Dennis Jett, professor of international affairs at Penn State and former U.S. ambassador to Mozambique and Peru, has an interesting op-ed on the McClatchy site. His basic claim is that by continuing the Bush tax cuts the Democrats and Republicans have combined to assure that Obama will be re-elected and the United States will decline to a secondary power.
Naturally, he says, this is the opposite of what McConnell says the Republicans are going for. But all Mitch has to do to realize that he can’t beat Obama in 2012, says Jett, is check the lineup of available candidates for the Republicans. Even Obama can beat them.
In exchange for this short-term political win for the Democrats, the Republicans get the long-term win of bankrupting the federal government through war and deficits, and the rich, who fund both parties, walk away with the profits. Turns out it’s more important to all three parties to cut taxes than to keep the country from falling apart.
But, Jett asks, do we really have a problem with high taxes in this country? He looks at studies of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD, a group that includes pretty much all the so-called developed world and a few of the faster-developing countries from the rest.
These studies show taxes as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product in the U.S. are at their lowest level since at least 1965 and are the lowest in the OECD except for Mexico and Chile. At the same time, income inequality and poverty are higher in the U.S. than any other country in the OECD except Mexico and Turkey. As for the accusations that socialism is sweeping the land, only in Korea does the redistribution of income by government have a smaller effect.
The griping about taxes will continue nonetheless. The ability of Americans to have a rational discussion on the subject was long ago put to death by Ronald Reaganís sound bites. Government became evil and greed became a virtue.
No country can be great if its citizens are unwilling to pay for it. No country will remain great if it neglects the health and education of those citizens who lack lobbyists. The tax cuts may have assured the Presidentís reelection, but they also ensure America will grow more separate and unequal, not unlike the proverbial banana republics. As a result the U.S. will slowly slip from the leader of the First World to an honorary member of the Third, unless Americans stop believing their exceptionalism stems only from their virtue and requires no sacrifice.