Monday, January 7, 2013

Lobbying pays: the skewed impact of the fiscal cliff deal, in one striking chart

From Citizens for Tax Justice:
In 2013, the richest one percent of Americans will receive 18 percent of the tax cuts while ...[t]he bottom three-fifths ... will receive 18 percent of the tax cuts. In other words, the richest one percent of Americans will receive the same share of the tax cuts as the poorest 60 percent of Americans:

Note that it is hard to give tax breaks to the poorest, since they aren't much in the tax net to begin with. But what explains the middle? CTJ notes that the deal made permanent 85% of the Bush income tax cuts and 95% of the estate tax cuts, which we already know were skewed toward the wealthy and have presided over the largest widening of the income gap in US history since the gilded age. That is destroying the middle--there aren't so many people in that category any more.  And the ones still in the category have much less to work with:

Why did the fiscal cliff turn into welfare for the 1%? We know the answer, it's always the same. Incidentally Matt Stoller wrote a follow up piece arguing that if we understand how lobbying corrupts policymaking in the US, we can work against it.  But I am not optimistic.

Lobbying is policy in the US. That is how governance works. There are good aspects and bad aspects to the ability of the public to influence lawmakers in a democracy; the issue is what happens to democracy when you have to pay enormous sums to play. It seems that one thing that happens for sure is that elected officials become "utterly unresponsive to the policy preferences of millions of low-income citizens.” Major social imbalance is the result when, as Nancy Folbre says:
Our most affluent citizens now have less to gain from cooperation with the rest of us than they once had. They can effectively threaten to opt out and invest elsewhere. They can also invest vast resources in lobbying and electioneering.
I am still puzzled as to how on earth the NY Times managed to get their headline so wrong. Yves Smith calls it a big lie, and I would have to concur.

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