Life After Progress: The Tax Bill
Matthew Barad

I’m sure that during the years of the Great Depression, especially to those caught in the Dust Bowl and the carnage of rural America, many people thought there was no way forward.

I’m sure that during the years prior to Pearl Harbor, when we saw Hitler moving unopposed through Europe, there were many that thought there was no way forward.

If you are today in your late 60’s and early 70’s, you grew up with your education interrupted for war drills, having to go to the school’s “fallout shelter”in case of a Soviet nuclear attack. At the same time, you were being drafted, being forced to shed blood and lose body parts in a humid, fetid war zone halfway across the world. I’m sure that many thought there was no way forward.

If you’re my age (63), or thereabouts, you purchased your first house at an interest rate of 15%, unemployment was hovering close to double digits, and double-digit inflation was transforming America from a place where one spouse could work and easily maintain a middle-class existence while the other tended after the children, to one where two incomes were often required to make ends met. Nobody thought there was any way forward.

I was a bit too settled for 2008 to have messed with me (much), but I’m sure that in the aftermath, those a few years older than you, those that couldn’t find jobs and were saddled with a load of student debt thought there was no way forward.

In my adult memory, a President Carter tried multiple economic strategies (God bless him, a smart man, but a micromanager with limited patience) to bring the the US out of the economic doldrums. Mr. Reagan, who did manage to bring the US out of its economic doldrums, used no less than three major economic packages to do so. Mr. Bush followed that with an economic package of his own, implemented under duress when the economy faltered. Mr. Clinton immediately raised taxes on inaguration, then lowered them again later on. Mr. Bush implemented a major tax package, Mr. Obama implemented a major tax package, and Mr. Trump has now done the same.

When they were proposed and passed, dozens of economic analysts, from the political, to the think tanks, to the business advocacy groups, all the down to the Ladies Garden Club (being facetious here) all rendered their expert analysis as to what that package will do to the country.

All those analyses, on all those programs, over all those years, had one thing in common:

Every one of them was wrong.

There are two reasons for them being wrong. The first is that many, if not most, of the analyses are done by people or groups who are hoping for a certain outcome. In this case, analyses by the left are skewed because they want the package to produce grim results, while the analyses on the right are skewed because they want to predict success.

(Everyone does this, btw. Mr. Trump was roundly scorned by his opponents for assuming a 4% GDP growth rate as a result of his economic plans. 4% was impossible for a developed economy, we heard from the “experts.” Forgotten was the fact that Mr. Obama used 4% in HIS economic forecasts just a few years before.)

The second reason is that the economy is too complex to model accurately. When tax rates and rules change, people change their behavior to act in their own economic best interests. And predicting the behavior of people is not easy during the best of times, neigh on to impossible during the worst.

Also not to be forgotten is that our current tax “system” (it’s not really a system, more of a Frankenstein — STRUCTURE hasn’t been touched since the 1980’s for individuals, 1930’s for corporations) would be pilloried by both sides if it were proposed today. The GOP package is not changing something that is *good*; it’s changing something that’s a nightmare.

Now, it’;s clear from the link you referenced that you’ve settled on one specific analysis of the tax package that is gloomy enough to suit your world view. Good for you. I can tell you right now, based on experience, that the most extreme predictions are the ones least likely to happen. Nobody is going to die, because the individual mandate didn’t work in the first place, the youth are not going to be robbed of “all their wealth” (and if they are, they have bigger problems than not being able to write off student loan debt — they’ve chosen professions that don’t pay enough to amortize them) and the increase in the deficit, although this is something I oppose, is only projected to be an increase of 20% over the current baseline.

None of that presages the end of the world, or the end of the Republic. And although it’s romantic, I suppose, to think about using violent revolution to impose your world view on others, I can tell you without ANY doubt whatsoever that the economic consequences of revolution would be far, far worse than even the *most* pessimistic projections of the GOP tax plan. Revolution kills people, impoverishes the middle class, destroys the economy and the standard of living, and leaves the rich relatively untouched, since they have the wherewithal to move their assets where they will, and enjoy the casinos in Monaco while their home country fights over the scraps.

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