Paul Krugman may be a Nobel prize-winning economist, but even he is having a hard time discerning the reasoning behind the Republican party’s mad rush to pass a massively unpopular tax increase on everyone but the ultra-wealthy, especially after their unprecedented loss in the Alabama Senate election last night.
That hasn’t stopped him from trying to speculate, nonetheless.
In a wittily titled Op-Ed for The New York Times, “Scam I Am: Why is the G.O.P. Rushing This Tax Abomination?“, Krugman attacks the Republicans for pushing forward with the vote on the bill before the newly elected Democratic Senator from Alabama, Doug Jones, can take office and properly represent the will of the people of his state.
Calling the move a “stunning act of hypocrisy from the same people who demanded that Obamacare wait until Scott Brown was seated and held up a Supreme Court seat for a year. ” The Nobel economist can only come up with three possible reasons for Trump and his party to rush a bill that will increase the national debt by over a trillion dollars while raising taxes on the 98% of the country without trust funds and hedge fund accounts, inevitably reducing spending on vital social services, increasing health care premiums by at least 10%, and redistributing income to the rich.
The first possible reason that Krugman cites relates to the “intellectual bubble” Republican’s reside in where cutting taxes on corporations and the rich is always the primary goal. He calls it the “Pundit’s Fallacy”: the belief a politician can improve his or her political standing by following the advice of known political thought leaders.
Republicans, according to Krugman:
“used to know that it won elections despite its economic program, not because of it – that the whole game was to win by playing on social issues, national security, and above all on racial antagonism, then use the win to push fundamentally unpopular economic policies. But over the years the party has seemed increasingly out of touch with that reality, imagining that if only it preaches the gospel of supply-side economics loudly enough voters will be won over.”
The second possible reason for current GOP behavior in the Nobel economist’s eyes is what he calls “points on the board thinking”, a phrase he attributes to former Obama Chief-Of-Staff Rahm Emanuel, who believed that a president could gain electoral support just by winning legislative victories. The concept is that voters will be won over by your winning record, or inversely that they’ll turn away if you continue to lose.
The fact is, according to Krugman, that this strategy has never really worked. Obama had lots of early victories in his first two years in office with a Democratic majority in Congress but had a huge setback in the midterms. Plus, who would consider this monstrosity of a tax bill a win, besides corporate CEOs, Wall Street, and Republican politicians?
It is the last reason that Krugman puts forth that seems to be the most likely motivation for current Republican strategy. He calls it the “K Street end game,’ after the Washington DC street that is famously home to the nation’s biggest lobbying firms.
With the Alabama Senatorial race augering ill for GOP hopes of retaining a majority in both houses of Congress after next year’s midterms, their legislators are now more concerned with ensuring that they land a cushy, lucrative consulting gig in the corporate world than in crafting laws that actually benefit their constituents. What better way to curry favor with future employers than to deliver them a great big tax break for Christmas?
Whatever the reasoning behind the frantic Republican push to cram the tax bill down our throats, the strangest thing about the effort is the myopia afflicting the party as they sow the seeds of their defeat in the next election by confusing passing horrendously harmful policies with “winning”. It’s almost as if they’re starting to believe their own lies.