Category Archives: conservatism

Trump’s tax plan ‘is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class’

The New York Times reports: The tax plan has been marketed by President Trump and Republican leaders as a straightforward if enormous rebate for the masses, a $1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth. But as the bill has been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care.

Some of this re-engineering is straight out of the traditional Republican playbook. Corporate taxes, along with those on wealthy Americans, would be slashed on the presumption that when people in penthouses get relief, the benefits flow down to basement tenements.

Some measures are barely connected to the realm of taxation, such as the lifting of a 1954 ban on political activism by churches and the conferring of a new legal right for fetuses in the House bill — both on the wish list of the evangelical right.

With a potentially far-reaching dimension, elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington.

The result is a behemoth piece of legislation that could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people — especially in high-tax states like California and New York, which, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic.

All of this is taking shape at such extraordinary velocity, absent the usual analyses and hearings, that even the most savvy Washington lobbyist cannot be fully certain of the implications.

Mr. Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress — stymied in their efforts to repeal Obamacare, and short of legislative achievements — have signaled absolute resolve to get a tax bill passed by the end of the year. As the sense has taken hold that Washington is now a trading floor where any deal is worth entertaining so long as it brings votes, interest groups have fixed on the tax bill as a unique opportunity to further their agendas.

“There’s a Christmas-tree aspect to the bill,” said C. Eugene Steuerle, a Treasury official during the Reagan administration and now a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. As an example, he cited the provisions in the House bill designed to appeal to the religious right.

“People want to add certain things, and if they don’t cost a lot, it’s a way to buy in agreement,” Mr. Steuerle said.

Economists and tax experts are overwhelmingly skeptical that the bills in the House and Senate can generate meaningful job growth and economic expansion. Many view the legislation not as a product of genuine deliberation, but as a transfer of wealth to corporations and affluent individuals — both generous purveyors of campaign contributions. By 2027, people making $40,000 to $50,000 would pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes, while the group earning $1 million or more would get a $5.8 billion cut, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office.

“When you put all these pieces together, what you’re left with is we are squandering a giant sum of money,” said Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff at the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation who teaches law at the University of Southern California. “It’s not aimed at growth. It is not aimed at the middle class. It is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class.”

In a recent University of Chicago survey of 38 prominent economists across the ideological spectrum, only one said the proposed tax cuts would yield substantial economic growth. Unanimously, the economists said the tax cuts would add to the long-term federal debt burden, now estimated at more than $20 trillion. [Continue reading…]


The deep roots of Donald Trump’s white nationalism


Timothy Shenk writes: [Leviathan and Its Enemies, by Samuel Francis, finished in 1995 but not discovered until after his death a decade later and published earlier this year, is] one of the most impressive books to come out of the American right in a generation – and the most frightening. It is a searching diagnosis of managerial society, written by an author looking for a strategy that could break it apart.

Like much of Francis’s writing, Leviathan and Its Enemies began with Burnham – in this case, quite literally. “This book,” Francis announced in the first sentence, “is an effort to revise and reformulate the theory of the managerial revolution as advanced by James Burnham in 1941 [in The Managerial Revolution: What Is Happening in the World].”

Francis agreed that society had been taken over by managers, but he believed the new ruling class was far more vulnerable than Burnham had realised. Not everyone had benefited from the rise of the experts – and Francis saw this unequal distribution of rewards as the managerial regime’s greatest weakness.

For reasons he never quite explained, he insisted that the cosmopolitan elite threatened the traditional values cherished by most Americans: “morality and religion, family, nation, local community, and at times racial integrity and identity”. These were sacred principles for members of a new “post-bourgeois proletariat” drawn from the working class and the lower ranks of the middle class. Lacking the skills prized by technocrats, but not far enough down the social ladder to win the attention of reformers, these white voters considered themselves victims of a coalition between the top and bottom against the middle.

According to Francis, this cohort had supplied the animating spirit of rightwing politics since the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945. They had supported Goldwater – but Francis regarded Goldwater’s programme, like the “movement conservatism” of the National Review, as a “quaintly bourgeois” throwback to the oligarchic politics of the 19th century, with nothing to offer the modern working man. Their tribune was not Goldwater but George Wallace, the notorious segregationist and Democratic governor of Alabama – who won five southern states as an anti-civil rights third-party candidate in the 1968 presidential election. Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan had appealed to this group, too, but neglected their interests after taking office. Despite having elected multiple presidents, the post-bourgeois proletariat had yet to find a voice.

Yet Francis had difficulty explaining why managerial society would generate so much opposition in the first place. In Leviathan and Its Enemies, he argued that resistance to the cosmopolitan elite would be driven by “immutable elements of human nature” that “necessitate attachment to the concrete and historical roots of moral values and meaning”.

He was more candid in a speech he gave while working on the book. “What we as whites must do,” he declared, “is reassert our identity and our solidarity, and we must do so in explicitly racial terms through the articulation of a racial consciousness as whites.” Where mainstream conservatives depicted the US as a nation whose diverse population was linked by devotion to its founding principles, Francis viewed it as a racial project inextricably bound up with white rule. The managerial revolution jeopardised this racial hierarchy, and so it must be overthrown.

Francis delivered his remarks on racial consciousness at a conference organised by American Renaissance, an obscure journal devoted to promoting white nationalism. Years earlier, Francis had struck up a friendship with Jared Taylor, who went on to found the magazine with Francis’s encouragement. From their first encounter, Taylor recalled, he and Francis “understood each other immediately”.

Francis’s employers at the Washington Times were not as sympathetic. The paper fired him after his comments were released, a move that was part of his larger expulsion from the respectable right. [William J.] Buckley himself dismissed Francis as “spokesman” for a group that had “earned their exclusion from thoughtful conservative ranks”.

Yet Francis would not be so easily purged. For years he had cultivated a relationship with Pat Buchanan, a one-time Nixon protege who had become one of the country’s most recognisable conservatives thanks to his role as co-host of CNN’s popular debating programme Crossfire. In 1992, Buchanan launched a long-shot campaign against incumbent president George HW Bush that, against all expectations, garnered almost 3m votes in the primaries. While all this was going on, Buchanan was growing closer to Francis, whom he later called “perhaps the brightest and best thinker on the right”.

Francis and Buchanan were linked by their association with a breakaway faction on the right known as paleoconservatism. While mainstream conservatives had taken advantage of cushy gigs in New York and Washington, paleocons depicted themselves as spokesmen for the forgotten residents of flyover country. Francis urged Buchanan to make another run for the White House in 1996, this time as the candidate of the post-bourgeois resistance. That campaign would be based on three issues: protectionism, opposition to immigration and an “America First” foreign policy that repudiated global commitments and foreign interventions in order to focus on defending the national interest. [Continue reading…]


OPINION: The GOP’s betrayal of conservatism

The Republican collapse

Modern conservatism begins with Edmund Burke. What Burke articulated was not an ideology or a creed, but a disposition, a reverence for tradition, a suspicion of radical change.

When conservatism came to America, it became creedal. Free market conservatives built a creed around freedom and capitalism. Religious conservatives built a creed around their conception of a transcendent order. Neoconservatives and others built a creed around the words of Lincoln and the founders.

Over the years, the voice of Burke has been submerged beneath the clamoring creeds. In fact, over the past few decades the conservative ideologies have been magnified, while the temperamental conservatism of Burke has been abandoned.

Over the past six years, the Republican Party has championed the spread of democracy in the Middle East. But the temperamental conservative is suspicious of rapid reform, believing that efforts to quickly transform anything will have, as Burke wrote “pleasing commencements” but “lamentable conclusions.” [complete article]