Progressives Should Focus On Russia

Too many on the “left” say progressives should not be focusing on the Russian interference in our democracy. They say it is just an excuse to allow the failure of Clinton and Democratic leadership to offer the public good policies that help people instead of just helping corporations and the rich slide. Some even say it is just old 1950s-style “red-baiting.”

Criticism of Russia is not related to previous pre-1990s criticisms of communism or socialism. Russia is not that. Today it is a kletocracy run by one guy and a bunch of oligarchs, sort of the perfect Koch/Thiel/Trump/corporate state that Republicans are trying to bring about here.

They Did It

The Trump campaign did do this and the Republican Party is running cover for it, just so they can continue to loot us with tax cuts for the rich and taking away the things our government does to make our lives better.

Its better for progressives if the spectrum of power goes from the left to centrist Dems, instead of from centrist Dems to the far right as it does now. Using Russia to get lots of Rs out of power and move that spectrum left only helps us obtain an environment in which Medicare-for-All, free college and university, allowing everyone to vote, restoring taxation and regulation on corporations, breaking up monopolies, bringing racial and gender justice, ending privatization, finally fighting climate change and all the other things needed to heal the country and planet are possible to achieve.

We need the public to understand that conservative/Republican/corporate rule is anti-democracy and not legitimate. Focusing on Russia helps us get there.

The Russia Story Isn’t Going Away

It’s not like the Russia story is going to drop from the news, allowing other things to be discussed. So ride the wave instead of fighting the tide.

The Russia story actually gives us an opportunity to talk about good policies instead of policies that hurt the country, by tying that discussion to Russian efforts to hurt us. All the talk about Russia gives us the opportunity to tie Republican anti-government policies to the ways Russia hoped to benefit from their interference in our democracy. Russia helped put them there in an effort to hurt the country and Republican policies hurt the country.

The Russia story delegitimizes Republicans by exposing their lack of legitimacy. (Along with voter suppression, gerrymandering and other ways they are not legitimately in power.) The more they and their policies are delegitimized the more progressive policies fill the vacuum.

Note how Medicare-for-All is being widely discussed, even while the Russia story dominates.

All the talk about Russian interference in democracy offers us a chance to remind people of what democracy means. erference in our democracy.

Tax Cuts Defund The Very Things That Boost The Economy

After 8 years of complaining about “Obama deficits,” Republicans are proposing huge, dramatic, unprecedented tax cuts, especially for corporations. President Trump wants the rate cut from 35% down to 15%, denying the government $2 trillion of revenue over the next decade. He is also proposing dramatic income tax cuts for billionaires like him.

Republicans call corporate tax cuts “pro-growth,” saying they will give the economy a boost. Trump’s Treasury Secretary says the plan will “pay for itself with economic growth.”

So now they’re for “stimulus”?

But here’s the real question: do tax cuts actually boost economic growth?

What Tax Cuts Actually Do

In 2012 the Congressional Research Service looked at the data from past tax cuts and the effect they had on the economy, and issued a report titled, Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945. The summary explained,

This report attempts to clarify whether or not there is an association between the tax rates of the highest income taxpayers and economic growth. Data is analyzed to illustrate the association between the tax rates of the highest income taxpayers and measures of economic growth.

And what did the study find?

There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.

In fewer words: There is no evidence that tax cuts bring economic growth, but they do cause income to concentrate at the top.

But wait, it’s worse than that. Tax revenues build roads (and bridges and airports and rail systems and and water systems…), educate the population, conduct scientific research, run the courts, enforce regulations, standardize (and enforce) weights and measures, and about a million other things that make businesses prosper.

If you cut taxes, over time the business environment necessarily gets worse because those roads deteriorate, people are not as well educated, scientific research declines, courts clog up, regulation enforcement declines, along with about a million other things that businesses rely on. If you can’t get educated employees, can’t move goods on crowded and deteriorated roads and your competitors can get away with cheating, your business just isn’t going to do as well as it could.

