October 26, 2020

Forget the taxes Joe

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 15 July 2020WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932Forget the taxes, JoeBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift          WASHINGTON – Nobody ever won a presidential election talking about how they would raise taxes. In this year’s Democratic primaries, the issue that tripped up Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy was the widespread belief that her Medicare-for-all plan would raise taxes on the middle class despite her insistence that it would not.          Raising taxes has always been a minefield for Democrats. The classic example was Walter Mondale when he accepted the Democratic nomination in 1984 and told voters he would raise taxes – and so would President Reagan. The difference between them, Mondale said, “He won’t tell you. I just did.” He was clobbered on Election Day.          The presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, is laying out ambitious plans that will cost money. But if he wants to win the election, he should stay away from any suggestion that those plans will require dipping into the checkbooks of the average Joes and Janes in middle-class America.          The economy right now is taking a drubbing. President Trump is counting on a V-shaped recovery where the economy snaps back in time to rescue his flailing candidacy. That may not happen by the November election; it could take longer, but there is reason to believe that pent-up consumer spending eventually will boost the economy.          Biden so far has indicated an openness to higher tax rates in just two areas, on high earners, people making over a million dollars, and corporations, whose tax rate fell 14 points under President Trump, from 35 to 21 percent. “I just made you a lot richer,” Trump told his wealthy pals at Mar-a-Lago in 2017 after signing a tax reform bill that was a big give-away to the rich.          There is not much sympathy for corporations, but they are also getting hit by the coronavirus, and if Biden wins the presidency, he doesn’t want to kill the golden goose. Corporations are part of the economic engine of America and restoring every percentage point that Trump took away from their tax rate doesn’t make sense in the middle of a pandemic.          Before he left office, President Obama was on record along with many economists on the left and right saying 35 percent was too high.          Most Americans are not focused on the corporate tax rate anyway, but they do take notice of how big a tax break the rich get. Going after the rich within reason is part of the Democrats’ playbook. But even here, beware.          Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg acting as a surrogate for Biden was recently asked more broadly about taxes and instead of stating distinctly that Biden would not be raising taxes on the middle class, Buttigieg said everything is on the table, he couldn’t rule anything out, that the campaign would be looking at everything.          Wrong answer. That’s like sprinkling breadcrumbs and inviting the media to follow the trail and see where it leads. The truth is we are in a remarkable period of American history where the government is throwing money at the economy, trying to prop it up and save us all from disaster. Where the money is coming from is not an issue today any more than it was in the midst of World War II.          After the Second World War, the U.S. economy flourished due to pent-up demand like no one had seen before, sending a generation of young people to college, and creating a vast middle class that lasted well into the 21st century.          The pandemic is threatening to undo much of the prosperity that Americans built, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The promise of the U.S. economy is still there, and Biden can talk it up as well as Trump.          Biden should not be afraid to be a cheerleader for the economy, his economy should he win, and the progressive ideas he is championing to save jobs and to save the planet.          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

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