…you know things are getting weird. David Warsh writes:
I belong to a luncheon club whose smartest member is a longtime investment manager whom I have observed for many years, He walked out of the room after a global tour d’horizon talk the other day and said on the sidewalk in front of the building, “The only things that can possibly address inequality of a magnitude that will soon be judged to be unacceptable in this country are much higher levels of taxation on the well-to-do and a negative income tax for the poor.” I hadn’t heard it put so simply or succinctly before, but in the circumstances I was convinced instantly that he was right.
A “negative income tax” is a euphemism designed forty years ago to avoid what otherwise might have been called a “guaranteed annual wage,” when even Milton Friedman endorsed the idea. Call it a “disability benefit” if you prefer. We’ve learned a fair amount since then about how to entice workers to take low-paying jobs through earned income tax credits.
Some income floor beneath which citizens are not permitted to fall is the next frontier of social policy.
We live in truly bizarre times: on the one hand, we have business people and the rich recognizing their own self-interest requires passing what, in a sane era, would be viewed as moderate Democratic policies. On the other hand, thanks to our sclerotic political system and several moronic Supreme Court decisions, a coalition of the theopolitically nutty bonkers, batshitloonitarians, and those twisted up by their own private hatreds are able to prevent any of this from happening–or retard it to such a point that it’s simply not enough (e.g., the passage of Obama/Romneycare).
This isn’t ‘checks and balances’ at all, but a complete freezing up of the political system, a standing athwart history and shouting incoherently. And at this point, I’m absolutely unclear how to unfreeze it, if that’s at all possible. Getting rid of the Senate filibuster so majorities can govern, and majority party backbenchers aren’t blurring party distinctions might be a good start. If people had clear choices, we could at least assign blame to failure, but right now things are so muddled how do voters–most of whom don’t have the time to follow all of the ins-and-outs of politics even if they wanted to do so–make reasonable decisions.
It’s not a checks-and-balances system as much as a ‘deflect responsibility’ system.