A central skepticism that I have about progressive governing schemes is that nobody who has any real respect for differences of opinion could sanely believe it to be a good idea to settle significant questions at the federal level. Looking at the irreconcilable differences between people’s views on particular issues, the only way we can possibly work together in the long run is with an attitude that it simply isn’t our right to dictate pervasive laws to govern people in other towns and states.
Consider differences of perspective on something so relatively minor as corporate income taxes. Here’s PJMedia’s Roger Simon treating Donald Trump’s proposed corporate income tax reduction as so potentially momentous that it could, as his article title puts it, lead the President elect to “actually win the black vote in 2020″:
Three to five trillion dollars—no one knows the exact total, but a huge amount of money—belonging to U.S. corporations sits overseas, avoiding onerous American corporate tax rates. Apple, as we know, has tons of it. The Trump tax plan is to lower those corporate taxes from 35% (one of the highest in the world ) to 15% (among the lowest) to encourage companies to do business here. Good idea—or should we say at long last? There’s also a plan being floated to charge 10% as a one-time incentive for the corporations to bring those trillions back to the USA straight away.
What if that 10% were only 5% or even 2%—if the money were guaranteed to be spent only on investing in our economically disadvantaged communities?
In other words, the plan would create a tax windfall. After all, 15% or even 10% is much higher than nothing. That’s more than “exponential,” because exponents don’t change zero. That windfall can go toward projects that give specific voters a reason to support the president, which brings Simon to wonder why President Obama didn’t pursue the obvious idea.
Well, perhaps because Obama shares the perspective of Robert Borosage, writing in The Nation:
The administration will push to lower corporate taxes to 15 percent, and give the companies that evaded taxes by stashing the money abroad a massive tax break. The rich will clean up with “middle-class tax reforms” that feature lower-top-end taxes and an end to the estate tax. Mnuchin suggested that closing loopholes would keep the rich from benefiting from top-end personal tax cuts, a preposterous falsehood.
Allowing corporations and wealthy families to keep their money is simply letting them “clean up.” The economic effects are hardly a question in the face of this sense of fairness (and talk of property rights isn’t even worthy of consideration).
Obviously, federal income tax rates are obviously an area that must fall within the scope of the federal government, but if two people can look at the very same policy and have such strongly opposing views on this, how can they come to agreement on everything progressives want the federal government to do? How can their votes possibly be representative of their views across so broad a field of issues?
Only one of these writers can get his way on the corporate income tax. So, how can we maintain a right to self-governance if we force decisions of greater moral weight, greater personal investment, and more-intimate subject to the same level of decision making?