Tax cuts defund all of those things that boost the economy and make our lives better. Over time the economy necessarily gets worse.

Are Taxes Theft?

Republicans say “taxes are theft.” They say “taxes take money out of the economy.” They say it “takes from those who work and earn and giving to those who don’t.” They say taxation “extracts wealth.” The idea behind this is that government is illegitimate and “uses force’ to “take people’s money” so “they” can have it instead. They argue there are “producers” and “moochers” and the moochers outnumber the producers and take from them.

These are all actually arguments against democracy. Substitute the words “We the People” for the word “government” in their arguments and you’ll see how this works. The “they” in their arguments isn’t some “other” that grabs the money, it is We the People. The idea of democracy is that We the People have a government and we decide how to allocate the resources of our economy to make our lives better. That means taxing and spending.

Democracy is taxing and spending. And by definition government sending is on things that make our lives better.

Are tax cuts theft? Or are they really about theft of democracy from We the People?

From Tax Cuts Are Theft,

The American Social Contract: We, the People built our democracy and the empowerment and protections it bestows. We built the infrastructure, schools and all of the public structures, laws, courts, monetary system, etc. that enable enterprise to prosper. That prosperity is the bounty of our democracy and by contract it is supposed to be shared and reinvested. That is the contract. Our system enables some people to become wealthy but all of us are supposed to benefit from this system. Why else would We, the People have set up this system, if not for the benefit of We, the People?

… The American Social Contract is supposed to work like this:

… But the “Reagan Revolution” broke the contract. Since Reagan the system is working like this:

Tax cuts eat the seed corn of our prosperity. We shouldn’t fall for yet another Republican con, this time from the con-man Trump.

Did Trump Attack Syria for Personal Profit?

At any other time, this (fill in the blank) would be the scandal of the decade. Now, with Donald Trump as president, we call it Monday.

Thursday evening, Trump attacked Syria, a sovereign country, with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. This act of war was done without Congressional authorization, even after Trump’s August, 2013, tweet that “Obama needs Congressional approval” before attacking Syria in nearly-identical circumstances.

The following morning, headlines like this one appeared in the business press: Raytheon, maker of Tomahawk missiles, leads premarket rally in defense stocks:

Defense and energy stocks dominated the list of premarket gainers on the S&P 500 Friday, led by Tomahawk missile-maker Raytheon Corp., after U.S. missile strikes against a Syrian air base overnight.

Donald Trump apparently owns Raytheon stock. In May, 2016, Trump reported to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) that he owned Raytheon stock. Interestingly, this FEC report does not appear to include the extensive web of offshore anonymous shell corporations Trump uses to mask assets.

Since that filing Trump’s assets have not been sold with the proceeds placed into a “blind trust,” and there is no public record of his having otherwise sold the stock. Not only that, but Trump is able to draw cash from his “trust” at any time. He could literally have pocketed cash from his gains from attacking Syria.

Conflict Of Interest

Trump has a clear conflict of interest here. He ordered an attack using missiles from a company he owns stock in, the company stock went up as a result, Trump made a profit. He didn’t order the military to drop bombs, though he likely owns stock in companies that make bombs, or interrupt a Mar-a-Lago dinner to order a Seal team to raid the offices of the officials who ordered the gas attack. There is every reason for people to ask if personal profit was a factor in ordering the Tomahawk missile attack.

We don’t know, but there is the appearance of Trump potentially having done this for financial gain. This is why conflicts of interest matter.

The pubic has a right to be concerned about this.

Past Scandals

Compare the appearance of potential conflict-of-interest in Trump’s Syria attack to a past scandal that was considered major, received extensive news coverage and resulted in years of investigations.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton dismissed seven employees from the White House Travel Office after investigations discovered financial improprieties. Among other reported improprieties, it appeared that companies that contracted to provide lucrative travel services were issuing “refunds” that the Travel Office director was putting into his own bank account.

Republicans accused Clinton of firing the employees so that “friends,” including a third cousin, could get the jobs, and so that companies from Arkansas could get contracts.

