My Turn: Why I believe that the Republican Party has left me behind

For the Monitor
Thursday, October 05, 2017

I have been registered as a Republican for more than five decades. Over the past three or four decades, the Republican Party has morphed: I believe that it used to support the general public and proposed legislation that improved the lot of the general public (a.k.a. average Joe), but I don’t see it that way today.

The party started pulling away from me back in the 1970s. I want politicians to be fair, above board, and they should work to better the lot of the average Joe. You remember Watergate, right? Breaking into opponent headquarters is plain illegal. Nixon, by covering up that break-in, showed that the leader of the Republican Party is willing to support illegal activity. This was the beginning of the decline of the party.

President Obama required every administration official and employee to sign an ethics pledge. Trump has issued so many ethics waivers that Walter Shaub, Office of Government Ethics director for several decades has resigned in protest. Why can’t my party be honest? This doesn’t help the average Joe.

In Economics 101, I was taught that when the government spent money to build infrastructure (roads, airports, etc.) it went to engineers for designs and construction companies to build, thus putting money into general economic growth. These white and blue collar workers bought groceries, cars, lawnmowers, etc., and at each point the worker’s income was taxed, returning to the government the money it spent on infrastructure through the “multiplier effect.”

Back in 1981, the Republican Party convinced President Ronald Reagan that cutting income taxes would spur job growth and build the economy. This is known as “trickle-down theory.” It has been shown repeatedly to be ineffective in promoting job growth. After his 1981 tax cuts, he had to raise taxes three times during his tenure, but still the national debt increased from $0.9 trillion to $2.6 trillion. Under George H.W. Bush, the national debt grew to $4.4 trillion. This indicates, to me, that the income tax cuts didn’t spur the economy, but did increase the national debt. Funny, how the Republican Party has kept touting tax cuts but does not mind increasing the national debt.

The October 2012 issue of The Atlantic has the article, “Tax Cuts Don’t lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-year Study Finds.” What gets lost in this is how much the wealthy benefited. Latest analyses tend to indicate that the income inequality in the U.S. is worse than Iran. Basically, the wealth gap of today began skyrocketing in the 1980s and continues today. CNN Money reported on Jan. 30, 2015 that the “wealth gap between middle class and rich widest ever.” Yet, with all that wealth, the Republican Party has shielded the wealthiest from any increase of income tax. Under Reagan, the top tax rates had dropped from 70 percent to 39 percent. Why my party thinks the rich should have their incomes sheltered from fair taxation (because they can easily afford it) is incomprehensible to me. Not helping the average Joe!

Several other movements within the party have taken place over decades. In 1971 Lewis Powell wrote a memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Over time, this has become a pathway that leads to Republican “think tanks” funded by large corporate donations. The American Legislative Exchange Counsel, known as ALEC, receives funding from many very large corporations. ALEC prepares legislation which these corporations want passed. Then ALEC pays for legislators around the country to attend and take the prepared legislation back to their states. Of course, reducing corporate taxes and liability are primarily their goals. Right-to-work legislation, pushed by the U.S. Chamber, has been pushed by them here in New Hampshire. Studies have shown that after adopting right-to-work, average wages have dropped $1,500 per year. This is not helping the average Joe.

Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, uses donations to Republican candidates who promise to not vote for any new tax or tax increase to inhibit state growth. He does this all across the U.S. The source of his funding is not revealed. But categorically voting against any tax or tax increase is ridiculous. Here in New Hampshire, we have no sales or income tax. Do you ever wonder where the state gets its general fund money? Or why the state has the such high real estate taxes? Not having a sales or income tax means serious under-funding of education. From K-12 through the community colleges and university system – all are under-funded and this doesn’t help the average Joe.

The Republican Party has many evangelicals, even Dominionists, who sway the party to be very anti-abortion. Why the party should have influence on birth control and stick its nose into the private affairs of individuals is not what either party should do. Laws prohibiting any type of abortion does not help the average Joe.

The Republican Party has become the mouthpiece for the wealthy and ignores the average Joe!

Walter Carlson lives in Concord.