the NY Review of “Donald Trump’s Brains” that I linked speaks directly about this “retainer” class (Claremont Institute) you reference. Note that one of their grads is none other than Tom Cotton…who, if placed as head of the CIA will be in a very dangerous position to implement the Claremont agenda.

        Finally, except for people who are die-hard persisters, much of America is in a very depressed state of mind. People don’t think they can stop this power grab. They have stepped up and made countless phone calls and visits to the offices of MoC to influence votes only to watch votes go down in total oblivium to their concerns. They watch a man who is president of our country have impunity from consequence….while others pay the price. Why would we expect the Republican Party to hold him accountable when he is giving them cover and allowing the greatest financial and social rape of democracy we have ever seen in America? I do know this – when people feel they cannot make a difference, the retainer class (or whoever is trying to seize power) have won.

      2. @Dinsdale Pirannha:

        Chris gave some fine examples in the historical context, but if you’re looking for something a bit more modern, look no further than the Indivisible movement. Who wrote the guide that started it all? Congressional staffers (Ezra Levin, Jeremy Haile, Leah Greenberg, and Angel Padilla) that knew/know the political process inside and out and are likely very well educated. Even with all the energy in the world in the base, it took a helping hand from some well-meaning elites to give us the proverbial pat on the back we needed to get going.

        You can likely extrapolate that same dynamic, more or less, and apply it to the Women’s Movement as well, and to Democrats’ outsized victory in VA. Outrage and frustration is fine, but without a guiding hand to tell it where it go, it fizzles and dies like a firecracker.

      3. Yes, I concur that the Mueller Investigation and the 2018 elections are key. This Congress (the 115th) are directly attacking the “retainer” class. Much of that class is very dissatisfied and they may well align with the poorer people. If the legal system is not able to constrain T and his allies in Congress, Ryan, McConnell, etc. or remove T, thus enabling the 2018 elections to begin to rectify the situation by at least changing the majority party in at least one house, then all H may break loose. Personally I am hoping the legal system will be able to sufficiently restrain T and that a big wave will occur in 2018. Thanks to Indivisible and others. I am working in that direction.

        If a revolution does occur then who knows what may occur. I do know that certain areas of the country are determined to combat many of the trends. Think the Left Coast, many of the Northeastern states and some of the more progressive Mountain West and portions of the Great Lakes regions. We realize the threats of Global Warming, depend on relatively open borders and an activist federal government. Assuming the nation survives – I am confident it will, there are likely to be some significant constitutional changes.

        Unfortunately, there are some bad apples on the international scene that perceive the problems the US is having and think they can take advantage of it. Think of Russia under Putin, China and the South China Sea, and others in the Middle East. I am concerned that the US will not have time to get its act together, before the international challenges erupt into major conflict..

      4. “First of all, successful revolutions are always initiated by what Lenski identified as the “retainer class;” affluent, educated elites just outside the aristocracy. In modern US terms, think of attorneys, pastors, doctors, teachers, military officers, bureaucrats, and knowledge-economy workers.”

        David Brin has commented on that class too, and how it’s no surprise that Fox, Limbaugh, and the rest off the RWNJ echo chamber is working hard to smear us (scientists are members too). The military was one group they hesitated to attack, but see how they are now working feverishly to smear and discredit Robert Mueller III. They are totally abandoning any pretenses of any standards other than power at all costs. Used to be that pretty much everyone agreed that fondling young girls was unacceptable behavior. The fact that some conservatives are now making excuses just highlights the moral rot. The only way to go lower is to start passing laws that brazenly discriminate.

      5. “To ‘start’ passiing laws that brazenly discriminate?”

        Fly – This entire tax cut bill discriminates because it so brazenly and disproportionately awards financial benefits. It makes individual tax cuts “temporary” and corporate tax cuts “permanent”…etc etc. I know you are up on this so won’t elaborate.

        Republicans started this a long time ago. They now have a chance to finish it and wrap it all up with a big red bow. That is the plan and the only way to slow it is to vote them out of office and correct their changes.