This became a major scandal that resulted in literally years of investigations. The national news media did front-page reporting on the “scandal” for years. Republicans forced investigations by the FBI, the General Accounting Office, the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee (1996 report), the Senate Special Whitewater Committee and finally an independent prosecutor. In 2000, a Special Prosecutor declined to prosecute the Clintons for the firings, but the mainstream news media were still at it. Fourteen years later, the right-wing media were still at it.

Compare everything in that seven years of major scandal and investigations, resulting from firing seven travel office employees for appearing to be taking kickbacks, to any given day of the Trump administration. For example, where the Clintons were investigated because a third cousin ended up with a White House job, Trump has hired his daughter and son-in-law.

A Lot More Than Just Raytheon

Trump’s direct and potential conflicts go vastly beyond just his Raytheon stock. The Atlantic looks at just his own company’s holdings, page after page,, in Donald Trump’s Conflicts of Interest: A Crib Sheet.

This is, needless to say, unprecedented. It shows how far “down the rabbit hole” Trump and the Congressional Republicans who refuse to old him accountable have taken the country. Things that would be major scandals in the past are barely even mentioned today.

There is a national Tax March on April 15 to demand that Trump release his tax returns, so we can at least begin to get a handle on his multiple conflicts of interest. There is a large march in Washington, DC along with marches in cities around the country. Go to TaxMarch.org to locate an event near you.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.

Whoppers Big and Small in Trump’s Speech

This is classic dumb guy wedding speech writing: “The chorus of their dating became an earthquake of their love.” – Samantha Bee on Trump’s speech

Donald Trump just gave a fact-free, and detail-free, speech to a joint session of Congress. Early on in the evening, the president – who has loaded his cabinet with billionaires and his administration with former Goldman Sachs executives – earned audible guffaws from the assembled lawmakers when he declared, in all seriousness, “We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption…”

With illegal border crossings at the lowest level since 1972, Trump devoted a good portion of his speech to spreading fear of undocumented immigrants. But only those from the south. There are twice as many immigrant visa “overstays” by Canadians as Mexicans. Meanwhile back in the real world, net migration from Mexico  is below zero – more are leaving than coming

Trump claimed our borders are “wide open… for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.” But not only are our borders more secure than ever, our country’s much-publicized opioid addiction problem is the result of pharmaceutical company marketing, not Mexican drug gangs. American physicians have legally prescribed enough painkillers – largely in Trump-voting states – to stupefy people enough to, well, elect Trump.

Trump also spoke of immigrants committing crimes, asking what would those in Congress say to an American family when immigrants take “a loved one” from them. However, the New York Times reports that “Contrary to Trump’s Claims, Immigrants Are Less Likely to Commit Crimes.” Oh well.

But rather than run the risk that facts might distract the public from his agenda of fear, Trump showcased family members of people who had been killed by immigrants, then announced that he is setting up an official Ministry of Fear, saying,

I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE — Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.

Trump stressed that immigrants take jobs and income from American families. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) took a 2014 look at this claim, “there is broad agreement among academic economists that in the long run, immigration has a small but positive impact on the labor market outcomes of native-born workers, on average.”

Then Trump went after Muslims, saying, we can’t allow “allow uncontrolled entry” to our country because – “the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.” Pushing the fear further, he said,

“We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.”

Trump conveniently neglected to mention the severe vetting process refugees and immigrants from Muslim countries already face, or the fact over half of the people the Department of Homeland Security has determined were inspired by a foreign  group to attempt terrorist attacks in the U.S. were born in the U.S. And he certainly wasn’t about to bring up native-born white, Christian terrorists.

Trump promised to “work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.” This promise comes less than a month after this headline, “After meeting with pharma lobbyists, Trump drops promise to negotiate drug prices“.

On the very day that headlines read, “Trump signs executive order to roll back clean water rule“, he said, “My administration wants to work with members in both parties to… promote clean air and clear water…”.

Trump also presented environmental destruction as a jobs program, saying for example,

We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.

