Monday, September 05, 2011

Another refugee from the Republican Party

Mike Lofgren, who apparently was a Republican staffer in Congress for 16 years (what is a "staffer" btw?), was apparently pushed over the edge by the debt-ceiling fiasco. His condemnation of what the GOP has become merits attention. A couple of snips:
A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner. * * *

This tactic of inducing public distrust of government is not only cynical, it is schizophrenic. For people who profess to revere the Constitution, it is strange that they so caustically denigrate the very federal government that is the material expression of the principles embodied in that document. This is not to say that there is not some theoretical limit to the size or intrusiveness of government; I would be the first to say there are such limits, both fiscal and Constitutional. But most Republican officeholders seem strangely uninterested in the effective repeal of Fourth Amendment protections by the Patriot Act, the weakening of habeas corpus and self-incrimination protections in the public hysteria following 9/11 or the unpalatable fact that the United States has the largest incarcerated population of any country on earth. If anything, they would probably opt for more incarcerated persons, as imprisonment is a profit center for the prison privatization industry, which is itself a growth center for political contributions to these same politicians.[1] Instead, they prefer to rail against those government programs that actually help people. And when a program is too popular to attack directly, like Medicare or Social Security, they prefer to undermine it by feigning an agonized concern about the deficit. That concern, as we shall see, is largely fictitious.

Send the link to a Republican friend.


  1. I consider myself a Republican.

    1. I oppose raising taxes on high earners because I think it will distort the economy and serve as a disincentive to work. I am NOT opposed to a relatively low annual tax on wealth, which will hit the super rich like Warren Buffet, who never has taxable events and thus never pays taxes. This is exactly what Huey Long supported, although I wouldn't want to go to the five to eight percent rate that he supported. One-half to one percent should be plenty and should raise a lot of money.

    2. I, along with many other Republicans, are far more militantly in favor of peace than our current Democratic president, who just staged an illegal war. Even Bush didn't do that. Ron Paul is running on an anti-war platform; Obama isn't.

    3. While I respect those on the religious right, I really don't consider myself a member, and I oppose some of the things they support.

    There are a lot of us who DO want to see the federal government shrink in both size and power. Mike Lofgren spent the better part of his life trying to increase the size and power of the federal government, and I don't think he can stand the fact that most Republicans don't share his views.

  2. Reb, your point # 1 would, literally, disqualify you from seeking the GOP nomination for president. Seriously.

    (I also don't recall that any high earners became disinclined to work under the Clinton years' top tax bracket, but perhaps you have examples.)

  3. While #1 re marginal income tax rates might be true in theory, in practice I find it hard to believe. Is the next investment banking deal not going to get done because of marginal tax rates? Can a small business owner just close up shop, e.g., the entire month of December? Can Jeff Immelt go on vacation for two months (and even if he did, would his compensation decrease)?

    It really is an Econ 101 fantasy world that doesn't take into account how the actual market for services from individuals works (at least in the United States). I suppose if you were the world's expert on Topic Y and had an insatiable demand for your services, you might sit down and consider the work vs. leisure tradeoff that comes with changes in marginal income tax rates, but I doubt there are few such people.

  4. Successful people, IMHO, aren't usually doing what they do because it earns them x dollars instead of x - (0.9x) dollars. They're doing it because That Is What They Do, they're good at it, they wouldn't want to do anything else. They are not thinking how they're going to see fewer patients if their top bracket goes from 35% to 39%.

  5. Just to give a true-life example I've seen, an old farmer might have a farm that he ought to sell (Or a landlord an apartment building). They can no longer manage the property as well as an active owner. But they won't sell because the government will take a big chunk of their sales price in taxes, so instead they just rent out the property and earn a lesser return on a bigger corpus. As a result the property is not as well managed or cared for and society loses.

    Second, a four-percent rise in marginal rates may not have much effect on the guy making from 500,000 to one million. He really has no choice but to keep plugging away. But for the super rich it becomes worth their while to find ways to avoid taxation rather than to pay the extra money. It's not that they aren't working, it's just that more of their work effort is spent reducing their tax burden, because that is how their time is best spent.

    As a society we don't hesitate to increase taxes on cigarettes to reduce smoking, increase taxes on liquor to reduce drinking; the Europeans tax energy to reduce consumption. So why doesn't the average smart guy like you, and yes I rate you as such, realize that taxing work and investment will reduce work and investment.

    As I mentioned earlier, I would wholeheartedly support a very low annual estate tax on larger estates of say one-half to one percent. You could combine this with a low-rate flat tax plus a national sales tax and have a much fairer tax structure.