Bakst Confusion: Democrat Tax-Cutters?!
ProJo columnist Charles Bakst is confused: how can Rhode Island Democrats want tax cuts for the rich? Playing to stereotypes, Bakst understands why Republicans want them–“Carcieri, who proposes spending slashes that will hurt the poor, asserts that he wants to boost Rhode Island’s economy”–but he’s simply flumoxed by how the representatives of the average working people could, too. So he tried to find out.
Here was Democratic Rep. Paul Moura, a proud, combative liberal steeped in the labor movement, standing in the House and touting the tax-cuts-for- the-wealthy bill. “We have to do this now,” he thundered.
My head would have been spinning, except I’d already talked with two of his top House allies, Majority Leader Gordon Fox and Finance Chairman Steve Costantino. I mentioned the social service advocates standing near the House entrance with signs such as “DON’T HELP THOSE THAT CAN HELP THEMSELVES.”
Costantino said he hadn’t forgotten his roots and hoped to generate revenue and charity to finance social programs: “Ultimately, there’s a responsibility of government to keep high-wage workers in the state . . . so that they can pay for those ‘root’ issues that are so dear to the Democratic Party.”
As if in an echo, Chamber of Commerce president [Laurie] White would say later, “I’m very pleased that we’re recognizing that a strong social service safety net and a competitive tax policy go hand in hand.”
Indeed, Democrat Fox said economic development might alleviate the need for so many social services: “Stay the course; trust us.” Long term, he said, the bill will benefit everyone.
And why is that? Let me help you out, Mr. Bakst. Nationally –somehow [it must be magic!!!]–tax revenue has increased even though the tax rates have gone down under President Bush.
And we shouldn’t forget that just over 54% of those revenues come from the pockets of the top 5% of wage-earners. The very people to whom this new House bill is trying to appeal.
But I guess that’s just silly math and accounting tricks, right? After all, it’s much more emotionally gratifying to continue to demonize the wealthy and keep trying the same policies that continue to fail:
[There’s] no guarantee this bill will work — or is fair. Kate Brewster of the Poverty Institute at Rhode Island College contends it simply will drain money from state coffers. She often has depressing days at the State House, but on the day the House voted on this bill, she told me, “This is one of the worst.”
Ms. Brewster is a victim of her own inability to think outside of a class-warfare, static economic pie line of thinking.
To turn to the national economy one more time: tax rates went down, tax revenue went up, and spending went up. Now, the Congressional spending boom is a concern to many conservatives, but it should give liberals like Ms. Brewster some hope.
After all, with the time and money at her disposal as an advocate for the poor, she should have no trouble convincing her Democrat friends that some of the new tax revenue generated by a booming Rhode Island economy should find its way to her so that she can help the poor. And who knows, with a growing economy, there may be fewer poor for her to help, as Rep. Fox mentions. And isn’t that what we all really want?