In fact, as DeSmogBlog points out, Like Keystone XL, Much of Dakota Access Pipeline Steel Made by Russian Company Tied to Putin. And the jobs? A few thousand construction jobs, for a few months while the pipelines are constructed, in an economy adding more than 200,000 jobs a month, and then “Operation of the proposed Project would generate 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs, primarily for routine inspections, maintenance, and repairs.

These are just a few examples of what we are dealing with when we hear Trump speak. Big whoppers, little whoppers, bamboozlements, empty promises, detail-free policy mumblings, flat-out intentional lies, trickery, and always the fear and the fear and the fear and the fear and the fear.

But this time his “tone” was supposedly easier to stomach. Did anyone fall for it?

The ‘Lower The Tax Rate To Attract Businesses’ Competitiveness Scam

Now that Republicans are running Congress and the executive branch, they’re planning to “reform” (cut) corporate taxes (again). This time they using the subterfuge of “this will make companies more competitive.” What does that mean? Of course, under Republicans, it really means one and only one thing: cutting taxes on the rich — rich people.

The top corporate tax rate used to be 52 percent. Under President Ronald Reagan it was 46 percent. Then Congress “reformed” corporate taxes and dropped the rate to just 35 percent. (Except for giant, multinational corporations. They were handed a “deferral” break that cut their taxes to zero.)

Corporations used to shoulder 32 percent of the total tax burden. Now they shoulder only 10 percent of the burden — a drop of two-thirds. The difference has been made up from cuts to infrastructure, schools, health care, scientific research and all the things our government does to make our lives better — and to help our economy prosper over the long term.

That’s the trade-off when taxes are cut. It means our government has to cut the things it does to make all of our lives better.

Who Gets That Money?

As corporate taxes were cut (thereby making it harder for the government to do things that make our lives better), where did that money go instead? It obviously didn’t go toward higher wages or shorter working hours or other things that might have made the tradeoff somewhat worth it for regular people, at least in the short term. No, time has shown us here it went: straight to a few at the top.

Politifact said it was true when Bernie Sanders, in Madison, claims top 0.1% of Americans have almost as much wealth as bottom 90%. Joshua Holland explains how it happened, writing at The Nation in 2015 in 20 People Now Own As Much Wealth as Half of All Americans,

The concentration of wealth at the top isn’t the result of some sort of organic process. The top one-10th of 1 percent of American households controlled about 7 percent of the nation’s wealth in the mid-1970s. By 2000, their share had grown to about 15 percent, and today it’s well over 20 percent. Those at the very top didn’t become three times as smart or lucky or good-looking in the intervening years. They’ve benefited from changes in things like trade policy, the tax code, and collective-bargaining rules — all policy changes they’ve used their wealth to champion.

That is where the money goes when corporate taxes (and rules and regulations and the bargaining power of regular people) are cut. It goes to a few actual, living people instead of toward the betterment of all of us and our economy.

Corporations Don’t “Do” Things. They Don’t “Make Decisions” or “Talk”

Over the last few decades a constant barrage of corporate/conservative propaganda has misinformed public understand of what corporations are, and why we have them. People have come to think of corporations as sentient beings that “do things,” like make decisions and speak. But corporations are things, like chairs and hammers. (Actually, they are more like wills or sales contracts.)

Corporations are things — legal contracts — that people use to get certain things done, for themselves.

These days corporations have also become things that are used to obscure or mask what certain people do. A corporation doesn’t “decide” to pollute a river or cheat a customer or hide profits in the Cayman Islands. And Bob in accounting or Alicia in marketing don’t decide to do that, either. But “the corporations” get the blame while really a few people who manage the corporation do things, and they do those things for their own, personal gain.

This is the important thing to understand. People make decisions and personally benefit; corporations do not.

When we cut taxes on corporations we are actually cutting taxes on a few people. And not just people, but very, very rich people.

The “Competitive” Argument

This time around the Republicans are trying to bamboozle everyone by claiming that we “need” to cut taxes on corporations so they will be more “competitive.” (As if our corporations are not already making the highest profits in history.)