        Speaking of which, the good news is: “The number of women already running for congressional or statewide offices around the country is more than double than the number who ran in 2016. In 2016, 183 women ran for the US House or Senate. For the 2018 cycle, 410 women are already running, according to a list updated this week by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

        In 2014, there were 30 women candidates for governor’s offices, which typically come with a four-year term. Seventy-three women are running for the same position in 2018, according to the Rutgers survey. The same trend holds true for other statewide races, all the way down to state auditor.”

      6. Chris, I will bow to your superior historical knowledge, but for one thing: There has to be serious unrest among the masses for any rebellion to take hold. And when I say masses, I mean the lower economic classes.

        The retainer class, as you call them, cannot lead a revolution unless the poor are eager to act as foot soldiers. And from an economic point of view, there is simply not enough misery amongst the poor today in the U.S. for these people to risk their lives. There is not a critical mass of misery in the country for this retainer class to have troops to lead against the economic elite.

        I do have another question regarding this retainer class: What leads you to believe that they would be willing to lead a revolution in the current political climate? Unless you mean they are doing it strictly based on a affront to their values. It can’t be from an economic basis. This retainer class is doing too well to be motivated to give up what they have.

        As far as I can see, based on what you are laying out, the uninformed socially backward religious red states and the economic elite would form one side while the middle class and retainer class would be on the other, in a civil war based on values, not economics. And to me, that will not be happening.

        The ultimate question is this: How many professors, doctors, accountants, engineers etc would be willing to give up their low 6 figure incomes and take up arms if the puppet tyrant announced that he is suspending the 2020 election until all the voting lists are purged of illegal voters? And how many people in Alabamastan, Texas, Montana, etc would follow those in said retainer class?

      7. ““To ‘start’ passiing laws that brazenly discriminate?”

        Fly – This entire tax cut bill discriminates because it so brazenly and disproportionately awards financial benefits.”

        I was thinking of abominations like the Nuremberg laws- blatant discrimination without even bothering with the fig leaves of “it will grow the economy” or “ir’s for National Security”. They still have to cloak the bias. Should it ever before that naked, we are in for some bad times. That’s how I think the GOP could go lower.

      8. To clarify a few points:

        **There has to be serious unrest among the masses for any rebellion to take hold**

        There is always serious unrest among the masses. Why do you think so many of them voted for Donald Trump. People don’t need to be starving in order to want to revolt. In fact, they are more restless when they aren’t economically desperate. People who see themselves as less well-off than their peers are always ready for trouble.

        ***How many professors, doctors, accountants, engineers etc would be willing to give up their low 6 figure incomes and take up arms…***

        None. How many of them took up arms against the government in Tunisia, or against the Tsar? None. And still they brought down those governments. Americans entertain this weird myth about the power of individual violence. It’s strange. Nothing could be more futile from a revolutionary perspective than a bunch of yokels with guns. It’s just a way to get themselves killed. The key to successful violence is organization and funding, not enthusiasm.

        For just one example, here’s how the Tsar’s government fell. There was nothing at all novel about riots in St. Petersburg in the two decades leading up to the revolution, but something very important happened in February of 1917. In the midst of a series of those riots, the Tsar suspended the Duma (legislature). The Duma was full of elite professionals and a few aristocrats, but the Tsar’s illegal suspension of their authority was the last straw. They had been humiliated over and over by the aristocracy and the Tsar. A conservative reformer in the Duma named Mikhail Rodzianko, himself an aristocrat, responded to the Tsar’s suspension of the Duma by organizing a parallel legislature (the Provisional Council of the State Duma) and declaring their control over the military garrison in St. Petersburg. The Tsar no longer had the confidence of the military. All the generals (and Colonels and Majors) needed was some semi-legitimate organizing authority to follow. Rodzianko gave them what they needed.

        What followed was an eight month power struggle between the remnant of the Duma and the Communists’ new local “soviets.” They were fighting to determine who would represent the reorganized retainer class – in other words, who would carry the mantle of ‘legitimacy’ necessary to command a critical mass of the military. Lenin would return in August and help the soviets win that power struggle, assume authority over the local garrison, and finally topple the remains of the previous government in October. Through that process, the Communists would end up winning the support of just enough of the military to win the civil war that played out over the next five years.

