The Case for Hope

Figures I’ve seen from the exit polls in the Alabama election should give us some renewed hope in the capacity of the electorate to see through the propaganda to the truth about the modern Republican Party. Among the most telling data are these: Although white women overall favored Roy Moore over Doug Jones, when the evangelical women and the non-evangelical women are considered separately, the non-evangelical women overwhelmingly preferred Jones. Moreover, I’ve read, if the percentage of evangelical voters in Alabama were the same as the percentage nationwide, Jones would have taken the election by double digits. The Republican Party, lead by Trump, has alienated so many voters outside a cultish core that the probability of a rout in 2018 has increased substantially.

Yearning for Theocracy

I don’t think there can be any real doubt that a sizable fraction of Roy Moore’s supporters in Alabama would embrace enthusiastically a government that lacked the most basic features of our Republic, but enforced as law the tenets of their distorted view of Christianity. Moore himself, as a judicial officer, has flouted the Constitution and laws of the country to advance his religious agenda.

The Real Effect on Corporate Taxes

Goldman Sachs has run the numbers. Over the coming decade, the GOP’s proposed reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent would reduce actual corporate taxation by around 3 percent. That’s because there’s a big gap now between the statutory rate and the effective rate. Corporations tend to have top-drawer tax lawyers and accountants. Why haven’t we heard more about this? Politics, I’d say. The GOP wants to get maximum credit for cutting taxes to goose the economy (despite the lack of evidence that putting big bucks in corporate coffers now would do that), and the Democrats want the GOP’s gift to big corporations to look as enormous as possible.

Alabama’s Wall

There’s a wall in Alabama. Alabamians built it awhile back — centuries ago — without any help from the government in Washington. Inside the wall, Jesus rules. Not, mind you, the Jesus the rest of us of all religions embrace as the author of the Sermon on the Mount. The Alabama Jesus. The Jesus who consecrated slavery and rode with terrorists in the night after Lee lost and blessed Jim Crow and thought the races shouldn’t mix and huddles with his flocks in sanctuaries where straight and white and like of mind are welcome. Some say the wall is coming down. And maybe it is. Maybe I’ll be surprised today when the voting’s done and the numbers show that Roy, the good ole boy, didn’t win. It is a consummation devotedly to be wished. But I’ve lived a life cheek by jowl with the folks behind the wall. The Alabama Jesus will be driving them to the polls.

Jesus as a Brand

Roy Moore’s core supporters tend to treat Jesus as a brand rather than as the Son of God, author of the Sermon on the Mount, and protector of the poor and forgotten. They’ve dispensed with his Message, using only his name, slapped on bumpers alongside the National Rifle Association and maybe Semper Fi or MAGA. If Jesus were here today, not just as the claimed “personal friend” of folks who fence themselves off from the world his Father made, but as the compassionate healer described in Matthew, he wouldn’t be pulling the lever for Roy Moore. You can take that to the bank.

Real Tax Reform

Can you describe what for you would be the ideal approach to taxation? My working hypothesis is this: The ideal approach to taxation eliminates all exemptions and deductions, sets rates as low as possible, requires everyone to pay at least something, requires wealthier individuals to bear a larger share of the burden, and makes participating in the system procedurally painless.

The GOP approach to tax reform is hardly reform at all. Its overriding objective is to lower the taxes of its donor class. We won’t get genuine movement of our system of taxation toward my ideal until we kick out the current Congressional leadership, replacing it with pragmatists willing to work across the aisle and pay attention to nonpartisan experts.

See generally TR Reid, A Fine Mess (2017).

Why Roy Moore Will Win

The white church in places like Alabama isn’t so much a refuge from secularism as it is a club for good ole boys and the women who love them to maintain their social distance from people of color. These folks are the cultural descendants of the slaveholders and overseers and the architects of Jim Crow and the hecklers of children integrating public schools and the rest of it. Their eagerness to have Roy Moore in the Senate isn’t driven by any genuine and deep concern for fetuses. Please. Roy is the latest in a line of good ole boys ready to stand in the door to block the full participation of people of color in the social, economic, and political life of Alabama.

The white South always has made its highest priority the preservation of whatever it can salvage of its privileged cultural position. Back before the Democratic Party remade itself as the party of civil rights, the political forebears of the Moore voters were called Yellow Dog Democrats, because they’d vote for a yellow dog before they’d vote for anybody from the party of Lincoln. Now that they’ve found a home in the modern GOP and turned it to their purposes, they might as well be called Yellow Dog Republicans, because they are poised to vote for a scoundrel rather than a decent Democrat, such is the overwhelming importance to them of keeping those Others at bay.

Not Buying the Reaganomics Snake Oil

Are you old enough to remember the Reagan years? I am. And I don’t buy the GOP dogma that Reagan worked some miracle of prosperity by cutting taxes dramatically. What I remember is that in the Carter years we were in the midst of a period of high inflation produced by Vietnam War spending and the OPEC oil shock. What I remember is that Jimmy Carter appointed Paul Volcker to head the Fed to cause an intentional recession to break the back of the inflation. What I remember is that Volcker did that. What I remember is that Reagan then had the benefit of being handed an economy with the tailwinds of the dramatic post-inflation dropping of interest rates and the concomitant release of capital to address pent-up demand. And even if the Reagan tax cuts helped propel the economy then, that doesn’t mean tax cuts now will have any meaningful impact on jobs. Apples and oranges. There’s zero evidence of pent-up demand that will propel job growth when corporate taxes go down.

The Megaphone

Among other things settled by elections, there is the question of who gets the megaphone. Right now, because of the crisis of dysfunction in our politics, Trump and his minions, including Conway, have the megaphone.

#FailingTrump

We’re almost a year into the Trump regime’s rule. What has he accomplished other than taking revenge on Barack Obama, who mocked him at a White House Correspondents Dinner?

  1. There’s no coherent trade policy. There was never going to be a coherent trade policy. What passes for a trade policy will allow others to eat our lunch.
  2. There’s no particular immigration policy. There was never going to be a coherent immigration policy. It was all bluster to maximize the anti-immigrant vote.
  3. There’s no wall. There was never going to be a wall. There’s no need for a wall. The whole idea for a wall was cooked up by Trump’s campaign staff to keep him focused on immigration.
  4. There’s no resurgence of American jobs in the areas hit by globalization and automation. Any resurgence now will have precious little to do with Trump.
  5. There’s no resurgence of coal. There was never going to be a resurgence of coal. The whole coal thing was a cynical lie to lure votes in coal country.
  6. There’s no coherent drug policy on opioids or anything else. What passes for a drug policy is Jeff Sessions’ fixation on locking people up for smoking weed.
  7. There’s no super duper healthcare bill to replace Obamacare, which was failing in the first place only because Trump and the GOP wanted it to fail and refused to fix it.
  8. There’s no decent foreign policy. We’re doing Putin’s bidding in Syria, and we’re turning our backs on the Kurds as we cozy up to Turkey’s Erdogan. We’re letting China have its way in Asia. Tillerson has taken a wrecking ball to the State Department, doing damage it will take a decade or more to fix.