Patriotism, Taxes, and Trump

Robert Reich

Robert Reich Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley

Selling the Trump-Republican tax plan should be awkward for an administration that has made patriotism its central theme.

That’s because patriotism isn’t mostly about saluting the flag and standing during the national anthem. 

It’s about taking a fair share of the burden of keeping America going.

But the tax plan gives American corporations a $2 trillion tax break, at a time when they’re enjoying record profits and stashing unprecedented amounts of cash in offshore tax shelters.

And it gives America’s wealthiest citizens trillions more, when the richest 1 percent now hold a record 38.6 percent of the nation’s total wealth, up from 33.7 percent a decade ago.

The reason Republicans give for enacting the plan is “supply-side” trickle-down nonsense. The real reason is payback to the GOP’s mega-donors.

A few Republicans are starting to admit this. Last week, Gary Cohn, Trump’s lead economic advisor, conceded in an interview that “the most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.”

Republican Rep. Chris Collins admitted that “my donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham warned that if Republicans failed to pass tax reform, “the financial contributions will stop.”

Republican mega-donors view the tax payback as they do any other investment. When they bankrolled Trump and the GOP, they expected a good return.

The biggest likely beneficiaries are busily investing an additional $43 million to pressure specific members of Congress to pass it, according to The Wall Street Journal.

They include the 45Committee, founded by billionaire casino oligarch Sheldon Adelson and Todd Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs; and the Koch Brothers’ groups, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners.

They’re not doing this out of love of America. They’re doing it out of love of money.

How do you think they got so wealthy in the first place? 

As more of the nation’s wealth has shifted to the top over the past three decades, major recipients have poured some of it into politics – buying themselves tax cuts, special subsidies, bailouts, lenient antitrust enforcement, favorable bankruptcy rules, extended intellectual property protection, and other laws that add to their wealth.

All of which have given them more clout to get additional legal changes that enlarge their wealth even more.

Forty years ago, the estate tax was paid by 139,000 estates, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. By 2000, it was paid by 52,000. This year it will be paid by just 5,500 estates. Under the House tax plan, it will be eliminated altogether.

Why do Americans pay more for pharmaceuticals than the citizens of every other advanced economy? Because Big Pharma has altered the laws in its favor. Why do we pay more for internet service than most other nations? Big cable’s political clout. Why can payday lenders get away with payday robbery? The political heft of big banks.

Multiply these examples across the economy and you get a huge hidden upward redistribution from the paychecks of average working people and the poor to top executives and investors. (I explain this in detail in the documentary “Saving Capitalism,” airing next week on Netflix.)

All this is terrible for the American economy.  

More and better jobs depend on increasing demand for goods and services. This must come from the middle class and poor because the rich spend a far smaller share of their after-tax income.

Yet the middle class and poor have steadily lost purchasing power. Partly as a result, a relatively low share of the nation’s working-age population is employed today and the wages of the typical worker have been stuck in the mud.

The Republican tax plan will make all this worse by burdening the middle class and the poor even more.

A slew of analyses, including Congress’s own Joint Committee on Taxation, show that the GOP plan will raise taxes on many middle-class families.

It will also require cuts in government programs that middle and lower-income Americans depend on, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

And the plan will almost certainly explode the national debt, eventually causing many middle class and poor families to pay higher interest on their auto loans, mortgages, and credit cards.

I don’t care whether the top executives of big corporations, Wall Street moguls, and heirs to vast fortunes salute the flag and stand for the national anthem.

But they enjoy all the advantages of being American. Most couldn’t have got to where they are in any other country. 

They have a patriotic duty to take on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going. And Trump and his enablers in Congress have a patriotic responsibility to make them. 

***

Reposted from Robert Reich's website

Robert Reich served as the nation’s 22nd Secretary of Labor and now is a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His latest book, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, is now in bookstores. His earlier book, “Supercapitalism,” is out in paperback. For copies of his articles, books, and public radio commentaries, go to www.RobertReich.org.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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