News at 11:00!The thing about your regular crew leaving you in the lurch at the end of the summer to go on vacations (2!) or to buy their own boats (3!) is that the pick-up crew that replaces them yields certain surprises. You never know what you're getting until you are out on the course in full race mode. The pleasant surprise is, unlike in the case of the still absent hard-core crew, you don't get arguments about strategy and tactics. What you do get are unforeseen disputes about politics and economy, which is not nearly as critical. Of course, how could you have had time to vet people you are begging to get onboard to help you muscle your huge yacht through a becalmed chop?
Well, that was the case Wednesday. Among my replacement crew for the day were Ewan and Irwin. They were so young and handsome I couldn't tell them apart initially. That's because I'm such an old fart that I only realized at the end of the day that they were father and son (but that's another story). It very quickly became clear that Ewan had substantial big boat experience as he mastered every line & task assigned and suggested sail trim to boot.
Wednesday's race was short in nautical miles but lasted two hours because of poor winds. In the middle of the 3rd of four legs, we were short a few boat lengths of tacking onto port for the mark. I overheard Ewan in the companionway, lecturing Irwin (his college-aged freshman son) and Spinnaker Girl about California tax reform. He was taking a Blue-Dog Democratic position and saying that - like supposedly JFK advocated - tax relief for the very rich floats all boats. I checked the course for a second and thought to myself, "We got time for this, why not?"
So I go,
Ewan, I gotta question: [waiting for his assent]: If you could spare $1,000 in tax revenue to put in either a rich man's bank account or in a working man's wallet, which would you do, if you had to choose?Silence. Ewan eventually protested that you could/would/should do both. I would have none of it:
Wait a minute: You are a small businessman. Doing your part to restore the economy requires that you put more money in your inventory of widgets or hire more hamburger cooks for your restaurant. Which would have a more direct effect encouraging you doing so? More money in my richboy's bank account [OK-I lied] or bucks in Spinnaker Girl's purse? Don't businessmen need to see or to anticipate a market -- presence of spending money -- before they withdraw from their bank accounts and invest?Again silence. We had to tack. We did so perfectly, and attention became riveted on tactical considerations of a starboard tack boat Santa Cruz-27 trying to get an inside overlap at the mark. After we rounded the mark, set the spinnaker and hooked up a preventer, Ewan abruptly spoke.
Okay. After having thought about it, I guess you're right. If I had to choose, I would cut taxes for middle class.Well, even though tax-cutting was not really what I had in mind, I nevertheless inwardly celebrated an unexpected win (capitulation) in an on-board
But I can't take credit for my rhetoric because (a) like all good sailors, Ewan had a lot intellectual integrity and (b) I had chosen the correct side of this issue.
Only today did I get around to reading yesterday's newspaper which had a column by two college professors, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Too Rich to Last, in which they argue that tax policies that benefit the wealthy pose a danger to American democracy:
The richest 0.1% of Americans have seen their share of pretax national income rise from less than 3% in 1970 to more than 12% in 2007 -- the highest proportion since the creation of the income tax in 1913. Yet even as the rich grew vastly richer, Washington decided they needed more help. Since 1995, the top 400 households have enjoyed a 45% cut in their income taxes (they paid 30% of individual income tax in 1995 and 16.6% in 2007). In 2007 alone, that saved the top 400 filers $46 million -- per household .....That was exactly what I said from the helm on Wednesday afternoon, wasn't it? More or less?
Most economists agree that extending Bush-era tax cuts for the highest-income Americans would do little to stimulate the economy. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently ranked extending the 2001 tax cuts last among 11 options for creating employment. It noted that even within that option, extending tax cuts for the rich would be the least helpful because wealthy people would be likely to bank their tax savings rather than spending them.
But why were some of the best of the eleven options
for putting Americans back to work running into a wall of Congressional opposition in the face of deficit worries? ... the same members of Congress who denounce deficit spending are ready to find vast sums for the idea that ranks dead last.That's really weird, I thought. Had Jake and Paul been my pick-up crew instead of Ewan and Irwin, I would have asked them why that is. And they would have explained,
For awhile pundits chalked this up to election-year pandering. Yet multiple polls have confirmed that by large margins, Americans don't favor keeping the high-end cuts. This means that politicians are flocking towards a proposal that is at once ineffective and unpopular.That's weird. Why would politicians of both parties deliberately blow-off voters? Well, the behavior of Republican politicians is as almost as old as the hills and never too complicated to understand:
... the roots of [their] tax-cutting campaign go back more than a generation. In the wake of a major political mobilization of corporate America in the 1970's, the GOP forged a coalition bringing together anti-government libertarians, social conservatives and powerful business backers. Tax cut increasingly proved to be the glue of that coalition, feeding into the conservative cause by starving government (at least in theory) while showering very specific largesse on the GOP's deepest-pocketed supporters.I really didn't need Paul and Jake onboard to explain Republican voters' behavior. But their presence would have been necessary to explain Blue Dog Democrats' enabling obfuscation:
Don't misunderstand me. As I suggested above, we were very fortunate to have Ewan aboard this week. But for the previous month of fog, having Paul and Jake aboard with their GPS loaded with waypoints would have been a game-changer.The real puzzle is why Democrats, the putative party of the little guy, offer cover for these top-heavy initiatives ..... Tax-cutting Democrats sometimes reflect the pull of local economic interests. But they also reflect the post 1980's shift of the party as a whole toward business and affluent donors in an increasingly money-driven political world. During his time directing the campaign efforts of congressional Democrats, Rahm Emanuel, now Obama's chief of staff, reportedly offered this wisdom,The first third of your campaign is money, money, money. The second third is money, money, and press. And the last third is votes, press and money.For those keeping score at home, that's Money 6, Voters 1.