        Neither Lenin nor Rodzianko could reliably identify the business end of a rifle. Hardly anyone from the Russian retainer class ever heard the sound of gunfire across the entire span of the revolution and the subsequent Russian civil war. That isn’t how revolutions happen. They won on a chessboard. The men with guns had almost zero individual agency. Those that tried to exercise some individual agency became criminals and bandits, and were systematically exterminated, or sent underground to become petty mafias. Robin Hood always fails.

        Those knuckle-dragging morons in the Frank Luntz interview have no say in what wars their kids are drafted to fight in. Their lives play out under the influence of forces they will never comprehend. They do what they’re told. Some of them might cause some minor friction around the edges, but they are useless either as a force to be activated or as an opponent.

        None of those extras from Deliverance will be consulted about their loyalty in any fight that breaks out over which forces will control DC. None of the 6-figure professionals who influence the outcome will ever smell gunpowder. That’s the mythology of revolutions, not the reality.

        If Donald Trump and his allies are stupid enough to trigger a crisis of legitimacy, then they have already lost. They are interlopers, who command zero support among the class of financial and legal professionals who determine how the military behaves. If they provoke a crisis of legitimacy, all that remains to worked out subsequent to that crisis is exactly which forces from the retainer class will build the fourth republic (and which ones will find themselves on the dangerous margins). Will it be our version of The Whites, represented by characters like Jeff Flake or Joe Biden, or our version of The Reds, represented by characters resembling Bernie Sanders. The winner in that contest is not the guy who wages the boldest fight in the street, but the players who win the allegiance of the most powerful commanders. That’s what we can’t see yet, and probably won’t see until it’s all over.

        Ramblerousing hobbyists like the Bundy’s, or those moron militias organizing in the sticks might have a few good months during the chaos of a transition, but they are ultimately just food for the wolves. They’ll be promptly wiped out by whatever forces prevail in the real fight, unless they’re lucky enough to find themselves irrelevant and thus ignored.

        Dins, put your guns down. Take a valium and chill out. You’ll be asked to vote soon, and the outcome of those elections has some meaningful implications. There are some things you can do to influence the opinions of others around you. Otherwise, you can watch the outcome play out with either anxiety or disinterest, without that choice influencing the results in the slightest.

      9. Let me add something, in order to anticipate a complaint about the determinist tone of that comment. Protests do matter. Continuing that Bolshevik example, Rodzianko took the action he took partly because of the protests. If he had seen no anger in the streets, he would not have been bold enough to form a splinter parliament. The protests told him a story about what was happening to *legitimacy*.

        With that in mind, look at the way Republican Senators carefully couched their support for the recent tax reforms. Collins and Murkowski and Flake all planted excuses in their yes votes. Why? Most tax cuts, despite any resistance, end up being very popular once people see them as inevitable. I think these folks, along with dozens of Republican Congressmen, were playing for time. They wanted to see whether sustained opposition (from the retainer class***) would emerge. Protests do matter, they just aren’t determinative. Protests are far more powerful and influential when they emerge from the retainer class.

        Armed resistance, by contrast, is meaningless unless is it coordinated with support from those retainers. Anyway. That’s enough for now.

      10. The concern I have for effective protests to the GOP/T agenda is that there are so many battles to wage. There are people who are protesting but their efforts are diffused. There is organized chaos by placing so many challenges up (or, in the case of the ACA repeal, or the tax cut) deals done in total secrecy and breath-taking speed, that it is difficult to organize and channel what opposition/resistance is out there.

        I’m not saying quit; I’m not saying any effort isn’t important, I’m acknowledging the reality of limited time, resources, and energy…not to mention organization. Indivisible has tried to provide structure and women have been in the vanguard, but the Republican bulldozer keeps mowing people down. I’m a die-hard but lots of good, caring people aren’t. They get discouraged, they have busy lives, and for some, the constant barrage of negativity in their lives can become toxic.

        We live in dangerous times and I despise those who are doing the pillaging and lying. Because, that’s what it is.

