7 October 2019   Leave a comment

David Leonhardt has written an op-ed essay entitled “The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You“. The essay has a very revealing graphic which I cannot reproduce here, but I recommend the article. The evidence is quite compelling and it reveals the extraordinary political power of the rich to dictate tax laws that favor their interests. The conclusion is stark: ” For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate — spanning federal, state and local taxes — than any other income group, according to newly released data.” Leonhardt continues:

“But the second half of the 20th century was mostly a victory for the low-tax side. Companies found ways to take more deductions and dodge taxes. Politicians cut every tax that fell heavily on the wealthy: high-end income taxes, investment taxes, the estate tax and the corporate tax. The justification for doing so was usually that the economy as a whole would benefit.

“The justification turned out to be wrong. The wealthy, and only the wealthy, have done fantastically well over the last several decades. G.D.P. growth has been disappointing, and middle-class income growth even worse.

“The American economy just doesn’t function very well when tax rates on the rich are low and inequality is sky high. It was true in the lead-up to the Great Depression, and it’s been true recently. Which means that raising high-end taxes isn’t about punishing the rich (who, by the way, will still be rich). It’s about creating an economy that works better for the vast majority of Americans.”

This degree of inequality does not serve the long-term interests of the rich. It slows economic growth to stagnant levels and creates political and social tensions–such as suicide, xenophobia, and drug abuse–that are very difficult to manage and expensive to tolerate.

US President Trump has announced his intention to remove US troops from Syria as Turkish President Erdogan announced that he intends to send Turkish troops into northeast Syria, a region currently held by Kurdish troops with backing from the US. The decision is an abject betrayal of a loyal ally who fought the ground war against ISIS militants and was soundly condemned by a number of US military veterans who serves in Iraq and Syria. Newsweek talked about Trump’s decision with an unnamed source on the National Security Council:

“In a scheduled phone call on Sunday afternoon between President Trump and President Erdogan, Trump said he would withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria. The phone call was scheduled after Turkey announced it was planning to invade Syria, and hours after Erdogan reinforced his army units at the Syrian-Turkish border and issued his strongest threat to launch a military incursion, according to the National Security Council official to whom Newsweek spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The U.S. withdrawal plays into the hands of the Islamic State group, Damascus and Moscow, and the announcement left Trump’s own Defense Department ‘completely stunned,’ said Pentagon officials. Turkey, like the United States, wants regime change in Syria. Russia and Iran support the Assad regime.

“‘President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something—but we are not getting something,’ the National Security Council source told Newsweek. ‘The U.S. national security has entered a state of increased danger for decades to come because the president has no spine and that’s the bottom line.'”

There is no question that the US military needs to withdraw from Syria and Iraq, but a state as powerful as the US should be able to demand security guarantees from a relatively weaker power such as Turkey to protect the interests of the Kurds. The Washington Post outlines the consequences of Mr. Trump’s capitulation to Erdogan:

” Betrayed by the United States and forced to fight a potentially bloody conflict with Turkey, the Kurdish-led forces could quickly abandon any further effort to control the Islamic State. They might well set free the tens of thousands of former militants and family members held in SDF-controlled camps. The 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria could be forced to withdraw entirely, which would be a major victory for Russia and open the way for Iran to entrench its forces along Israel’s northern border. U.S. allies around the world meanwhile will have reason to question whether they should cooperate with a government that so casually abandons military partners.

US President Trump tweeted the following about his decision:

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!”

Mr. Trump’s pomposity is unmatched in the annals of diplomacy.

“To set oneself above intellect is immediately to fall outside it.”
― Plotinus

Posted October 7, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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