Dana Nuccitelli: The GOP strategy on taxes and climate: reject evidence and expert opinion, lie, and wage culture wars
The parallels between the Republican Party positions on taxes and climate change are striking. Both are morally appalling and reject the available evidence and expert opinion.
The Initiative on Global Markets panel of economic experts was recently asked about the Republican tax plan. Among the experts who took a position either way, there was a 96% consensus that the plan would not substantially grow the economy more than the status quo, and a 100% consensus that it would substantially increase the national debt.
Those numbers are quite similar to the 97% consensus among climate scientists that humans are driving global warming and the 95% consensus among economists that the US should cut its carbon pollution.
The House and Senate Republicans have passed similar versions of their tax bill, and neither chamber is allowing any climate policy to move forward.
So whats making Republican Party leaders reject the expert consensus on these incredibly important issues?
Unwavering faith in the face of contradictory facts
Sometimes tax cuts make sense; for example, when trying to stimulate a depressed economy, or when operating with a budget surplus. Neither is currently the case. This message from the president:
Is incompatible with Senator Lindsey Graham saying the economy needs a tax cut. The tax cut plan, which by design will increase the US national debt by $1.5tn, is also incompatible with Republican opposition to increased deficits. Just last year the Republican National Committee was warning of an unsustainable path toward crippling debt.
Economists also agree that we should be paying down the debt when the economy is going strong. When the next recession inevitably strikes, governments need monetary flexibility to respond. Thats when it makes sense to run a deficit (for example, see the 2009 stimulus package, which helped pull the US out of the Great Recession and cost less than the Republican tax plan).
These Republican economic contradictions make no sense, but theyre familiar to those of us who follow climate change news. The only consistency in climate denial is in its contradictions deniers claim global warming isnt happening, but its a natural ocean cycle, and caused by the sun, and galactic cosmic rays, and Jupiters orbital cycles, and its really just a Chinese hoax, and in any case its not bad.
On taxes, the Republican argument is cuts pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth and creating jobs.
But the economic literature is far from clear about whether tax cuts necessarily spur economic growth at all, let alone enough to pay for themselves. Moreover, corporate CEOs have repeatedly said that the Republican tax plan wont spur investment or job creation instead theyll mostly pass the gains to their wealthy shareholders. There was an embarrassing video clip when Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn was confronted with this inconvenient truth:
When presented with the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation analysis concluding the bill would increase the national debt by over $1tn even when accounting for associated economic growth, Republicans immediately rejected the results.
As Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said, Either its a religious belief, a belief where no amount of evidence would change that, or they are using the argument cynically and they just want more money for themselves. He was talking about trickle-down economics, but just as easily could have been describing climate denial.
A growing disdain for nerds
Im old enough to remember when the GOP considered itself the party of intellectuals, back in the days when Republicans invented the concept of pollution cap and trade systems, for example. It wasnt long ago that party leaders like Newt Gingrich and 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain were calling for the party to support climate policies.
Starting with the brief rise of the Tea Party in 2010, that all changed, and the intellectual rot of the GOP has accelerated under President Trump. In a July 2017 Pew poll, just 36% of Republicans said colleges and universities have a positive impact on America, and a stunning 58% said they have a negative effect.