Gayle Trotter captures the company line at the Washington Examiner, in Trump’s corporate tax plan will make America competitive again,

Lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent will help, not only to keep businesses here, but also bring jobs and innovation back home by reducing wacky incentives for United States companies to migrate offshore in tax-driven “inversion” deals.

This is legislation-by-extortion. This argument has giant corporations threatening to renounce their U.S. citizenship, and harm our country by killing American jobs, etc., unless we give them (the executives who make the decisions — and the threats) more money. This argument also threatens American entrepreneurs who want to start companies here, with its appeal to giant foreign companies to move here and serve those markets instead.

The argument also ignores what really makes a country “competitive.” That is the infrastructure, education, scientific research, court system and other things well-funded governments do to fertilize the soil from which companies can grow and prosper. Cutting corporate taxes cuts a government’s ability to nurture that soil — for the sake of a short term gain for a few executives who are making these extortion threats.

Switzerland Got Wise to the Con

A week ago Switzerland had a vote on lowering their corporate tax rate, “to attract businesses,” but the voters got wise to the con, with 60 percent of them voting to reject the extortion argument, as AFP reports,

The proposal would have leveled the tax rate for domestic and foreign firms while creating new deductions for innovation as well as research and development, tailored to attract global companies…

The left-wing Socialist Party (PS) called the government’s plan a “scam” that would have forced ordinary taxpayers to fill inevitable revenue shortfalls.

The referendum had “shown the red card to arrogance,” the party said in a statement, claiming the days of giving sweetheart deals to powerful corporations were “no longer tolerated.”

“Dollars Go to Support the Communities That Help to Make Their Businesses Thrive”

In April, 2015, the Main Street Alliance pushed back against these extortion threats, issuing a statement that SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS JOIN OTHERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY, PLEDGE TO REMAIN AMERICAN BUSINESSES,

With Tax Season in full swing, business owners and working families across the country are standing together, proud to live, work, and support the United States and their local communities. Small business owners across the country know that their tax dollars go to support the communities that help to make their businesses thrive. Investments in our schools, public infrastructure, safety, and much more depend on everyone paying their fair share of taxes.

Good for them. And good for people like the voters in Switzerland who did not fall for this “competitiveness” bamboozlement.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.

This Isn’t Just Trump. This Is Who the Republicans Are.

So far President Trump has signed very few bills. One lets coal companies dump waste into streams. The other lets oil companies bribe foreign dictators in secret. And he is moving to block a Labor Department “fiduciary rule” that requires financial advisors to act in the best interests of their clients when advising on retirement accounts.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t just Trump doing this. The Republican House and Senate passed those two bills, and the Republicans have been fighting that fiduciary rule tooth and nail.

It’s not just Trump, Republicans as a party are using Trump to engage in a general assault on protections from corruption, pollution, corporate fraud and financial scams.

This is who they are.

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Andy ‘Women Are Meat’ Puzder’s Troubles Grow — But Wait, There’s More

Donald Trump didn’t really appoint Walter White, the guy from Breaking Bad, to run the DEA, but his nomination of fast-food CEO Andrew “women are meat” Puzder to be Labor Secretary sure comes close.

Puzder “Fails Every Test of a Labor Secretary”

In December, Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute wrote of Puzder’s nomination, Andrew Puzder fails every test for a Labor Secretary

He’s opposed to the new overtime rule that gave the right to time and a half pay to millions of salaried employees earning less than $47,476 a year. Wal-Mart has already raised its managers’ pay, as did about half of all big retailers, even before the rule was supposed to take effect on December 1. But Puzder wants to kill it so he can keep working low-paid employees without paying them a dime extra for their overtime hours.

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Holocaust Denial and Religious Persecution, Courtesy of the White House

Friday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. As you may have heard, the White house marked the occasion with this statement:

It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.

Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest.‎ As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.

In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.

Can you see what’s missing?