      11. “The poor never initiate successful revolutions.” The poor endure, and endure, and endure. At some point in each of our lives, we have to take responsibility for the harm we allow to be inflicted on the poor. By not voting, by not speaking up when someone makes an unkind or ignorant remark about the poor, by not helping lift people up, by not caring enough to get outside our own comfort zone.

        This is a very disheartening time. But, at least I have the means to ride it out. Where is the hope for the poor?

  7. I can’t recall if I posted this on one of Chris’ other posts, but it absolutely is worth reading. You won’t be surprised but you will note that this has become a strength of the Republican Party and has been a weakness of the Democratic Party. Dems are waking up because the grassroots (think: women) are forcing it, but they’re having to make it up as they go. Here’s super advice and “how to”.

  8. Greetings, fellow socially conscious Americans!

    In case you haven’t heard (and if word is to be believed), s*&% is looking to hit the fans of Congress in a *serious* way in the not too distant future by way of a joint report by CNN and the Washington Post that details 20-30 (!) members of Congress that have been accused of sexual harassment.

    Democrats look to have taken the moral high ground on sexual harassment post-Franken, but they may find their newfound resolve put to the test in a serious way. Stay tuned.

    1. This taking of the moral high ground was an other awful, awful strategic error by the Democratic party. Forget about all the good men, (and yeah, I think Franken was a very good man) that are going to get railroaded out of politics in this pogrom, and look what happens going forward.

      Imagine what the republicans are doing right now. They are looking at every potential rising left-wing star that is a man. They are creating investigation teams that are going to dive into these men’s social histories as far back as high school. They will track every contact they had with women. Anything that these guys did that was even remotely out-of-line at some high school or college party will be found out. And if necessary, they will most certainly create lies far better than project Veritas.

      Every single man on the left that runs for high office of any kind will now be attacked immediately with stories of bad sexual conduct, regardless if they are true or not. And because the Democrats have drawn their line in the sand, taken their high moral ground, established their precedent, they will be forced to eat their own.

      Remember this comment shortly after the 2020 Democrat presidential primary. Watch the stories pile up about whomever the presidential candidate will be. Watch the Democrats try to dance about their candidate’s alleged behavior 10, 20, 30 years before, and the repubs tear them apart for hypocrisy.

      The only chance the Democrats have now is to run all females for any office, and even then, the stories will be begin. The Democrat circular firing squad opens up again, and the right-wing just sits back and laughs.

      1. Females are a winning approach, and they aren’t waiting around for the DNC to get its act together. Congress would be a better governing body with more balance from female participation – that isn’t because they are less likely to have histories of sexual harassment, but because they always work hard and they are just as smart (and maybe wiser) than most of the guys. They just need the chance to demonstrate their abilities.

      2. >] “Imagine what the republicans are doing right now. They are looking at every potential rising left-wing star that is a man. They are creating investigation teams that are going to dive into these men’s social histories as far back as high school. They will track every contact they had with women. Anything that these guys did that was even remotely out-of-line at some high school or college party will be found out. And if necessary, they will most certainly create lies far better than project Veritas.

        Not to play to whataboutism, but it cuts both ways, Dinsdale. Republicans and Democrats alike are getting swallowed up by the social transformation happening around us, and so the question is whether you’re going to try and ride this wave (as Democrats are clearly trying to do) or if you’re going to play the proverbial ostrich and stick your head in the sand, going ‘LA LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA.’

        And let’s be real, Republicans play dirty no matter what the context of the moment may be, now more than ever. If it wasn’t sexual harassment, it would be something else, and so what the hell’s the point of trying to avoid a fight that’s coming your way no matter what? Better to face it the hell on, I say!

        No matter what, do not give into fear and uncertainty. That is a path to certain defeat.

        >] “Every single man on the left that runs for high office of any kind will now be attacked immediately with stories of bad sexual conduct, regardless if they are true or not. And because the Democrats have drawn their line in the sand, taken their high moral ground, established their precedent, they will be forced to eat their own.

        And if they *hadn’t* taken the moral high ground, Republicans would’ve ripped them to shreds at every moment for trying to hang Roy Moore around their necks when they had John Conyers and Al Franken in their ranks and stayed silent and complicit. It was the right thing to do, and politically smart.

