The Trump administration’s pro-growth economic policies of the last two years, including tax reform, have led to the private sector economy doing quite well across the board. Unemployment rates are at record lows. Even wages, after a decade of stagnation, are rising.
Despite this obvious success, there are new calls from the left to hike top tax rates to 70% or more - despite record government tax collections. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has decided it’s time to re-trot his socialist-style claim that the rich are frolicking at the expense of the poor.
Sanders and the like, however, must have amnesia. They forget that decades of ever larger government culminated in little to no economic growth under the Obama administration, and swelling government assistance roles that resulted in record Social Security disability claims. They are also dangerously stoking the flames of class-warfare to the detriment of every aspect of America.
There was a time when a growing economy satisfied nearly all. Presidents and voters alike actually wanted people to work – through different methods, yes, but the goal was “full employment.” James Carville famously said of an earlier time, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
So, if the economy is doing so well since President Trump began cutting taxes and eliminating regulations, why is there such discontent and calls from the left for a massive expansion of government and huge tax increases?
The short answer is that many Democrats no longer care about the private sector. They get elected by demanding that government secure incomes, health care and standards of living. The focus of their actions is to further strengthen the power of government. They simply don’t agree with James Carville anymore -- or Ronald Reagan when he said the best social program is a job.
Given the record spending since 2008, which has averaged nearly 40% of the economy, you would think all of our problems would have been cured by now. You would also think the left would be happy with the projected record spending of $7.5 trillion in 2019.
The reality is the weight of government spending, regulations and market interference reduces long-term economic growth (down from an average of 4% around 1950 to 2% at the end of Obama’s presidency) and thereby increases dependency on our “welfare state.”
Despite all of that, newly elected millennials like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., call for 70% tax rates for high earners. That reminds me of the time when current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said "unemployment benefits remain one of the best ways to grow the economy," or that "it is the biggest bang for the buck when you do food stamps and unemployment insurance. The biggest bang for the buck."
Of course, long ago, during the class warfare of 4th Century BC Greece, soak the rich demands were made as well. Of those efforts, which the majority often passed, Isocrates angrily lamented:
“When I was a boy, wealth was regarded as a thing so secure as well as admirable that almost everyone affected to own more property than he actually possessed. . . . Now a man has to be ready to defend himself against being rich as if it were the worst of crimes.”
Economic incentives and the success and jobs they bring are not the worst of crimes.
So, with our growing economy, brought on by smarter economic policies, we should not fall to the seducers of class warfare hawking ever larger government, redistribution and tax increases. America must remain the land of opportunity, not the land of government.
Thomas G. Del Beccaro is the author of The Divided Era.