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Kansas And Puerto Rico Show How Trump’s Tax Cuts Will Hurt Us

The business-oriented media are loudly proclaiming that president-“elect” Donald Trump’s proposed tax cuts for the rich and corporations will “boost” the economy.

● WSJ: Trump’s Proposed Tax Cuts Could Boost U.S. and Global Growth, Says World Bank

● CNBC: Trump tax cuts could boost earnings by 20 percent next year: Yardeni

● Fortune: OECD Says Trump Tax and Spending Plans Will Boost Global Economy

● Fox Business Video: Why Trump’s tax cuts will boost the world economy

● Investors Business Daily: Here’s How Much Trump Tax Cuts Could Boost The Stock Market

The word filters down to the local media: (The exact word: “boost”…)

● Indianapolis Business Journal: Trump’s tax-cutting plan will boost economy

Really? Is THAT what happens when taxes are cut for the wealthy and their corporations?

Presidents Reagan and both Bushes cut taxes for the rich and their corporations, promising that the “benefits” would “trickle down’ to the rest of us. Kansas gave huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy to “boost” investment and jobs. For decades Puerto Rico offered tax breaks “attract businesses.” How’d that work out for them — and us?

Kansas, Oops

Sam Brownback took office as Governor of Kansas in 2011. With a Republican legislature Kansas conducted a “real live experiment” and dramatically cut tax rates on the wealthy and corporations. They said it would boost investment and create jobs. They said the “boost” in the economy would actually increase tax revenues.

How did that work out? Not so great. The LA Times reports, Hard times for Kansas and its schools as economic ‘experiment’ creates gaping budget hole,

In February 2015, three years into the supply-side economics experiment that would upend a once steady Midwestern economy, a hole appeared in Kansas’ finances.

To fill it, Gov. Sam Brownback took $45 million in public education funding. By April of this year, with the hole at $290 million, Brownback took highway money to plug it. A month later, state money for Medicaid coverage went into the hole, but the gap continued to grow.

Today, the state’s budget hole is $345 million and threatens the foundation of this state, which was supposed to be the setting for a grand economic expansion but now more closely resembles a battleground, with accusations and lawsuits flying over how to get the state’s finances in order.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) took a long look at the Kansas experiment and what happened, and reported in Kansas’ Tax Cut Experience Refutes Economic Growth Predictions of Trump Tax Advisors,

In fact, the tax cut failed to boost the Kansas economy:

● Since it took effect in January 2013, total employment in Kansas has risen only 2.6 percent, compared to 6.5 percent nationally. Private sector employment in Kansas has risen 3.5 percent, compared to 7.6 percent nationally.

● The state’s economy has grown less than half as fast as the national economy; Kansas’ gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4.8 percent from the end of 2012 through the first quarter of 2016, while national GDP rose 11.9 percent.

● Kansas’ share of newly opened business establishments in the United States has actually declined slightly rather than increased.

But wait, there’s more. According to CBPP, “Moreover, the Kansas tax cut package has had a deleterious impact on the state’s financial stability and the provision of critical services.” Tax revenues did not grow as promised, they continue to decline as the state’s economy collapses. The resulting reduction in infrastructure funding is hitting roads, etc., The state’s bond rating has been downgraded — twice — so the state has to pay higher interest rates. Economic growth and job growth is slower than much of the rest of the country.

More bluntly, Mother Jones, Trickle-Down Economics Has Ruined the Kansas Economy.

Puerto Rico, Oops

Puerto Rico offered “competitive tax rates” to corporations, in an effort to boost their economy. How did that turn out?

A Reuters Special Report from December, How dependence on tax breaks corroded Puerto Rico’s economy,

In trying to be attractive to U.S. firms, Puerto Rico instead

The industrialization push, dubbed Operation Bootstrap, rested on the premise that manufacturers lured by tax breaks would spur the development of a local economy because they would need local suppliers. The federal government supported the effort, viewing Puerto Rico as a vital capitalist outpost in the Caribbean.became indentured to them, pledging tax breaks and cheap labor for ultimately transient economic benefits.

