The Republican Tax Cuts Were a Political Failure. What Does That Mean for a Party That Agrees on Little Else? The GOP needs a new theory of government.

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When Republicans passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December of last year, they expected it to be the centerpiece of their midterm campaign. “This was a promise made. This is a promise kept,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said at a news conference celebrating the bill’s passage. “If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Judging by last week’s midterm results, Republicans may need to update their résumés.

The tax law permanently cut corporate tax rates and reduced individual income taxes through the middle of the next decade while increasing the deficit by more than $1 trillion. Republicans initially talked it up, tying it to a wave of corporate bonuses for workers. But the party quickly abandoned that argument in congressional races across the country. Polls found support dwindling, even among Republicans, while the already strong opposition increased among Democrats. A Gallup survey found that a majority of Americans said they saw no increase in their take-home pay.

On election day, voters confirmed their feelings. Not only did they hand control of the House to Democrats, many of whom had run against the law, but exit polls conducted by NBC News showed that 45 percent of voters said the tax law had no impact at all on their household finances, while 22 percent said they had been hurt by it. Just 28 percent said it helped.

There are reasons for these feelings: Although the tax cuts have provided a boost to the economy, they have performed more like a short-term, deficit-financed stimulus than a permanent reorientation toward economic growth and higher wages. Republican claims that the law would prove deficit neutral have not come true. And while it is possible to defend most of the individual components of the tax bill—even Obama administration economists argued for a somewhat lower corporate tax rate—it is more difficult to defend soaring deficits, or the decision to treat individual rate cuts as temporary in order to game congressional budget scoring rules.

Yet even if you believe the law on balance was good, or at least good enough, policy, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it was an abject failure as a political gambit—that it failed to connect with a majority of Americans. This presents something of a problem for a party that is united by few other issues and has focused on tax cuts to the exclusion of the rest of a domestic policy agenda. What does the party of tax cuts do when tax cuts no longer sell?

For the moment, at least, the answer turns out to be: Push for more tax cuts.

Even as polling shows that voters were largely indifferent to last year’s tax bill, Republicans have touted dubious follow-ups. House Republicans passed a second round of tax reductions that made the law’s individual rate cuts permanent. As expected, the Senate ignored the bill, but if it passed, it would have increased the original law’s already considerable impact on the deficit. President Donald Trump spent the weeks before the election advertising a new middle-class tax cut that was no more real than the fake Trump steaks he touted on the campaign trail. The Republican Party became enthralled by fantasy tax cuts that would never become law, even as the ones they had already passed were leading them to electoral defeat.

The GOP’s devotion to tax cutting, imaginary or otherwise, is especially notable given that the midterm elections were largely fought on substantive policy grounds. Although Trump’s character and temperament undoubtedly influenced the election, voters were focused on pocketbook issues—jobs, the economy, education, and health care.

Health care, in particular, dominated many races, with Democrats charging that Republicans didn’t support Obamacare’s pre-existing conditions regulations while GOP candidates insisted that they did. In some cases, their claims were defensible in a narrow technical sense, since most Republicans voted for Obamacare repeal bills that kept some but not all of the health law’s pre-existing conditions rules. Even still, their answers were designed to obscure more than to reveal. Republicans obfuscated about their health care ideas because, following the failure of last year’s repeal bill, they don’t really have any.

Yet as it turned out, health care was what voters cared about. CNN’s exit polls found that it was the single most important issue in the election, with 41 percent listing it as their top concern. Health care voters preferred Democrats by a wide margin. It is more than a little ironic that the health law that cost Democrats the House in 2010 probably helped Republicans lose their House majority in 2018.

When the tax law passed year, a senior White House aide contrasted Republicans with Democrats, telling The Daily Beast, “Taxes are our issue. Health care is theirs.” Republicans have almost entirely ceded that policy ground.

To become a vital force in American governance, and to compete in elections that revolve around anything other than immigration or support for the president, Republicans will need to develop clear, easy-to-articulate positions on the array of domestic policy issues that matter most to voters—particularly health care, education, and entitlements—and actually talk about them during campaigns, even, perhaps especially, when the temptation to focus on culture war issues arises.

For Republicans, that will probably mean focusing on reforms that make government programs work more efficiently rather than on new benefits and new programs. It will mean abandoning the current GOP conception of deficit-financed tax cuts as costless handouts to voters in favor of an understanding that taxes are a price we pay for government.

But smart white papers and clever talking points alone won’t be enough. The GOP needs more than a suite of new policy ideas; it needs a general theory of government—an animating idea about what the state is for, what it should do, and how, exactly, it should fund all of those things.

Because if Republicans don’t make an effort, Democrats will. They already are. Not only are the party’s likely 2020 presidential contenders rallying around Medicare for All, whatever that turns out to mean, but they are rolling out big-picture plans to expand a slew of benefits and programs. Republicans have united around opposition to these programs, but have yet to figure out what they stand for instead, which amounts to a defense of the status quo.