        And please, for the sake of argument, let’s not get into the whole due process shtick. Ultimately, this comes down to a matter of politics, not a court of law. The dynamics are completely different and we have to treat them as such.

      3. Ryan, the massive difference is that the reoub base does not care about sexual misconduct, at least anywhere on the same scale as the Democrat base. The puppet tyrant and the pedophile are obvious examples.

        So while the Democrats will wipe out their stars, the repubs will just call all allegations lies, shrug their shoulders, and campaign away.

  9. I’m not a financial advisor, but if I were taking an additional $14k home due to a deficit-fueled tax cut, I’d sink it into HSAs and investments immediately in anticipation of the next recession. I wouldn’t even pretend I had that much more money to play with.

    As far as the bills are already written, I slip by all the bad stuff and get modest good from the good stuff. Also my career track is such that theoretically by the time the hammer slams down on the temporary middle class cuts, I will be making enough to handle it. Besides, my industry is ran predominantly through pass-through entities, so once I hat higher than 20% federally, I might as well incorporate.

    But I’m a Liberal Coastal Elitist, so this thing blows a hole in my state’s budget larger than the entire budget for other states. All to the advantage of fuck all nobody, because it isn’t going to help ‘red states’ in any measurable sense.

    Add stirring up the Middle East, Russia, and North Korea for no reason, removing state level gun control laws for no reason, turning the Internet into cable television next week for no reason, and gearing down to remove my health and retirement benefits next year to fund the cuts, and the bureaucracy custom-staffed with corporate raiders explicitly chosen to undermine their work,and andly took one measly year of Republicans doing only what they’ve promised for my entire life to send the country back to 1928.

    Next year the Republicans work on returning us to 1860.

    1. Anyone got a Ouija Board to contact the spirit of Lincoln? Could really use that guy right about now.

      Really though, there’s something to be said about Paul Ryan for seriously going after Medicare and Medicaid in an election year. In any remotely sane political environment, that would qualify as the definition of insanity, so what’s going on here?

      I think this stands as further proof that Republicans are resigned to getting their asses handed to them in ’18, and so they’re going for broke to try and hamstring Democrats’ hands so they’re so busy fixing everything that they don’t have anytime to actually implement an agenda.

      Color me a skeptic that everything’s going to go quite so neat and tidy as Republicans might be hoping though. If that is indeed Paul Ryan’s strategy, he’s striking me as more than a bit Ted Cruz-ish in that he’s trying to be too clever by half only to have it blow up in his face at the end.

      1. I think it is more likely that Paul Ryan et al think things are going to work out quite well for them. Statistically, the blue wave will have to be enormous to take back even the House…the Senate is much harder. We have Franken’s seat in play (HRC won by a whisker there and Repubs will want to capture this seat.) In the House, Repubs hold a 46 seat advantage and in the Senate, “the GOP will be defending just eight seats, while Democrats must fight for 23 — plus another two held by independents who caucus with Democrats. What’s worse is the fact that many of the seats they must defend are in states won by Republican Donald Trump.” wiki

        Not impossible in a tsunami, but daunting. Still, we persist and can work like heck to GOTV and, who knows? Better to be positive but not naive.

      2. Insofar as the House is concerned, Democrats now have a 20 pt advantage with women, according to a recent poll:

        FWIW, that’s similar to the overwhelming gap Dems had when they romped to victory in VA and nearly took back the House of Delegates, which virtually everyone had assumed to be an impossible task as well. That said, we don’t want to be lulled into overconfidence, but we shouldn’t underestimate the scope of our potential power either.

      3. That VA election (held Nov 7th) still has 3 races unresolved! Here’s an article about where things stand….And, yes, women are all in but we cannot do it alone. We will need to push the limits of all disenchanted registered voters to retake just the house.

        Two other pieces of news. CA MoC Nunes was cleared by the House Ethics Comm. so he can go back to chairing the House Intelligence Committee…which gives me heartburn. And, second, Mueller is getting too close and the troops are circling the wagons on him….yes, the GOP troops….

        Finally, this wonderful piece by the Atlantic on the charges against T by 19…read that – 19 women.

        Happy reading!

    2. Is it just me or does anyone else have a vision of Ryan, McConnell and a few other MoC sitting in a small room putting every last wish they ever had on a white board and saying “let’s go for the whole fricking thing”…smiles all around…back slaps…we got this….Finally, we can stick it to all those lazy people living off our hard work; kill Obamacare – yeah!! Reduce taxes on our income and make the middle class pay for it….they’re mostly Democrats, anyway! Gig the blue states by cutting deductions for SALT…(guess they kinda forgot that blue states have been contributing more than Red states to the economy for a long time now….but, I digress); Cut the mandates for health insurance – sure it was “our” idea first, but, this sucker base won’t remember that…all they’ll say is “thank you for destroying our health care”; and women? They will once more be back in the kitchen, washing dishes, clothes, and cooking like they used to…as for infrastructure – we got that…but we want to hand it out…jobs, you know…but in OUR districts, never blue districts….

      Yep, 2018 is gonna be just fine for us. Everyone is gonna be in the dark ’cause we don’t start cutting things until 2019, and none of these people ever read anything so they won’t even know what’ s in these tax cuts until it’s too late. Chuckle, chuckle. Time for a beer, or two, heck, let’s order out…and, btw, expense this food to the taxpayers, cause we’re workin’ folks….

    3. I wonder if the deeper plan regarding “blowing a hole in the blue state budgets” might be to create such anger when cuts occur to vital services and people individually feel oppressed. IOW, sow discontent and destroy the functional ability of blue states to fight back because individually, its people transfer their anger at the very people that are under attack by conservatives. Maybe I’m giving the GOP too much credit but many of their schemes to disrupt, destroy are subtle.

  10. I have visited Haiti and Belize. Both very Libertarian and both very poor. It seems you need some socialism with your capitalism to thrived. You also need adequate government for capitalism to thrive. I was told by my guide in Belize banking was severely lacking. That is I believe because with out government with enforceable rules trust is lacking . Cheaters are always present so people are more hesitant to lend money or do business. This just one factor on why they are poor. Too bad so few of us travel over seas. It would be an eye opener for many. The elite should know this. I guess they rather have near total power than greater wealth if they have to share it along with power with the masses.

  11. Chris, I really liked this article.

    Particularly this. “Let’s be clear about the Reagan Era mythology being used to justify this tax bill. The purpose of Reagan’s 1981 tax cut was a restructuring of the economy to better incentivize investment. Toward that end alone, the Kemp-Roth bill was somewhat successful. However, those cuts created such an enormous hole in government revenues that they were followed by a giant tax increase in 1982, the largest peacetime tax increase in history.”

    And still, after these tax increases, there was a Keynesian goosing of the economy that raised the deficit so much that the Democratic house complained.

    The reality of those years are looked at through gauzy lens. I’ll accept Ronnie as a Saint as long as we don’t allow a flawed history to create a flawed future.

  12. Meanwhile, we are at the deadline to pass the budget.

    Conservatives: “They want to provoke a confrontation with Democrats and break a cycle of bipartisan deals that has led both military and nondefense discretionary spending to rise in lockstep. They are also wary of a year-end spending bill becoming a legislative “Christmas tree” that could include relief for dreamers and other Democratic priorities.”

    Democrats: ““We need a strong national defense, but we also need a strong domestic budget,” Pelosi said Thursday.”

    Should be a long night and a long December.

  13. Very good article Chris – mirrors my thoughts fully. Like you say the centers of innovation in the US are the big metropolitan areas, which have high taxes but better infrastructure and educational systems. That is why the coastal areas of the country are doing well.

    Regarding, taxes the R bill will probably lower my taxes slightly, mainly due to the increase in the standard deduction which is greater than the loss of the individual credit. But the net change will not be that large. On the other hand, my local taxes will likely increase since there will be additional pressure at the local level. But we are already taxing ourselves to pay for local infrastructure improvements and education. And that does not even touch the decreased quality of life due to more homeless, poorer health care and perhaps changes in Social Security and Medicare.

