Thursday, July 19, 2018

So Much Winning

Donald Trump’s campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again.” It’s proven to be popular among people who couldn’t tell you when America was great, or what happened to make it not great. His cultish supporters have followed him to Twitter, where they tweet out inanities with hash tags like #MAGA, and #winning. They boast of “owning the libs.” Everything is a game to be won. One might wonder, how is all that winning coming along? 

Congress passed the Trump Tax cut in December of 2017. Somehow the president managed to sell the concept that lowering corporate tax rates and taxes for the wealthy would benefit all of us. The Republican Party has been trying desperately to make trickle down economics work since the Reagan administration, even though it’s been a spectacular failure. The Trump Tax cut was trickle down on an enormous scale.

Trump told us that his economists estimated that the typical family would see an increase in income of $4000. We heard that statistic a lot. What typical family wouldn’t want to see a $4000 increase in annual income? Not only were workers going to get a break on their taxes, their incomes were going to increase, because their employers were going to get huge tax cuts, and would be passing on the largesse. 

How did it all pan out? The Bureau of Labor Statistics just issued a report on earnings through May 2018.  Real average hourly earnings decreased by 0.1 percent. In other words, workers who are not bosses are making less than they did last year. The hourly wages of mid-class employees (production and non- supervisory workers) is up 0.4 percent, or about a dime an hour. As Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put it, “At this rate, that tax-cut induced $4,000 in your paycheck will take 28 years.”

So much winning. 

Who could have imagined that corporate America, given a huge tax cut would choose to pocket their profits, and not trickle them down? Anyone who has been paying attention since the Reagan administration rebranded it as “supply side economics.”

Meanwhile, back in the real world, inflation is at a six year high, which means that extra dime you got isn’t going to go very far. That’s unfortunate, because nearly everything is going to cost more, thanks to the Trump tariffs. 

A recent piece in the Union Leader by Michael Cousineau took a walk through areas where NH is already being hurt by the tariffs. A Newington company that was shipping 50,000 pounds of lobster to China stopped getting orders after a 25% tariff was placed on US lobsters heading to China. Lumber and steel tariffs are making building materials more expensive, which means that housing costs are increasing, in a state that already has exorbitant property taxes and a lack of affordable housing. A company in Thornton that sells equipment for measuring wind and rain is abandoning their plan to expand. The tariffs may even have an impact on BAE systems, since US defense contractors are supposed to comply with federal regulations that specify requirements for materials. Our Trump supporting Governor, Chris Sununu, whose favorite slogan is “New Hampshire is open for business,” has been largely silent on this subject. 

So much winning.  

And speaking of winning, I would be remiss if I left out the Wayfair decision. Republicans schemed and manipulated to make sure they got the Supreme Court they wanted – and now Republicans living in sales tax free states are reaping their reward.  After decades of avoiding the collection and paying of  sales taxes to other states that they shipped products to, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of fairness, and found that remote sellers could avoid the regulatory burden of tax collecting and offer lower prices, thereby giving the non-sales tax states an unfair advantage. 

Naturally, the outcry was loud and instantaneous. It seems our NH Republicans thought that the Supreme Court they lied and cheated to get would mess up some other guy’s state – certainly not their own! The governor convened a special legislative session, and has pledged (what else?) to fight this decision. The draft legislation argues that it all comes down to fairness. Yes, they wrote that with a straight face, after decades of benefitting from an unfair advantage.

It’s safe to say that there will be at least one expensive lawsuit as a result of this. Our Republican legislatures historically prefer to pay for long, drawn out  taxpayer-funded lawsuits (can you say Claremont?) than attempt to govern effectively. 

On the national level, our leader is now attempting to take back remarks he made to Russian leader Vladimir Putin with all the skill of a third grader claiming the dog ate his homework. I hope we survive all this winning. 

Published as an op-ed in the July 20, 2018 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

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