In Washington, Republicans have been threatening to shut down the government over spending they don’t like and the federal debt. But on the 2016 campaign trail, the leading GOP presidential candidates are hawking tax cuts for the wealthy, which would blow up the federal debt.
“You might think there was a defensible economic case for the obsession with cutting taxes on the rich,” writes Paul Krugman in his latest New York Times column. “That is, you might think that if you’d spent the past 20 years in a cave (or a conservative think tank. Otherwise, you’d be aware that tax-cut enthusiasts have a remarkable track record: They’ve been wrong about everything, year after year.”
What’s going on behind the tax cut obsession, Krugman explains, is a mix of voodoo economics, caveman-like ignorance of what tax cuts and tax hikes have wrought, and above all a desire to do anything that will make rich people richer.
Krugman points out that candidates Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are all making absurd claims about what their tax cut plans would do for domestic economic growth. Bush has said that his plan would double it. Trump, not to be outdone, says his cuts would triple it.
“The interesting question is why every Republican candidate feels compelled to go down this path,” Krugman asks, then reciting what happened to the economy in the past 20 years every time federal taxes were raised or cut.
Under the tax increases (Bill Clinton in 1993, George W. Bush’s tax cuts expiring in 2013, Calfornia under Gov. Jerry Brown) the economy grew. Under the tax cuts (By George W. Bush and more recently by Kansas Republicans), the economy faltered. Those are the facts, Krugman said, despite propaganda from “self-proclaimed economic experts claiming to find overall evidence that low tax rates spur economic growth, but such experts invariably turn out to be on the payroll of right-wing pressure groups (and have an interesting habit of getting their numbers wrong).”
According to the Gallup poll, only 13 percent of Americans believe that taxes on the rich are too high, while 61 percent believe they pay too little, he notes. So what is going on here, besides a hefty mix of bad economics and historical amnesia?
“It’s a straighforward and quite stark: Republicans support big tax cuts for the wealthy because that’s what wealthy donors want,” Krugman writes. “No doubt that most of those donors have managed to convince themselves that what’s good for them is good for America. But at root it’s about rich people supporting politicians who will make them richer. Everthing else is rationalization.”
Krugman has no doubt that as the 2016 campaign unfolds, the top GOP candidates will continue to beat this deceptive drum and “an army of hired guns will be mobilized to obscure this stark truth.”
But there is a bottom line beyond all the political spin and economic mirages, he said. “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.”