Left-Wing NYT Reporter Fights GOP’s ‘Trickle-Down’ Tax Plan to Hurt Poor, on Page One

November 30th, 2017 5:09 PM

The New York Times attacked the Republican tax plan in Thursday’s off-lead story, “G.O.P. Tax Plan Could Reshape Life in the U.S. – More Inequality Likely – Cutbacks in Social Safety Nets, Education and Health Care,” coauthored by Peter Goodman and Patricia Cohen.

Years ago, Goodman penned gloating left-wing, Marxist-tinged reports on economics for the Times, and nothing has changed upon his return:

The tax plan has been marketed by President Trump and Republican leaders as a straightforward if enormous rebate for the masses, a $1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth. But as the bill has been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care.

Some of this re-engineering is straight out of the traditional Republican playbook. Corporate taxes, along with those on wealthy Americans, would be slashed on the presumption that when people in penthouses get relief, the benefits flow down to basement tenements.

Some measures are barely connected to the realm of taxation, such as the lifting of a 1954 ban on political activism by churches and the conferring of a new legal right for fetuses in the House bill -- both on the wish list of the evangelical right.

With a potentially far-reaching dimension, elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington.

The result is a behemoth piece of legislation that could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people -- especially in high-tax states like California and New York, which, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic.


Economists and tax experts are overwhelmingly skeptical that the bills in the House and Senate can generate meaningful job growth and economic expansion. Many view the legislation not as a product of genuine deliberation, but as a transfer of wealth to corporations and affluent individuals -- both generous purveyors of campaign contributions....


If the package does have a guiding philosophy, it is a return to trickle-down economics, an enduring story line in which the wealthy are supposed to spend and invest their tax breaks, creating jobs and commercial opportunities for everyone else.

As President Ronald Reagan slashed taxes in the 1980s, he argued that citizens, not bureaucrats, should decide how to spend their money. President George W. Bush bestowed enormous tax cuts on the affluent.

But the trickle-down story has yet to achieve its promised happy ending. Only the beginning reliably transpires, the part where wealthy people get relief. The spoils of resulting economic growth have largely been monopolized by those with the highest incomes. Pay for most American workers has been stagnant since the mid-1970s, after the rising costs of housing, health care and other basics are factored in.

Nonetheless, Republicans are staging a trickle-down revival.

For confirmation, Goodman cited his liberal economist pal:

“Either it’s a religious belief, a belief where no amount of evidence would change that, or they are using the argument cynically and they just want more money for themselves,” the economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, said.

Mr. Stiglitz has long warned of the perils of growing inequality while deriding tax-cutting inclinations. Yet even those who have favored lighter tax burdens are critical of the current proposals.


If the tax bill widens inequality, local communities will likely find themselves with fewer resources to aim at helping struggling people.


Some see in this tilt a reworking of basic principles that have prevailed in American life for generations.

Since the 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security, unemployment benefits and other pillars of the safety net to combat the Great Depression, crises have been tempered by some measure of government support. Recent decades have brought cuts to social services, but the impact of the current bill could be especially consequential.

Goodman assumed that left-wing benefits provided several decades ago must go on in perpetuity unreformed:

Since World War II, the guiding sense has been that “it is government’s responsibility to provide higher education for all those who can benefit from it,” said David Nasaw, a historian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. That idea was behind the G.I. Bill, which helped generations of veterans pay for college and training.

Also on Thursday, economics reporters Jim Tankersley and Binyamin Appelbaum filed “‘Rocket Fuel’ Plan for an Economy That Is Already Moving Fast.” Again, one of the few times that NYT reporters will confess that the Trump economy is strong is when they are using those figures to fight tax cuts. The text box even sounded pro-Trump, again in the fight against tax cuts: “Growth is surging, and unemployment is shrinking.”

President Trump rallied support on Wednesday for his tax plan in a Missouri county where the unemployment rate is 2.7 percent, a fitting backdrop for a speech in which he bragged about the health of the economy while contending that a major tax cut was crucial to economic growth.

Republicans have juggled those twin claims in pitching their tax bill, which was introduced at the beginning of November and remains on course to reach Mr. Trump’s desk next month. They insist that the plan will deliver an immediate stimulus and encourage long-term investment.

“These massive tax cuts will be rocket fuel” for the American economy, particularly for small businesses on Main Street, Mr. Trump said in a speech here.

But some economists question whether rocket fuel is needed at this point in the economic recovery and say that too much stimulus could ultimately backfire.

The economy is strengthening and unemployment is at its lowest point in 16 years. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department said the economy had expanded at an annual rate of 3.3 percent, above the maximum sustainable level of output estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.