… It turned out that the manufacturers were generally locked into global supply chains, and so they had limited impact on local business creation.

… Today, the U.S. territory has nearly $70 billion in debt, an unemployment rate 2.5 times the U.S. average, a 45 percent poverty rate, nearly insolvent pension systems and a chronically underfunded Medicaid insurance program for the poor.

The economic nosedive started in 2006, at the end of a 10-year phase-out by U.S. congress of tax breaks that had brought manufacturers to the island. Plant closures and job losses followed. Puerto Rico’s commonwealth government made things worse by taking on years of debt to replace the lost revenue.

Tax cuts didn’t work out so well for Puerto Rico, either.

Studies: Tax Cuts Do Not “Boost” The Economy

Republicans always argue that tax cuts for the rich and their corporations will “boost” the economy because “taxes take money out of the economy” and the promise that by cutting taxes at the top the “job creators” have more of an “incentive” to work “harder.” They even argue that cutting taxes actually increases tax revenue as a result of that “boost” in the economy.

So what’s the record?

In September 2012 the Congressional Research Service published a report that looked at 65 years of tax cuts and the economy, Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945. From that report,

Throughout the late-1940s and 1950s, the top marginal tax rate was typically above 90%; today it is 35%. Additionally, the top capital gains tax rate was 25% in the 1950s and 1960s, 35% in the 1970s; today it is 15%. The real GDP growth rate averaged 4.2% and real per capita GDP increased annually by 2.4% in the 1950s. In the 2000s, the average real GDP growth rate was 1.7% and real per capita GDP increased annually by less than 1%. There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.

What all those words say is as tax cuts took effect the economy slowed and longer term it slowed more. They didn’t conclude this was causal, but clearly tax cuts didn’t “boost” growth. The kicker: tax cuts were associated with wealth concentrating at the top.

So no, tax cuts didn’t “boost” growth at all and possibly cut growth while making income inequality worse.

David Leonhardt in the New York Times, also September 2012, Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth?

The defining economic policy of the last decade, of course, was the Bush tax cuts. President George W. Bush and Congress, including Mr. Ryan, passed a large tax cut in 2001, sped up its implementation in 2003 and predicted that prosperity would follow.

The economic growth that actually followed — indeed, the whole history of the last 20 years — offers one of the most serious challenges to modern conservatism. Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush both raised taxes in the early 1990s, and conservatives predicted disaster. Instead, the economy boomed, and incomes grew at their fastest pace since the 1960s. Then came the younger Mr. Bush, the tax cuts, the disappointing expansion and the worst downturn since the Depression.

From my December 2010 post, Do Tax Cuts Help The Economy,

It is obvious that the Reagan and Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have hurt us in many ways.

But this was the plan all along, wasn’t it?

The April, 2011 post, Conservative Tax Tricks – Did Tax Cuts Grow The Economy? is full of charts and figures, including this:

And this:

From my post Tax Cuts Are Theft,

A beneficial cycle: We invest in infrastructure and public structures that create the conditions for enterprise to form and prosper. We prepare the ground for business to thrive. When enterprise prospers we share the bounty, with good wages and benefits for the people who work in the businesses and taxes that provide for the general welfare and for reinvestment in the infrastructure and public structures that keep the system going.

Since the Reagan Revolution with its tax cuts for the rich, its anti-government policies, and its deregulation of the big corporations our democracy is increasingly defunded (and that was the plan), infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are falling behind, factories and supply chains are being dismantled, those still at work are working longer hours for fewer benefits and falling wages, our pensions are gone, wealth and income are increasingly concentrating at the very top, our country is declining.

Tax Cuts Hurt We the People

The record proves that tax cuts don’t “boost” the economy, they just make the rich even richer. So why do we keep getting told they will?

Tax cuts make the rich richer and hurt the rest of us because they force budget cuts in things that make our lives better and actually do grow the economy, like infrastructure and education. A prosperous economy with good businesses and good jobs and good wages result from good education and the business conditions created by good infrastructure, research, etc. These things take investment and regulation and those are the result of taxes and strong government.

