its centerpiece was a gigantic corporate tax cut, lowering the statutory corporate rate from 35 percent down to 21 percent. This cut accounted for about $1 trillion of the bill’s total $1.5 trillion cost, but Republicans said it really wasn’t about helping corporations at all.
.. No, the real target was the workers: Corporations would take the money and use it to create new jobs and raise the wages of those working for them, as trickle-down economics did its magical work.
Democrats, on the other hand, said it was a scam. They charged that workers would see only a fraction of the benefits, and instead corporations would use most of their windfall for things like stock buybacks, which increase share prices and benefit the wealthy people who own the vast majority of stocks.
.. even before the tax cut, corporations were making near-record profits and sitting on mountains of cash; if they wanted to invest, create jobs and raise wages, they already had the means to do it.
.. even before the tax cut passed, corporations were saying publicly that they intended to use the money for stock buybacks.
.. It’s true that some companies did give workers one-time bonuses. But it was essentially a PR move.
.. Walmart, for instance. It made a splashy announcement that it would be giving bonuses of up to $1,000 to workers, which sounded great. But then it turned out that you’d only get that much if you’d been working there for 20 years, and the average worker would get around $190.
.. the total value of Walmart’s bonuses was $400 million, which seems like a lot until you learn that over 10 years the value of the tax cut to the corporation will be $18 billion. In other words, about 2 percent of its tax cut is going to workers
.. Republicans make absurd claims in the knowledge that even if they get debunked in the occasional “news analysis” piece, on the whole they’ll be treated with complete seriousness, no matter how ridiculous they are.
.. lies about the future — and that’s what they are when you know that what you’re saying is utterly bogus — will not be policed with nearly the same vigor as lies about the past.
.. When Republicans said that their tax cut wouldn’t increase the deficit because it would create so much economic growth that revenue would actually increase, it was treated as a questionable claim, not an assertion on par with “If I flap my arms, I can fly to the moon”
.. Sure, Democrats will squawk, and all their criticisms and predictions will turn out to be right. But it hasn’t stopped you in the past, and it won’t in the future.
But a rough consensus emerged over Mr. Trump’s two-day visit that his administration had shown itself to be more pragmatic than advertised. Many were inclined to view the president’s most extreme positions as just aggressive bargaining postures.
.. “There’s a very constructive mind-set in the Trump administration to find the best path forward,” said Vas Narasimhan, global chief of drug development for Novartis
.. He left the impression that he was above all eager to woo foreign investment, as if he were leading some amped-up American Chamber of Commerce.
.. Economists note that the American economy is into its ninth year of expansion, a trend that speaks to how the aftermath from the 2008 financial crisis has finally run its course.
.. And he gained the unbridled endorsement from the man who heads the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, whose eagerness to flatter his interlocutors is legendary.
.. Whatever the optics of the head of an institution dedicated to reducing economic inequality offering his unqualified support for Mr. Trump’s tax cuts, Mr. Schwab was indeed speaking for business.
Americans have increased productivity by 80 percent since 1979; unfortunately, their income hasn’t risen accordingly, if at all... all Americans pay an average of a third of their incomes for housing. The second highest expense of top earners in America is transportation; the rich spend about 17 percent of their income traveling for business and pleasure. On the other hand, the lower classes spend about 17 percent of their income on feeding their families... Rich people are also more likely to pay for private education for their children. The majority of the 1 percent have attended college, and it’s only natural that they want the same for their kids. Higher-income families are able to pay for education expenses, whereas poor kids must rely on academics and hope to earn a scholarship or other financial aid. This means that while it’s not impossible for a child from a poor family to attend Harvard, it will be substantially more difficult for him to get accepted than if his family had better connections and more money... While money often works its way to the upper classes, it very rarely flows back the other way... If the average person’s wages had kept pace with the economy since the 70s, most people would be making $92,000 per year... Inside of the 1 percent, however, the people who make the most money actually pay the least taxes... the top 400 highest earners in the country pay only 18 percent personal income tax... People in the 15 percent tax bracket pay roughly 30 percent of the total tax gathered in the country, and their income tax accounts for more revenue for the government than any other bracket... 57 members of Congress, or roughly 11 percent, are members of the financial elite. Overall, 250 members of Congress are millionaires, and their median net worth accounts for roughly $891,000, or nine times that of the average American.
Everybody agrees society is in a bad way, but what exactly is the main cause of the badness?
Some people emphasize economic issues’
People like me emphasize cultural issues. If you have 60 years of radical individualism and ruthless meritocracy, you’re going to end up with a society that is atomized, distrustful and divided.
Patrick Deneen .. new book, “Why Liberalism Failed,”
.. democracy has betrayed its promises.
- It was supposed to foster equality, but it has led to great inequality and a new aristocracy.
- It was supposed to give average people control over government, but average people feel alienated from government.
- It was supposed to foster liberty, but it creates a degraded popular culture in which consumers become slave to their appetites.
.. “Because we view humanity — and thus its institutions — as corrupt and selfish, the only person we can rely upon is our self. The only way we can avoid failure, being let down, and ultimately succumbing to the chaotic world around us, therefore, is to have the means (financial security) to rely only upon ourselves.”
.. Greek and medieval philosophies valued liberty, but they understood that before a person could help govern society, he had to be able to govern himself.
People had to be habituated in virtue by institutions they didn’t choose — family, religion, community, social norms.
.. Machiavelli and Locke, the men who founded our system made two fateful errors.
- First, they came to reject the classical and religious idea that people are political and relational creatures. Instead, they placed the autonomous, choosing individual at the center of their view of human nature.
- Furthermore, they decided you couldn’t base a system of government on something as unreliable as virtue. But you could base it on something low and steady like selfishness. You could pit interest against interest and create a stable machine. You didn’t have to worry about creating noble citizens; you could get by with rationally self-interested ones.
.. Liberalism claims to be neutral but it’s really anti-culture. It detaches people from nature, community, tradition and place. It detaches people from time. “Gratitude to the past and obligations to the future are replaced by a nearly universal pursuit of immediate gratification.”
.. Once family and local community erode and social norms dissolve, individuals are left naked and unprotected. They seek solace in the state. They toggle between impersonal systems: globalized capitalism and the distant state. As the social order decays, people grasp for the security of authoritarianism.
“A signal feature of modern totalitarianism was that it arose and came to power through the discontents of people’s isolation and loneliness,” he observes. He urges people to dedicate themselves instead to local community — a sort of Wendell Berry agrarianism.
.. Every time Deneen writes about virtue it tastes like castor oil — self-denial and joylessness.
.. Yes, liberalism sometimes sits in tension with faith, tradition, family and community, which Deneen rightly cherishes. But liberalism is not their murderer.