Schumer Shows A Narrow Debate

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini2 Comments

It’s a sad state of affairs when the people have to rely on Senator “Wall Street” to stand in the doorway to block the barbarians from storming in to, once again, rob the national treasury. But, it does give us a window into how narrow the debate is over our economy — and why people are rightly pissed off.

Chuck Schumer gave a speech — yawn — in which he said he was not doing cartwheels over the dumb talk (that’s my definition) around the deficit-reduction deal:

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, threw cold water Tuesday on one emerging approach for striking a bipartisan deficit-reduction deal — an overhaul of the tax code that lowers top income tax rates but raises more revenue. Mr. Schumer’s position complicates efforts to seal a deal before January, when the “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and automatic spending cuts goes into effect.

In a speech to the National Press Club, Mr. Schumer branded the idea of a tax code overhaul that could lower the top rates, bring in more revenue and protect middle class taxpayers from increases as “little more than happy talk.”

Instead, he said that the top two income tax rates should be frozen around 39.6 percent and 36 percent, which are levels from the Clinton era, and any additional revenues generated by closing loopholes and curtailing or eliminating tax deductions and credits should be devoted to deficit reduction.

Ok, so what’s wrong with this picture? Two things really. First, Schumer thinks the top rates should be frozen at the Clinton era levels. Well, big fucking deal. The problem is those rates are too low. And anyone wanting to get serious about restoring some fairness to the country would argue for much higher tax rates.

In one sense, this isn’t surprising coming from Schumer. He’s supported giving corporations a “tax holiday” to repatriate billions of dollars stashed abroad. And he ran interference for Wall Street hedge fund bigshots — huge contributors to the political process who Schumer relies on for campaign cash — who were trying to protect a tax break that gives them a ton of money.

But, even without those conflicts of interest, it’s clear that the prevailing ideology inside the Democratic Party misses the point: tax rates on the rich are too low, and they were too low in the Clinton era.

The second point is the bigger point I’ve been making for a long time: there is no deficit or debt crisis. And even engaging in that rhetoric is a failed position.