GOP Tax Plan: Hardly “Reform,” But Tax Cuts “Cost” Nothing

1040 Tax Form

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans released their grandiosely titled “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code” on September 27. The plan looks a lot more like a grab bag designed by lobbyists than like any kind of carefully considered plan for “tax reform.”

It’s full of smoke and mirrors. For example, the one-page highlight sheet brags that “the framework roughly doubles the standard deduction so that typical middle-class families will keep more of their paycheck.” I’d hoped that this might be the start of something like an Incremental Tax Exemption program (themite.org). But as I dug into the details, it turned out to be a bait and switch scam: “To simplify the tax rules, the additional standard deduction and personal exemptions for the taxpayer and spouse are consolidated into this larger standard deduction.” The plan takes as much more from you on one side of the equation as it leaves with you on the other.

When critics point out that the plan’s tax cuts are weighted heavily toward the wealthiest Americans, they’re right. It’s full-on “supply side” hokum: Cut the corporate and other business rates and wealth will “trickle down” as entrepreneurs innovate and create jobs.  But “demand side” cuts would actually convey more information to those entrepreneurs, guiding their innovation as they chase the additional dollars left in the pockets of regular consumers.

I’m all for tax cuts and not terribly particular about where they fall. But let’s be honest: Cutting the corporate and top rates isn’t about sound economics, it’s about whose lobbyists buy the most expensive lunches for, and who contributes most reliably to the campaigns of, which politicians.

Of course, the main criticism coming from opponents of tax cuts as such is that those cuts would “cost” the US government something. The New York Times claims (drawing on an analysis by the Tax Policy Center) that “the corporate tax cuts will cost nearly $7 trillion over the next two decades …. the entire package is expected to cost an estimated $5.6 trillion over the next 20 years.”

Well, no. The total “cost” of the proposed tax cuts would be a whopping zero dollars and zero cents.

If I’m mugged one night and it turns out I left my wallet at home, that fact doesn’t “cost” the mugger the $20 that was in it. The $20 wasn’t his in the first place. It was mine. If I walk past a restaurant without buying something to eat, it doesn’t “cost” the restaurateur anything. Ditto for money that government doesn’t take from you or me.

Politicians want us to believe that our money naturally belongs to government and that letting us keep any of it is generosity on their part.  But politicians don’t create wealth. They just seize it from the rest of us, or borrow it from lenders who expect them to seize it from us later.

The Republican plan looks like a combination of weak tea, scammy distractions and voodoo economics to me. But I guess we could do (and have done) worse.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Time to Stop Squeezing The Juice

RGBStock.com Prison Photo

A few minutes after midnight on October 1,  authorities at Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center released O.J. Simpson on parole after the former football great had served nine years of a 33-year sentence for criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, robbery, and using a deadly weapon.

Simpson, who faces several years of parole/probation restrictions, says he’d like to move back to Florida, where he lived before his conviction. Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi, who never misses an opportunity to grandstand, says that “should not be an option.” “Our state,” she whines, “should not become a country club for this convicted criminal.”

Bondi, of course, is very different from Simpson, and not just in skin tone or sex. He was convicted of something that wouldn’t be considered a crime in any sane society. She hasn’t even been charged with the real crime she undeniably committed (soliciting and accepting a bribe, er, “campaign contribution,” from the Trump Foundation for keeping Florida out of a multi-state fraud lawsuit against Trump University).

Yes, O.J. Simpson is a “convicted criminal.” But what was he convicted of? Demanding the return of stolen property while someone with a gun was present . He claimed not to know that two of the people accompanying him were armed, but even if he knew, let me repeat the two key words, “stolen property.”

In the normal course of things, Simpson would likely have filed a criminal complaint or a civil suit to retrieve the property. Why didn’t he?

Well, more than a decade before, Los Angeles police had unsuccessfully attempted to frame him for the murder of his ex-wife and a friend. No, I’m not saying he didn’t do it, but LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman and others artificially created a case that fell apart under scrutiny instead of objectively investigating the crime. I recommend J. Neil Schulman’s excellent The Frame of the Century? for a more skeptical look at the case.

Then, after his acquittal, the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman used the civil court system to rob Simpson of a prospective $33.5 million in damages for the same crime a jury had acquitted him of committing.

Why on Earth would anyone expect O.J. Simpson to trust the police, or the civil court system, to have his back on a matter of stolen property? If he wanted it back, he had to get it himself … and when he did, the criminal justice system came down on him like a ton of bricks yet again, levying a sentence that was clearly enhanced by a full order of magnitude as “payback” for the crime he’d been acquitted of.

Love him or hate him, it’s clear that OJ Simpson has paid the price, and then some, for the acts he’s actually been proven to have committed. It’s time for the Goldman and Simpson families, Pam Bondi, and everyone else, to stop using a 70-year-old man as a public punching bag and let him live out the remainder of his life in peace rather than in penury.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

The Russia-Blamers Think You’re Stupid

Communist Books -- stock photo from Max Pixel. CC0 Public Domain License.
Communist Books — stock photo from Max Pixel. CC0 Public Domain License.

“Russian operatives used Facebook ads to exploit America’s racial and religious divisions,” the Washington Post claims in a September 25 headline.

Over at The Daily Beast, Dean Obeidallah explains “How Russian Hackers Used My Face to Sabotage Our Politics and Elect Trump.”

And US Senator James Lankford (R-OK) thinks that “the Russians and their troll farms” (as opposed to Donald Trump and   professional football players) are behind the current “take a knee” kerfuffle between Donald Trump and professional football players.

Because, you know, Americans never had rowdy disagreements with each other over race and religion until last year, and wouldn’t be having them now if not for those dirty, no-good Russian hackers who stole the 2016 presidential election from the second most hated candidate in history, on behalf of the most hated candidate in history, operating through subterfuge to achieve the outcome that some of us predicted months in advance, long before anyone mentioned Russian hackers.*

Evidence? Who needs evidence? The people who hated the outcome and have been railing against it for nearly a year now have told us what happened, and why, and whodunit, and they’d never lie to us about something like that, would they? They lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, and about illegal wiretapping by the NSA, and about a thousand other things, but THIS is DIFFERENT.

Keep in mind that when all the most wild and baseless accusations (e.g. that !THEM RUSSIANS! hacked the voting machines) are discarded, the basic claim remaining is this: By spreading “fake news” through social media, !THEM RUSSIANS! fooled a bunch of Americans into voting the wrong way.

Let’s assume for a moment that the basic claim is true, although so far the actual evidence indicates a tiny propaganda operation in the scale of things. If it’s true, the conclusion it points to is:

American voters are morons who can be gamed into doing anything by anyone with the ability to buy ads on Facebook and Twitter.

I didn’t say that. Russian hackers didn’t say that, at least in public. That’s what the propagators of the new Red Scare are claiming.

If the American electorate is really as abjectly stupid as the “blame the Russians” crowd insists, it seems to me that instead of blaming the Russians, they should get to work on either making the electorate smarter or coming up with a system that doesn’t leave important political decisions in the hands of the gullible. Just sayin’ …

*In May of 2016, I predicted that Donald Trump would carry every state Mitt Romney carried in 2012, plus Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. I didn’t predict Wisconsin and Iowa, but 48 of 50 states from six months out ain’t too shabby, is it?

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY