Best columns: The U.S.
Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves
Humiliated by their failure to get anything else done, the GOP-led Congress has “retreated into that great Republican safe space: tax cuts,” said Kevin Williamson. Congressional Republicans are hoping to rally conservatives with a plan to reduce individual and corporate tax revenue by $1.5 trillion over 10 years without any corresponding cuts in spending. They argue they can do this “in good conscience” because th e tax cut will generate so much economic growth that it will effectively pay for itself. “But that isn’t what happened after the Reagan tax cuts.” Federal revenues shrank by $153 billion between 1981 and 1983 as the economy sank into recession, before robustly rebounding later. Contrary to supply-side dogma, the architects of Reagan’s tax plan never expected his tax cuts to pay for themselves; they believed the growth effects would amount to only one-third of the lost revenue. Why should we expect more dramatic results now, when the economy is already growing and Trump’s cut would be much smaller than Reagan’s? We shouldn’t; the proposed tax bill would probably add $1 trillion to the national debt. “Blindly hacking away at the tax code with a meat ax” and then expecting “pie-in-the-sky” results is actually not conservative.
What does Manafort know?
After years of working abroad for a Russian oligarch and pro-Russian parties in Ukraine, said Ryan Lizza, why did Paul Manafort suddenly return to U.S. politics “as head of a political campaign that Vladimir Putin wanted to win?” That has emerged as one of the key questions special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to answer with his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Manafort, a longtime political operative here and abroad, took over as chairman of Donald Trump’s tumultuous campaign in May 2016, working without a salary. As Trump closed in on the nomination, Manafort offered to provide private briefings to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties to Putin and the Kremlin, according to emails leaked last week. Manafort also communicated with other Russians about the campaign, according to intelligence collected by the special counsel’s office in a raid on Manafort’s home. We already know that the Trump campaign was willing to accept assistance from the Russian government to hurt and defeat Hillary Clinton; did Manafort serve as a critical link between the campaign and the Russians? If so, it might lead to proof that the campaign “worked with a foreign nation to alter the outcome of an American presidential election—an unprecedented event in the country’s history.”
America’s forgotten center
My political views put me in the solid center, said Max Boot, yet they’ve turned me into “a political pariah—a man without a party.” I’m socially liberal, in favor of LGBT rights, legal abortion, and immigration. But I’m fiscally conservative, think entitlement spending has to be brought under control, and believe “we need to beef up our military to contend with multiple enemies.” Which party represents this fairly commonplace combination of center-right views, held by tens of millions of Americans? None. Under Donald Trump and other “pied pipers” of the far right, the Republican Party has become a party of cultural resentment and nihilism, organized around hatred of “libtards” and “snowflakes.” Much of the party’s leadership and rank and file have become “morally compromised” because of their justification of Trump’s unjustifiable racism and authoritarianism. But Democrats are moving leftward, toward Bernie Sanders’ European-style socialism, with “free” goodies for everyone. Where does that leave “the forgotten middle”? What this country needs is a truly independent and charismatic candidate “not beholden to extremists,” who would chart “a sensible, centrist path for America.” What we need, in other words, “is a sane Donald Trump.”
“One of the great attractions_of tribalism is that you don’t actually have to think very much. All you need to know on any given subject is which side you’re on. You pick up signals from everyone around you, you slowly winnow your acquaintances to those who will reinforce your worldview, a tribal leader calls the shots, and everything slips into place. After a while, your immersion in tribal loyalty makes the activities of another tribe not just alien but close to incomprehensible.”
Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine