Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson is the executive editor of The American ProspectHis email is hmeyerson@prospect.org.

Recent Articles

Elizabeth Warren Proposes a Second New Deal

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks in Woburn, Massachusetts, on August 8, 2018. W hen Bernie Sanders offered up his definition of socialism in a speech at Georgetown University in 2015, he basically equated it with the governmental programs created by the New Deal. Sanders cited Social Security, and New Dealer Lyndon Johnson’s three-decades-later follow-up, Medicare, as the primary U.S. examples of publicly funded universal programs that provided older Americans with income and access to health care. That, said Sanders, was a tradition he sought to renew, by creating single-payer health care for all, free public university educations, and a host of other programs. The historic ground on which Sanders took his stand was the experience of the United States when New Deal programs were most effectual. Before they’d been eroded by the financialization and globalization that commenced in the 1970s, FDR’s New Deal gave the nation its one and only period of broadly...

Capitalism? Democrats Say, Pfoo!

The biennial Gallup poll on Americans’ sentiments toward capitalism and socialism came out this week, and the numbers tell us a lot, particularly about today’s Democrats. As in the 2016 poll, the share of Democrats who have a favorable view of socialism remains both high and essentially unchanged: 58 percent two years ago, 57 percent today.

In this year’s poll, however, for the first time the share of Democrats who view socialism favorably has taken a non-trivial lead over the share who feel the same way about capitalism. Two years ago, 56 percent of Democrats had a positive view of capitalism, essentially tying it with socialism (however much that meant that some Democrats had a positive view of both, and, for all we know, a positive view of a whole lot of things). This year, by contrast, the share of Democrats viewing capitalism positively tumbled to 47 percent—a full ten points beneath the share looking kindly on socialism.

It’s easy to read too much into these numbers (after all, yesterday’s poll showed that 16 percent of Republicans had a positive view of socialism, though this finding, like much of quantum mechanics, runs counter to reality as humans have experienced it). When many Democrats hear the word “socialism,” they think of such popular social democratic programs as Social Security and Medicare, or the single-payer systems and free public universities that exist in Western Europe. When many Republicans hear the word “socialism,” they think of Joseph Stalin.

That said, it’s not hard to see why even minimally sentient beings would be increasingly wary about capitalism, most certainly as it’s currently practiced in the United States. Just yesterday, as Gallup was releasing its data, the Financial Times produced its own analysis of profits, profit margins, and wages in the United States. With 90 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 now having filed their second-quarter reports, profits have risen by 25 percent over the same period last year, and profit margins—how much companies profit from their gross revenues—have hit 11.8 percent, which the FT says is “the highest level since financial information provider FactSet began recording the data in 2008.”

How very nice. Of course, as corporations rake in more profit from their sales, the share of those sales going to wages likely declines—and indeed, that’s exactly what’s happened. That partly explains why real wages have actually gone down over the past year when the rate of inflation (which by historic standards is still pretty low) is taken into account.

So—record-high profit margins, with record amounts then being shoveled to major shareholders through all-time-high share buybacks, while wages stubbornly sag despite low unemployment levels. Americans—Democratic Americans in particular—likely aren’t able to quote you the numbers, but they certainly sense that big money is being generated, and most Americans aren’t getting it.

No wonder Democrats are more and more dubious about capitalism. They should be.

Tax Cuts for the rich. Deregulation for the powerful. Wage suppression for everyone else. These are the tenets of trickle-down economics, the conservatives’ age-old strategy for advantaging the interests of the rich and powerful over those of the middle class and poor. The articles in Trickle-Downers are devoted, first, to exposing and refuting these lies, but equally, to reminding Americans that these claims aren’t made because they are true. Rather, they are made because they are the most effective way elites have found to bully, confuse and intimidate middle- and working-class voters. Trickle-down claims are not real economics. They are negotiating strategies. Here at the Prospect, we hope to help you win that negotiation.

$2 Trillion Here, $2 Trillion There, and Soon We’re Talking Real Money

I know you know that Republicans throw money at the rich. Doctrines may shift, Russia may go from bad guy to BFF, NATO may defend the free world one day and dilute our sovereignty the next, but tax cuts for the rich are the one True North of Republican cosmology. Without it, the party perishes, not only from diminished campaign contributions but from lack of raison d’être.

As to just how much money Republicans throw at the rich, the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economy Policy (ITEP) released a report last month that’s gone largely unremarked in the media but that makes starkly clear just how faithful a friend and lapdog the GOP has been to our wealthiest friends and neighbors. What ITEP did was to total up all the tax reductions to the rich enacted since George W. Bush became president in 2001, subtracting from that total the restoration of higher tax rates on the rich that went through under President Barack Obama.

Here are the numbers: Since 2001, the income tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent come to $1,366 billion. The estate tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent come to $838 billion. Subtract from these cuts the hikes on the wealthiest 1 percent enacted during the Obama intermission, and we have a grand total of $1,924 billion that the wealthiest have been able to pocket for their rainy day funds.

I think that’s close enough that we can round it up a bit to an even $2,000 billion—which, for those of you who’ve been counting the zeros, is actually $2 trillion.

And that doesn’t count, of course, the additional $100 billion in cuts to capital gains taxes that the administration now says it plans to implement administratively by changing how it calculates the initial value of investments. That $100 billion, too, would flow chiefly to that same 1 percent.

But back to that $2 trillion: By a curious coincidence, that was also the amount that the administration proposed to save in its (mercifully, not very enactable) 2019 budget by reducing spending on Medicaid ($1.4 trillion), Medicare ($530 billion) and Social Security ($25 billion)—which comes in at a cool $1.955 trillion. As with the tax cut to the 1 percent, let’s just round that to $2 trillion, too.

So: Republican presidents and congresses have cut the taxes of the 1 percent by $2 trillion over the past 17 years, and Trump has now proposed to cut spending on Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security by the same $2 trillion.

Democratic campaign consultants, do with this what you will.

Tax Cuts for the rich. Deregulation for the powerful. Wage suppression for everyone else. These are the tenets of trickle-down economics, the conservatives’ age-old strategy for advantaging the interests of the rich and powerful over those of the middle class and poor. The articles in Trickle-Downers are devoted, first, to exposing and refuting these lies, but equally, to reminding Americans that these claims aren’t made because they are true. Rather, they are made because they are the most effective way elites have found to bully, confuse and intimidate middle- and working-class voters. Trickle-down claims are not real economics. They are negotiating strategies. Here at the Prospect, we hope to help you win that negotiation.

Trump Didn't Flout GOP Norms — He Epitomized Them

When the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, the American Right was faced with a conundrum. For most of the 20th century, it had defined itself by its anti-communism, the sole idea on which all wings of the disparate conservative community could agree. Moreover, anti-communism gave the Republicans a handy club with which to beat Democrats, since they could always attack the Democrats for being either soft on communism or, since Democrats believed in a mixed economy, being closet communists themselves. Then as now, Republicans were seldom deterred by an absence of evidence.

But with the 1991-1992 dissolution of the Soviet Union, the barbarians were no longer at the gate. The immediate beneficiary of this brave new world was presidential candidate Bill Clinton, whom the Republicans couldn’t attack, in the sudden absence of communism, for being soft on communism. There was still China, of course, but Republicans in those days and for some time thereafter liked China as a place where American corporations could do business.

Over the past quarter-century, however, Republicans have risen to the occasion: They have invented an enemy within whose purported terrors still drive GOP voters to the polls. The process began right after the Commies disappeared, in the 1992 Republican primaries, when Pat Buchanan proclaimed a culture war on liberals, minorities, and modernity itself—that is, on his fellow Americans. By 1994, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh were singing from the same foul hymnal, and one year later Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes came along to swell the chorus. From that time forth, the Republican mantra was established: The enemy was here; the enemy was modernity; the enemy was the Democrats.

Then, a decade ago, Buchanan struck again. In his columns, he began noting that Vladimir Putin, while a onetime KGB-nik, was also becoming the leading figure on the world scene to oppose homosexuality and other egalitarian liberal deviations. Putin’s our guy, Buchanan concluded, waging the kind of war for traditional patriarchal authority and against his liberals that we Republicans need to wage against ours. (Having grown up in a household that vehemently supported Francisco Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War, Buchanan had a chronic soft spot for authoritarians.)

Yesterday, what was once Buchanan’s eccentricity became the official policy of the president of the United States. Trump probably doesn’t give a hoot about Putin’s leadership of the war on gays, but as a nationalist patriarchal authoritarian thug, Putin is Trump’s kind of guy. Yes, Trump believes that he needs to back Putin up on the electoral interference question because it calls into question his victory; yes, perhaps Trump fears that Putin and his comrades have got the goods on him and he’d better go along with whatever they say.

But what we saw yesterday was also the reductio-ad-absurdum of the great Republican switcheroo: With the Communists gone, our real enemy is the enemy at home. And so a KGB thug with blood on his hands is the Republican president’s man, while Robert Mueller and the FBI are the cancer growing within. This is completely nuts, but it is also the logical culmination of the last 25 years of Republican evolution.

Bank Workers Rising

Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa USA via AP Image A Wells Fargo bank branch in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania L ast week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a city ordinance that sought to do something no other U.S.-based government had done before: Insulate bank employees—and through them, the bank’s depositors—from their bank’s high-pressure sales tactics. The ordinance stipulated that in order for the city to deposit its funds in a bank, that bank would have to produce documents demonstrating that it wasn’t linking its employees’ pay, or continued employment, to the sale of products that its depositors might—or might not—want or need. There was ample reason why it was Los Angeles that produced the first such ordinance, for it was in Los Angeles that the first major Wells Fargo scandal (there have been several since) came to light. Faced with demands that they prod depositors to open additional accounts, Wells employees fabricated at least 3.4 million such accounts. The practice, which...

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