What Do Republicans Really Want?

My latest column begins with Eric Cantor’s call for Republicans to talk about “helping folks”:

For Obama, State of the Union Means State of the People, by Mark Thoma: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor believes that Republicans must show their concern for those struggling in this economy if they want to regain their political footing. “We’ve got to be talking about helping folks,” he said Sunday on Meet the Press, “You’ve got so many millions of Americans who feel that they have become an afterthought.”

There’s a reason people feel that way. Republicans have refused to support any of the jobs proposals president Obama has put forward…

What do Republicans really want?:

Pretending to be on the side of the middle class while enacting policies that help businesses and the wealthy has worked well in the past, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see Republicans try this again. Remember the failed promises of trickle-down economics?

But if Republicans — and Obama — want to steer the conversation away from the debt, I’m all for that:

President Obama also wants to change the conversation toward the needs of the millions of Americans who feel abandoned by politicians, and he intends to emphasize jobs and the economy in his State of the Union address. This is a welcome change. Instead of focusing on the debt, we should be discussing what we want the government to do. What are our priorities, what will they cost, and what can we, as a nation, afford? In the short-run, is there room for us to do more to help the unemployed? In the longer run, should government be bigger or smaller…? Can the composition of spending and taxes be improved? How fast does the debt need to be reduced, and should it be reduced through tax increase or spending cuts? As we get richer as a society – income doubles every thirty years or so – should the share of GDP devoted to helping people increase, or should government’s share of output be limited to historical averages as many conservatives argue?

As we discuss these important questions about the size and role of government, we need to remember something that has been forgotten too often amid Republican attempts limit government intervention into the economy. The government has an important role to play in overcoming market failures… The private sector, on its own, will not provide the correct amounts of infrastructure, retirement security, health care spending, protection against monopoly and corruption, unemployment insurance, national defense, environmental regulation, education, food and drug safety, bank regulation, innovation, anti-trust action, safe working conditions, support of basic research, stabilization policy, and so on. Fixing these market failures through government action does not distort private sector economic activity away from the optimal outcome as many on the right would have us believe, it moves us closer to the ideal textbook economy. …

Full column here.

This piece is cross-posted from Economist’s View with permission.

3 Responses to "What Do Republicans Really Want?"

  1. ralph   February 21, 2013 at 10:13 am

    The people who make over 100K a year do not pay any more SS taxes after that first 100K. That is a 7% reduction in taxes immediately. Now add the fact that if they earn their money anywhere other than payroll income they do not pay Medicaid or Medicare taxes.
    Now that Bush has reduced the tax rates for the top 1% to historic lows and the resulting deficits are at historic highs the only way to balance the budget is to cut SS Medicare and Medicaid. Yaa see the tax cuts for the wealthy have historically been funded by the surplus of SS.
    That is why Buffet paid 17% TOTAL taxes on 100 million and Romney paid 14.5% on 44 million income while buffets secretary pays 36% TOTAL taxes on her salary.

    One of the deceptive lie of the Republicans is that “the top 1% pay 50% of the taxes”. The deception is that is for only federal income taxes and does not include payroll taxes or state income taxes or sales taxes of fees such as licensing etc. The truly ignorant middle class and lower class who buy into this are voting against themselves.

  2. barbara   February 21, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    The irrelevant argument from the election period and still unfortunately sustained here, is so embarrassing for the US and shows that some folks should not have been graduated from elementary school – that the tax rate on a percentage basis makes the argument that the fiscal silly ones hope it does (aka Obama and friends). Buffet's "tiny" 17% probably equates to a tax receipt of let's see – 17% x 1 billion dollars (just an average year for Buffet) = $170,000,000 wow 170 million dollars. Thanks Warren and better luck next year. Now contrast that with Sally, his loyal secretary. Let's say Sally makes 100,000 and again let's apply the percentage rate of 36%, from which we can see that "poor" Sally pays 36,000, not really with a few adjustments, but nonetheless, Sally pays a ratio of 2 to 10,000 of what Warren pays; Sally pays a much lower tax than Warren. I will just leave Mitt Romney alone, assuming we can extrapolate from the above example, nevermind he gives more to charity than all the fiscal silly ones in Congress combined, if we extrapolate from Joe and Barack's tax forms. Hey that's funny, how come those guys can't be as cheap with our money as they are with their own? thoughts from a despondent, former republican who does not know where to turn.

  3. Michael   February 28, 2013 at 8:52 am

    What you are discussing is the benefits of "scale" or lack of it–Warren has scale in big way going for him, so does Brad Pitt and hedge funders etc. Sally has no opportunity in her career for "scale", she works for her salary and that is it. So does the union guy, the school teacher, the cop etc. -no "scale " there. The professional athlete, the actor, the recurring revenue model businessman, they all have something the 85% do not , the benefits of "scale" . I used to be a "republican in the Clinton admin-I was always so peeved about the volume of taxes irrespective of tax rate until I asked one question-can everybody enjoy the benefits of scale -I don't think so! So what are we to do with those whom aren't so fortunate? They are not going to disappear-and by the way —you can't take it with you!