Since the Reagan administration, the Republican Party has been in the business of selling tax cuts, but the political effectiveness of that approach now appears to be waning. Which means that McConnell may have inadvertently been right: To compete in today’s most salient political arguments, Republicans will indeed need to find another line of work.

By Peter Suderman/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Wasted: America and the ‘War on Drugs’

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The 45-year “War on Drugs” has drastically increased the US prison population, swallowed up trillions of dollars and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives across Central and South America, while coming no closer to stamping out dangerous narcotics.
President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971, calling drug abuse “America’s public enemy number one” and citing addiction rates of US troops returning from the Vietnam War. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was created in 1973. Since then, the drug war has seen covert and overt US interventions in places ranging from Mexico to Colombia, including the 1989 invasion of Panama.

In the US, the drug war translated into skyrocketing incarceration rates. South of the border, however, it has been a real war, leaving a trail of devastation, corruption, impunity and death. For example, Mexico’s own drug war, launched in 2006 with US backing, resulted in at least 120,000 deaths by 2013.

The enemy is us
“Our government is more addicted to drug money than they are to drugs now,” Celerino Castillo, former DEA agent turned whistleblower, told RT. “If we worked to stop drug trafficking today, our banking system would collapse.”

In just one example, US law enforcement allowed over 2,000 weapons to reach the Mexican drug cartels, in a covert operation – dubbed “Fast and Furious” – intended to catch drug lords. Only a third of the weapons were ever recovered, however.

“When I found out about it, the fact that our country was complicit in sleeping with the enemy, I was in denial,” Castillo said. “At the end of the day, I found out that we were the enemy.”

He accuses Washington of cutting deals with the Colombian cartels – including the kingpin, Pablo Escobar, killed by Colombian authorities in 1993 – that allowed the production and importation of cocaine and enabled the 1980s crack epidemic.

Mexico and its Central American neighbors continue to see record homicide rates and corruption associated with the drug war. While the US government is starting to reform drug sentencing laws and drug policies, the 45-year drug war shows no signs of ending any time soon.

“The drug war itself is just an umbrella for this horrible cocktail of disaster that’s happening in Latin America,” RT correspondent Manuel Rapalo said, citing the experience of Honduras, where drug cartels used the 2009 US-backed coup to capture local governments and other public offices.

“The end result is impunity, corruption, record homicide rates. Honduras and El Salvador have the highest homicide rate outside of a war zone in the entire world. These are all issues directly related to the drug war,” Rapalo said.

The Ayotzinapa 43
In addition to the direct casualties, the policies driving the “War on Drugs” have a more far-reaching effect – one that weakens civil government institutions, leading to systematic human rights abuses.

One of the most notable examples is the case of 43 student protesters from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Iguala, Mexico, who disappeared on September 26, 2014. According to the Mexican government, the students were killed by the local crime syndicate, “Guerreros Unidos,” and their remains were burned at a local garbage dump.

An independent probe by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, however, pointed to a possible cover-up by the local authorities, and even complicity by the Mexican federal government in the students’ disappearance.

“It’s truly shocking the scale of human rights violations that are going on, but because of the continued impunity and continued reluctance of the international community to take action, this is the state that we are witnessing right now,” human rights attorney Azadeh Shahshahani, told RT.

Many human rights advocates are calling for the end to the US financing of the Merida Initiative, a bilateral agreement between the US and Mexico on drug trafficking, organized crime, and money laundering. Critics say the initiative only serves to codify human rights abuses.

“Just since 2008, the US has provided upwards of 2.5 billion dollars aid to Mexico in military and various other types of aid through the Merida initiative and other programs,” said Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director of Project South. “We believe that the aid needs to be totally suspended, in light of all the various forms of human rights violations against migrants, students, teachers, indigenous communities, activists and dissidents that we have documented, and the evidence and testimony that was presented to us.”

More than a year after the students were reported missing, some of the parents still hope to see them again.

“If my son or any of his classmates sees this message or video, I want to tell you that you’re not alone, that we’re looking for you,” said Antonio Tizapa, father of one of the students. “It’s not only the 43 families, but thousands and thousands of people are looking for you. And we’re demanding from the Mexican government to return you to us.”

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Over 100 million US residents on welfare

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Government handouts are designed to help the needy across America, but how many US residents actually reap those benefits? According to a presentation to be delivered in Washington this week, it might be way more than you thought.

Republican Party representatives sitting on the Senate Budget Committee plan to present Congress with their latest findings on welfare programs in the United States this week, and their research reveals that the number of US residents receiving federal assistance isn’t only on the up but now is at its highest ever in the history of the country.

According to an excerpt from the committee’s new presentation, nearly one-in-three US residents receive government assistance — and that’s not even including those benefitting from Social Security or Medicare.

Over 100 million people in the United States are now receiving some form of federal welfare, GOP reps claim, a figure they’ve found after combing through statistics collected from the US Census’s Survey of Income and Program Participation. Paired with recent figures out of the Census Bureau, that brings the percentage of people residing in the States receiving some form or another of federal welfare at nearly one-in-three, given that the country’s population is estimated to be around 314 million, according to the department’s most recent statistics.

More  from Russia Today

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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