For decades, Republicans and their wealthy patrons have outflanked the Democratic Party on the issue of tax reform. Republicans have successfully propagated the “supply side” myth that tax cuts stimulate demand and economic growth. And they have wrapped their bogus message in a veneer of anti-government rhetoric that has effectively resonated across the country.
Three of the top Republican contenders – Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio – have recently come out with detailed tax proposals and all contains additional large tax breaks for the wealthy in a system that is already heavily regressive. See “Democrats Need to Stand-Up to Special Interests and Reform Regressive Tax Policies”.
As Paul Krugman wrote in Friday’s New York Times in an Op-Ed piece entitled “Voodoo Never Dies”:
“Of course, once the Republicans settle on a nominee, an army of hired guns will be mobilized to obscure this stark truth. We’ll see claims that it’s really a middle-class tax cut, that it will too do great things for economic growth, and look over there — emails! And given the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism, this campaign of obfuscation may work.
But never forget that what it’s really about is top-down class warfare. That may sound simplistic, but it’s the way the world works.”
With the exception of Bernie Sanders, Democrats, meanwhile, have been largely silent or timid on the subject. Sanders has come out strongly for progressive tax policies, calling for, among other reforms, a rise in the top personal income tax rate from 39.6% to 50% and increasing the capital gains tax on the wealthiest Americans.
But other Democratic have not been quite as forthcoming. Hillary Clinton’s wishy washy approach was discussed in a recent TDV blog, “Progressive Taxation: Not on Hillary’s Agenda.”
With respect to Sanders, the “hired guns” that Krugman speaks of are probably keeping their powder dry for now, waiting to see if his candidacy actually survives. It will be interesting to see how the issue is handled in the upcoming Democratic debate on October 13. Will other Democrats besides Sanders finally stand-up and be counted? Or will they effectively duck the issue, unwilling to take on the hired guns or, in some cases, their own Wall Street contributors?
One thing you can be sure of: Without some sort of meaningful tax reform, it is going to be difficult to pay for the investment that America so desperately needs to stimulate economic growth and improve educational opportunity and health care for all Americans.