If you cut taxes and wages to offer a “competitive environment” what happens is companies move from somewhere else, government there collects less in taxes, government in the new location collects less in taxes, the workers there get laid off and the new workers are always paid less — sometimes much less. If you do the math, you see that in the larger picture of an economy — one that includes the places the companies moved from and moved to — overall wages drop so the public in general is poorer, government is weakened so it can’t help and invest. In the end, the owners of the companies have a larger share of the pie.

Tax cuts are a scam to weaken democracy and our government’s ability to fight corporate power and concentrated wealth.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.

Trumpism Coming, Hide

I’m at a motel in Roseville, CA. They serve a motel “breakfast.” I got the little egg thing for us. In the room we started eating and discovered the center had ham in it. I went to the desk to complain, it wasn’t labeled, there were no non-meat offerings…

I said there are Jews, Muslims, people from India, vegetarians, all wouldn’t be able to eat this.

The look on her face was line “one more month, and we can deal with all of them.”

Trump’s Absurd Plan To Dismantle Government’s Protections

Donald Trump released a video announcing his agenda for his “first day in office.” One of the things he said is, “I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.” Can we count the number of ways this is absurd and dangerous?

Under Trump’s 2-for-1 idea, if we want to have a regulation that a company can’t store explosives next to an elementary school, we have to eliminate a regulation that protects us from food poisoning AND a regulation that stops companies from taking money out of your bank account for no reason? (Or how about creating fake accounts and charging them fees?)

Or how about we eliminate the regulations requiring seat belts in cars? Or requiring cars to have headlights? There’s two more! And think of all the money this would save the car companies! (Ignore the pain and suffering and loss this would cause regular Americans — that’s not money.)

Here’s one that can go: eliminate the regulations against defrauding students using high-pressure sales techniques to get them to enroll at scam universities. Or against “financial elder abuse“.

Government Is We The People

In the United States government was once supposed to be about We the People organizing to accomplish things that make our lives better. We vote, our representatives impose taxes and spend and make laws and regulations toward that end.

The ongoing corporate/conservative attack on the legitimacy of government and democracy have eroded public understanding of these concepts. Education. Firefighting. Scientific research. Health care. Parks. Transportation. All are core things a government of, by and FOR the people does to make our lives better — and all are under attack, “privatized” or “eliminated” by representatives who have been “captured” by corporate/conservative money.

Government of, by and for the people by definition stops some people from doing things that hurt others. In particular for this discussion, it stops people who have businesses from defrauding others, harming others, polluting our air and water, selling dangerous products, and other destructive practices. But this means that these people make less money, so they complain, and sometimes they use their money to influence those who would regulate to stop them.

“Burdensome government regulations” all cost companies money: food inspection, clean water, fire codes, zoning rules and drug safety rules. They all “get in the way” of a company scamming, hurting, polluting or whatever makes them more money.

Regulations too often come about as a reaction to something terrible happening. Fire codes came from times when entire towns burned down. Drug-safety rules came from “snake oil” scammers selling poison and leaving town before the damage is done. Seat belt regulations came from terrible traffic injuries and deaths.

Regulations are about “how can We the People do this better?”

The Underlying Assumptions Behind Trump’s Absurd Plan

Underlying Trump’s plan to “eliminate” government regulations is the premise that “government regulation” is itself a bad thing. And underlying that is the premise that government of by and for the people itself is illegitimate. It gets in the way of business. We the People making decisions interferes with efficient decision-making done for the narrow purpose of making money.

Corporate-financed conservatives will always tell you that government and its regulations are always bad. Government just “interferes” in things it knows nothing about. They will say that government regulations hold back businesses from expanding and hiring and generally getting things done that make money. But these are self-interested complaints from people who make their money scamming or hurting or polluting. People like Donald Trump.

We should see Trump’s proposal for what it is. This is not an approach to governing, it is about dismantling what government is for so that an already-wealthy few are free to fleece, scam, harm and and pollute in the name of greed.