‘We Are Not Taxing the Very Wealthy Enough’: Runaway Inequality About to Get Worse
The United States' astronomical levels of economic inequality are poised to become further entrenched in the coming years.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been roundly criticized for being a wooden, out-of-touch plutocrat who pays a lower effective tax rate than the vast majority of Americans yet believes that 47 percent of Americans merely mooch off the government.
It’s no secret that Romney favors tax cuts that will mainly benefit the very rich. And why shouldn’t he? He has a long record of seeking to minimize his own taxes.
But what about the rest of his economic program? Mitt Romney is no one-dimensional “tax cuts are always the answer” Republican. He has a 160-page, seven-part “plan for jobs and economic growth” that includes sections on taxes, regulation, trade, labor, human capital, government spending and energy.
On taxes, not surprisingly, Romney wants top tax brackets that are much lower: 20 percent lower, according to his web site. He also wants to eliminate the alternative minimum tax, the backup tax that ensures that most high earners pay at least some taxes.
It almost goes without saying that he wants to eliminate the estate tax on inheritances of over $5 million.
Romney’s tax policies are purportedly driven by a desire to ensure that “the burden of taxation fall(s) equitably on all Americans.” Enough said.
On regulation, Romney swings into job creation mode. The total receipts of the federal government from all kinds of taxes come to just under $2.5 trillion. Yet according to Romney, the federal government costs taxpayers $1.75 trillion in regulatory costs. Eliminate the regulations, and the jobs will come rolling in.
[pullquote]Romney feels that unions possess unfair advantages over corporations.[/pullquote]
For example, Romney will prevent the EPA from issuing new ground-level ozone smog standards. Forget that Barack Obama has already shelved these plans, much to the dismay of environmentalists. Romney will end the “reckless regulatory behavior” of the EPA and make sure that any new environmental regulation focuses on promoting economic growth.
Romney warns that new ground-level ozone anti-smog regulations could lead to the loss of up to 7.3 million jobs. To put that in perspective, the US economy lost only 7 million jobs between 2007 and 2010. Anti-smog regulation apparently will be worse.
On trade, Romney is schizophrenic. He “believes that free trade is essential to restoring robust economic growth” but wants to slap punitive tariffs on Chinese imports and, if necessary, end trade with China. “Anyone with business experience knows that you can succeed in a negotiation only if you are willing to walk away.”
He does, however, hope one day to convert China to his pro-America views and convince them to join his new – wait for it – Reagan Economic Zone.
Apparently, once we show China we’re serious about free trade, Chinese leaders will flood through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to get to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to beg for entry into the Reagan Economic Zone.
Not the Mao Zone. The Reagan Zone.
On labor Romney’s views are unambiguous: “Mitt Romney believes in the right of workers to join a union or to not join a union.” Great! Then Romney would support an annual open enrollment season for unions in which every worker at every company would be offered the opportunity to join a union of her or his choice? Right?
Well, no. Romney intends to “defend the free-enterprise system” by creating “a stable and level playing field” that reverses the Obama administration’s “punishment for job creators.” At a time of record-high corporate profits and record low union membership Romney feels that unions possess unfair advantages over corporations.
Romney’s human capital program boils down to firing government job placement and retraining workers, while making it easier for US companies to hire the “best and brightest” workers from abroad.
He has no education policy of his own, but he “is committed to helping states pursue reforms that will return our schools to world leadership” by “tying federal funds to success, expanding parental choice and rewarding talented teachers.”
On-budget government spending will decline dramatically under a Romney presidency, just as it did under Ronald Reagan (+72 percent) and George W. Bush (+98 percent). Romney will “align the wages and benefits of federal workers with market rates” while reducing federal employment numbers by 10 percent.
Since the average federal worker earns just over $75,000 per year and the average private sector CEO makes 380 times as much as the average worker Romney will presumably increase the president’s salary to $28,500,000 per year.
[pullquote]Romney intends to create 1.2 million jobs through offshore oil drilling. That’s the entire population of Dallas – offshore.[/pullquote]
At that level he should be comfortable.
The final component of Romney’s “plan for jobs and economic growth” deals with energy policy. Romney plans to create 131,000 jobs by building the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Canadian tar sands oil to US markets, 280,000 jobs by expanding fracking for natural gas in the northeastern US, and 1,200,000 jobs by promoting offshore oil drilling in “the Gulf of Mexico, both the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelves, Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off the Alaska coast.”
Yes, Romney intends to create 1.2 million jobs through offshore oil drilling. That’s the entire population of Dallas – offshore.
Moody’s Analytics’ energy economist Chris Lafakis calculates that a high estimate of the “the number of jobs both directly and indirectly supported by the offshore industry” in the Gulf of Mexico is 62,500.
In other words, the main source of new jobs in Mitt Romney’s “plan for jobs and economic growth” relies on a 20-fold increase in the number of Americans drilling for oil off America’s coasts.
Mitt Romney’s economic plan simply has no connection to the realonomy in which ordinary people live, work or don’t work. It is not even a plan designed to benefit Romney and his friends at the height of America’s plutonomy. It’s just … crazy.
[pullquote]Romney’s views are the economic equivalent of climate change denial.[/pullquote]
Keeping our cities smog-free would cost 7.3 million jobs. Opening up sensitive ocean ecosystems to offshore drilling would generate 1.2 million jobs. Firing federal job placement workers will help the economy. A severe recession is the time to reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent. Teachers and unions and – worst of all – teachers’ unions are to blame for our economic woes. The Environmental Protection Agency might plunge us into a new Great Depression any moment. And China will join the Reagan Economic Zone, if only we have a president who knows when to walk away, knows when to run.
Mitt Romney may be sincere in all of these views, but together they are the economic equivalent of climate change denial.
Oh, that’s right. As Romney said in his nomination acceptance speech, “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
If you and your family happen to have a last name like Koch, Romney’s economic policy will certainly deliver the goods.
Originally published in Truthout. Copyright, Truthout. Used with permission.