House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol are sharing talking points this week in attacks on the tax alterations Republicans finally managed to pass in December. Speaking at a Florida university, Pelosi attacked the idea of letting Americans keep more of their own money, and not because the United States has a debt and spending crisis our lawmakers refuse to fix before it fully devastates our economy and consumes nearly all state and federal resources.
“There’s a cartoon that I just love,” Pelosi said, according to the Washington Free Beacon. “There’s a little mouse trap who’s got a little piece of cheese on there, and there’s a mouse about to take it and that’s called the middle class … And around it are fat cats.” Her implication was that American voters should not be happy about getting good things if other people such as their employers get good things too. But we’re probably too stupid and distractable to be that envious, which reduces the political advantages Democrats gain by fomenting class warfare.
The Beacon quoted similar comments Pelosi made a few weeks earlier, attacking the idea of cutting taxes for U.S. employers atop cutting taxes for U.S. workers: “In terms of the bonus that corporate America received versus the crumbs that they are giving workers to kind of put the schmooze on is so pathetic,” she said.
Pelosi was obviously bitter that more than 80 large U.S. employers have announced the corporate tax cut frees enough resources to give employees bonuses and pay hikes, atop an estimated $1,000 that lower income taxes will allow the average U.S. household to keep each year. Add to that consumer savings from companies that chose to lower prices, such as a 3 percent reduction for customers of DTE Energy, a Michigan utilities company.
Kristol joined in on the employer-bashing, telling CNBC’s John Harwood Wednesday that companies announcing bonuses due to the corporate tax cuts was “sort of disgraceful.”
Write $1,000 checks to people? Wasn’t the whole point of the tax cut to free up money for investment? I mean, the government can just write checks to people. It doesn’t have to go through a middleman, you know. Give ’em to everyone, not just the people who work for certain favored companies.
I found it slightly creepy — sucking up to Trump and to the Trump administration in hope of favors. This is the classic limited government, Hayek, et cetera, argument for why you don’t want protectionism. You don’t want government meddling and interfering everywhere, picking winners and picking companies.
So, the companies decide, we have to then cozy up to the federal government, and you do go towards a kind of Third World-type system, a kind of crony corporatism, as opposed to free markets with the emphasis on free. You’re not going to have perfect free markets and all that.
I don’t know what world Kristol has been living in since Trump’s election, but business leaders have felt far freer to publicly diss Trump than to do anything remotely as rude to President Obama, although the latter’s policies encouraged to a far greater extent sucking up to government officials for protection and subsidies rather than competing for customers.
Trump had to disband his business advisory council because he couldn’t get business leaders to stay on it. High-profile leaders of industries such as sports, entertainment, media, tech, and even clothing companies have made repeated headlines openly spurning the president. I actually think there is something healthy about this, inasmuch as every time businesses collude with government my government and market costs go up and the quality of my goods and freedoms goes down. The less these two get cozy, the better for America.
Further, there is no favoritism in a tax cut that applies equally to all companies. No company got a bigger tax cut or special favors in exchange for giving employees bonuses or wage hikes thanks to their suddenly bigger bottom lines. They didn’t need to do so to get the tax cuts. The cuts applied equally to companies whose leaders spit in Trump’s face as to companies that refrained from this needless political theater. In several cases, companies whose staff have publicly criticized Trump were among those announcing tax-reform-related employee payouts, such as Apple, Disney, Walmart, and Starbucks.
One could suggest that these companies are eyeing future favors from contributing positive publicity to the tax cuts, but the time to complain about that is when there’s any evidence of it happening. What has actually happened so far is the opposite of favoritism. The corporate tax rate has been cut for all corporations, regardless of their political expression. To call that cronyism — especially while suggesting “the government can just write checks to people” instead of people supporting themselves through exchanging their labor with an employer, and that business is a “middleman” for wealth redistribution — is bitterness masquerading as conservative commentary.
That’s my only explanation for why Kristol is chanting Pelosi’s tune. Now, Pelosi does live in a high-tax, high-spend state with a disgusting level of income inequality. Maybe she could figure out how to address these things she claims to care about in California before parading around yelling at the rest of the country for having a different take on the solutions. What she really objects to is that most Americans do not want to pay for the size of government she has spent her life selling and delivering to us on false pretenses, including the idea that there’s something wrong with us wanting to control the money we’ve earned through sweat, sacrificing time with our families, long days, early mornings, and bleary eyes.
Pelosi’s net worth is $26.4 million, which makes my family’s quite sufficient middle-class income look like serfdom. So I get that to her a thousand bucks is just another dinner out on the town. But to people like me — and, mind you, we make more than the national median — a thousand dollars is a windfall. Forget “crumbs.” I can feed my family of six for two and a half months on that.
It would also pay for nearly a third of a new furnace we just had to unexpectedly put into our house after ours crashed a few weeks ago during a cold snap. It would pay for a set of new tires on our family car, which we’ve been eyeing but delaying. It would pay for a quarter of one of our kids’ school tuition, and two whole years of piano lessons for two kids. A thousand dollars would help take down the principal on a mortgage we just took out to get the kids some more leg room in a bigger house, saving us three months of final payments. It would pay travel costs for us to visit twice the grandparents who live 1,500 miles away, which we would love to do more often.
To multi-millionaires like Nancy Pelosi, a thousand bucks may be “crumbs” the little people don’t deserve to eat off her floors. To intelligent people like Bill Kristol whose analysis has been crippled by personal dislike for Donald Trump, equally reducing the government-jacked cost of labor for all corporations is “crony corporatism.” But to middle-class folks like my family, a thousand dollars is some real money, and we’re elated to have more of what we earned back in our own hands.