  14. Chris – Great piece at Forbes. You nailed it which means you’ll get lots of not so nice comments…..So, thought I’d make mine here (as I can’t comment on the Forbes site.)

    From my calculation, I will lose under this plan, but like you, I can afford it. What I don’t want to do, is tip the Mercers. I want better schools, infrastructure, health care, and support for the poor, sick, disabled, and old. I’m willing to share more of my money to help others even though I have so much less to share than the 1%.

    1. As Will and Ariel Durant said in Lessons of History:

      “…the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or by revolution distributing poverty.”

      Courtesy of David Brin.

    2. That is basically the conclusion that Piketty reached in Capital in the Twenty-First Century. As for myself, I have reached that conclusion based on my cursory examination of US History since the mid 19th Century. The period of time when the US had the best sustained economic period for ALL members of society was the Great Compression from 1940 to 1980. That also coincided with the period when marginal taxation on the wealthy was high and may have reached confiscatory levels at times. But that was the period when the middle class boomed, the infrastructure in the US was generally very good and the educational system was very good. Even during the great boom years of the late 19th Century, there were regular “panics” at approximately 15-20 year intervals.

    3. That’s actually why we have the estate tax. The original thinking behind it was we didn’t want an inherited aristocracy like Europe so we essentially confiscate large estates. Raising money was not the primary purpose.

      I think Warren buffet was the one who likened the estate tax to a global reset button every generation, allowing people to essentially start each generation at the same starting line and allow people to rise by their merit, which is better for us politically and also economically since the best people are more likely to succeed.

      1. Which philosophy, “individualism”, aka “rising by one’s own merits, used to be a cornerstone of the Republican orthodoxy….seems like they feel they need a little more help via friendly tax cuts and more loopholes….and, they have the gold so they are ruling.

        The ability of conservatives to sell their propaganda to everyday people that those who aren’t succeeding (financially…I don’t think they understand other forms of success), just aren’t working hard enough, is tragic. As Fly noted, they have somehow impugned taxes on the wealthy as “death taxes” which undercut the very people who are most impacted by the wealth divide. Rather than give them credit for their brilliant messaging, I want people to use their heads and see through this hyperbole – to examine how these GOP actions are impacting their lives and that of their children. But, it doesn’t appear to work that way, at least not right now.

      2. The Republicans say they don’t think death should be a taxable event. Clearly, they don’t want being rich or being a corporation to be a taxable event either. Evidently, the only thing they want to be a taxable event is being poor.

  15. “[W]hy do we fall for the bizarre notion that crippling our shared democracy will bring us more freedom?”

    It’s the Confederacy. (Yes, that Confederacy.) If you read the Confederate Constitution, long stretches were taken word for word from the U.S. Constitution. But the first change you notice is that the Preamble deletes the words “promote the General Welfare”.

  16. I’ve noticed that environmentalists too use this style of opportunity cost discussion when trying to explain the not-always-obvious value of some natural element, like a prairie or a swamp.

    It works for me but I fear many are so dead set against taxes of any type and/or government action that it falls of intentionally deaf ears.

    Me, I won’t get a $14,000 raise next year. I have been living entirely on social security for most of this year. I can meet my monthly expenses and I like having my time freed up.

    But it’s possible that my taxes will go up without being able to deduct medical expenses. Or not.

    In truth, when or if social security income is taxed is kinda murky now and changes over time with one’s age.

    I am stunned, though, that the naked transfer of wealth from poor to rich in the tax bill actually will occur. What kind of country is this?

      1. I have to give credit where credit is due, all this “death tax” brouhaha is brilliant propaganda; brilliant in the sense that even though it’s wrong headed and hypocritical, it worked. You’ve got many people convinced that somehow this is a great injustice unfairly targeting all the hard working people.

    1. If you have significantly other income it is already taxed. Up to 85%. 85% of my wife’s and mine Social Security is taxed at our marginal rate. Not crying about it as I rather have this problem than not enough income. But the limits are not adjusted for inflation so eventually all SS will be taxed. One thing makes it a little bit more bareable . The tax is put back into the Social Security trust fund so helps shore up the program.

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