Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Weak Response To A Big Problem From David Brooks

David Brooks, like his counterpart at the NYT, wants to believe in reform conservatism.  He realizes that the Republican Party, under Trump, has not been good for most of the people who voted for Trump's populist agenda.  He runs through a list of conservative thinkers at conservative think tanks who have advocated policies that address many of problems that have been ignored by Trump and most Republican members of Congress.  He also argues that the Republican tax plan, which eliminates many tax deductions to help fund large tax cuts for businesses is a good thing and that it is wrongly criticized by his liberal friends.  He argues that corporate tax cuts are needed to make US corporations competitive with foreign corporations that have lower tax rates.  The good guys in his article are the reform conservatives who have had little impact on conservatives in Congress.  They are not visible to most Americans either.  In other words, he offers nothing practical in response to policies that don't help most Americans and which may be harmful to the economy and to our national interest.  Corporate profits and stock prices are at all time highs.  There is little reason to believe that they need lower taxes to be competitive in international markets.  There are good reasons to believe that cutting important tax deductions, in order to fund corporate tax cuts, will be counter-productive.

The Republican tax plan reduces the deduction for state and local taxes to help fund the corporate tax cuts.  The deduction is capped at $10,000.  Households in states and localities with deductions above that level will pay higher taxes to the federal government and they will be less willing to pay state and local taxes without the deduction.  States and localities spend most of their tax receipts on education.  It will be more difficult for states and localities to maintain funding for public universities and public schools as the net cost increases for many state and local taxpayers. In order to increase economic mobility we should be doing the opposite.  One of Brooks' conservative reform ideas is to increase access to education for low income citizens.  That will not happen as states and localities face a higher hurdle to fund education.

The Republican Party under Trump is doing what it has typically done since the 1980's.  Brooks understands this. He knows that they want to cut taxes for their donors, and he also understands that their policy proposals will not serve the interests of the populists who elected Trump. He claims that ignoring their interests will make them less well off and that will make them more likely to vote for Republicans.  Trump supporters, and many low income Republicans, have consistently been suckered by the hucksters who tell them that cutting taxes for the rich is good for them. GOP donors are willing to pay for their campaign promises.  The reform conservatives have no voice in the Republican Party.

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