October 30, 2020

Michael G. Roskin: Kernels of Trump

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by Michael G. Roskin From The Free Press

Buried among President Trump’s feverish points are kernels of truth. Exaggerated, simplified and without feasible fixes, they nonetheless speak to American anxieties. Opportunity for Democrats: Use these same points to beat the Trumpists in 2018 and 2020. Hey, Donald, thanks for the ammo.

Trump, whatever else one may say of him, harvested the discontent that most Democrats and Republicans missed in 2016. I’m so old, I can remember when the Democrats were the party of working people. Bernie Sanders tapped into some of the white working-class resentment, but focused narrowly on economic grievances. Trump understood the psychological marginalization that few openly voiced.

Trump offers nothing, however, to boost stagnant wages in the ninth year of economic recovery with low unemployment. Unions are busted, leaving corporations holding the levers of power. Few Democrats emphasize Trump’s trickle-down economics that chiefly benefit the rich.

One obvious issue: Medicare Part D, Bush’s prescription plan. Every month an unintelligible mailing states how much the insurer and I have spent. This is supposed to enlighten me? Will I soon reach the “donut hole”? (There’s the problem: too many donuts in the American diet.)

How come Part D does not let the federal government use competitive bidding to encourage drug makers to cut prices? That could really help working people. The VA does it, and Trump promised it but after one hour with buried the notion. Democrats should like the cost savings and Republicans the free market, but both are too afraid of Big Pharma.

Tax reform is upon us again. U.S. corporate taxes really are too high, 25 percent, the highest of industrialized countries. They are especially high if actually paid, which few do. Instead, they do corporate “inversions” — nominally moving their headquarters to a low-tax country — or complex offshore banking through “shell corporations.” Democrats, are you ready to say anything about it? Or are Wall Street lectures just too lucrative?

Our corporate taxes supposedly chase away investment and revenue. Cash parked in the is not invested here. (By the way, are accounts in the Cayman Islands or Cyprus safe from skimming and bank collapse?) Would cutting the tax to 15 or 20 percent solve the problem? Why pay 15 percent when you can pay zero? Many fear negative publicity if they move their cash back to these shores; it might be embarrassing to reveal how much they earn and stash abroad.

And the U.S. faces no liquidity shortage. Wealthy corporations and individuals sit on piles of cash with no very good places to invest it. Corporations buy up their own stock (enriching executives), and individuals buy overvalued stocks. New bubbles could be forming. And Russians and Chinese shovel their cash — much of it ill-gotten — into this country, mostly into high-end real estate. Cutting taxes may yield little or no economic growth or new jobs.

Yes, drastically reform and simplify the labyrinthine tax code. But every “reform” makes it more complex, giving more work to tax accountants. Reason: K Street lobbyists make sure their interests are not hurt. Even taxing all income at the same rates, the most obvious element of a level playing field, is out of bounds.

Instead of reform, it looks like we’ll get tax cuts for the very wealthy, who will pay an even smaller percentage of their income than working Americans. Hedge-fund managers will keep their bogus “carried-interest” advantage. Trump, to Republican cheers, vowed to cut deficits, but their increase is inevitable.

cheats on patents and copyrights. But how to get them to adhere to international conventions on intellectual property without starting a global trade war? The Trans-Pacific Partnership offered mechanisms to do that, but Trump dropped it, effectively handing the Western Pacific to China.

Obamacare needs work. It’s too long, too complex and too expensive. Trump in 2016 claimed he had a detailed plan to replace it; he had no such plan and simply dumped the issue on Congress, which couldn’t pass anything. Only solution: work with Democrats to improve Obamacare. But Republicans refuse to do that.

Endless war in the Persian Gulf region is a bad idea, but Trump has recommitted us to it. Getting tough on for aiding Islamic terrorists is long overdue. Their powerful Inter-Services Intelligence founded and funded the Taliban and hid Osama bin Laden for ten years. But the only way to supply our war in Afghanistan is through Pakistan. Cut that, and our effort is finished. Trump willing to risk that? Are any Democrats willing?

Trump’s kernels of truth that helped him win the presidency have been or will be quietly discarded. Unwittingly, Trump has given Democrats a list of issues that resonate with voters on which he is vulnerable. So far the Democrats have presented few issues. First step: Democrats, what do you stand for?

For more on this story go to: https://freepressonline.com/Content/Top-Scrolling-Area/Top-Scrolling-Area/Article/Michael-G-Roskin-Kernels-of-Trump/126/724/54543

IMAGE: President Donald Trump Wikipedia

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