Those job-killing tax increases, they are a problem. Just listen to any member of the GOP talk about the economy, budget, or government, and you will hear the refrain; “Tax increases kill jobs!” As an advertising slogan, it is only slightly less ubiquitous than “This Bud’s For You” or “Always Low Prices”. To be clear, I understand that conservatives do not like taxation, that they believe taxes support functions that shouldn’t be handled by the democracy, that any taxes should be flat taxes. These are all respectable, perfectly understandable ideological concepts. I disagree with them, but accept them as viable arguments.
Constantly labeling taxes as “job-killers” is another matter entirely. Constantly labeling taxes as job-killers is at best an unsupported assertion, and at worst an outright lie. There is nothing wrong with arguing the concept of taxes, or about what they support, but you need to show proof to make the affirmative statement that they kill jobs, and the proof just isn’t there. We covered this topic here before, but it bears repeating; no matter how you slice it, no one has ever been able to point to a period where tax cuts, by themselves, generated GDP growth or accelerated job creation. In fact, the opposite is true. We the people have two shining, large scale examples in the recent past to look at; the Clinton tax increases that came with the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993, and the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.
When you are talking or writing about America, it is customary to use superlatives. We are the “greatest nation” in the world. We have the “largest economy” in the world. We are protected by the “greatest military” in the world. Many writers could go on for paragraphs on these themes, but the basic point is as simple as our country is large. Yet when it comes to accurately reporting on issues facing our democracy, these same writers set aside the scale and focus on sticker shock.
Such is the nature of our politics that the pundits and policy makers use big numbers to scare normal folks. Like Carl Sagan and his “Billions and Billions of stars”, political reporters and the policy makers they increasingly serve, use the zeros to the left of the decimal point as political ammunition. The political battles now being fought over Social Security, the federal deficit, and earmarks are being waged in front of an audience wholly unaware of the real scale of the national economy. The consequence is an electorate easily cowed into the most counter-productive policy choices, and the most self-defeating strategies.
It is one of those myths that Hollywood just can’t get enough of; Robin Hood and his merry band of woodsmen. Different writers, directors, and actors have put their stamp on the character; some looking to create good entertainment, others trying to be “true” to history, still more trying to make a statement about the world. It is the latter, those entertainers that dare to dabble in allegory, that built the simple character of English folklore into a powerful symbol of political strife.
The various stories leave us with a multitude of questions, and all have a bearing on the politics of our 21st Century democracy. Did Robin Hood steal from the rich and give to the poor? If he was the earliest example of wealth redistribution, was his pursuit noble or nefarious? Did Robin Hood simply steal back money taken by the rich from the poor through evil taxation? Was Robin Hood the first know example of a liberal Democrat, or were the dashing rogue and his merry band the earliest incarnation of the Tea Party?
Blaming the media for the problems in our nation can be a tiresome habit. Politicians and sports figures learn the trick when they enter public life, and cling to the tactic to the bitter end. But the media does have a negative effect on the world that is particularly evident when they restate talking points or opinion as fact. A recent article from MSNBC contains good examples of bad journalism on the economy, proving that all misinformation is not the fault of Fox News.
Taken as a whole, the article written by producer John Schoen is not terrible, but it does perpetuate (without supporting evidence) purely political themes on the economic issues of today. I will provide a brief deconstruction of those themes in this post, but I encourage respondents to debate my conclusions in the comment section. Economics is a social science; facts and experimentation are foundational, but supposition and opinion form a far larger component than one would find in other disciplines.
My biggest problem with the modern Republican Party is their seeming abandonment of ideas. They are stuck in a terrible rut lately, and are redeemed (as a political force) only by their incomparable skill at branding. When one takes a serious look at their concepts for solving American problems, a simple pattern emerges. Health care system got you down? Cut taxes. Working class Americans can’t afford insurance? Cut taxes. Manufacturing base eroding? Cut taxes. Energy system a relic from the previous century? Cut taxes.
I have to admit to liking the idea of cutting taxes. Who wouldn’t? Paying the government is one of those steady annoyances that can become too much in light of everything else. You see a chunk of your cash go before you get your paycheck, then you pay sales tax locally. You pay fees to drive your car, own your dog, and start a business. On top of everything else, you pay property taxes. Taxes, taxes, taxes. Then you see the size of the government budget, hear someone screaming about fiscal irresponsibility and wonder, “What the hell am I paying all of this for?”
For years, America has been treated to a steady attack on poor people. When bad things happened over hill and dell, you could bet that poor people were the cause. White poor people in Appalachia, brown poor people in the Southwest, and black poor people everywhere; where there was crime, despair, or peeling picket fences, there was poor people. Poor people, it seemed, were poor because they didn’t like work. Poor people were poor because they were lazy. As with many arguments, there were, and are, nuggets of truth to the claims. Some percentage of the poor, perhaps even a significant percentage, were and are lazy. But much of the focus on the poor was of a political nature.
Democrats, starting in the 1960′s, began to specialize in getting the poor vote. Republicans, beginning with the Reagan Democrats in 1980, started drafting working class Americans to vote against programs perceived as catering to the poor. Class division, after all, is such a wonderful tool for creating electoral momentum. But we have moved past the poor in today’s America. Much of the architecture set up to ensure help for the poor has fallen by the wayside; even our education system is being pushed out of relevance. Nowadays, the political powers that be have picked out a new target; the working class.