Editorial: Confronting the myths of the free market

  • Tucker Carlson AP

Published: 1/20/2019 12:05:17 AM

The presidential candidates have begun to arrive. The stage is set, but for what? A confrontation or, in ways unimaginable until recently, a political convergence of sorts on how to get America back on track using the U.S. tax code?

Nowhere in America is belief in the merits of free markets stronger than in New Hampshire. Last year, for the third time in a row, two groups, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Canada’s Fraser Institute, declared that “New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state, has the highest level of economic freedom among all U.S. states.” On its website, the Concord-based Josiah Bartlett Center proudly declares itself to be a “free-market think tank.” The platform of the state’s Libertarian Party declares that the only economic system “compatible with the protection of individual rights is the free market.”

Free markets are the supposed solution to lower costs for energy, health care and all manner of things, and they supposedly work better when taxes are low. But the market has failed to deliver. American life expectancy is growing shorter. Even two-income families feel they can’t get ahead. Government, in the midst of the longest shutdown in U.S. history, is broken.

It’s not just those on the left, like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who say that free-market capitalism, as practiced under current rules, is not the path to a healthier, happier, fairer society. Earlier this month, conservative Fox News talk-show host Tucker Carlson committed, for believers in the free-market religion, apostasy. “Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it,” he said.

Carlson cataloged a host of the nation’s political, economic and social ills: the collapse of the family, increased drug use, the end of employer-employee loyalty, the control of much of the market by amoral private equity firms. Critics on both right and left say Carlson is speaking out because problems rooted in the economics that have afflicted people of color now bedevil low and middle-income whites. Maybe so. Still, most of what he said is true.

“At some point, Donald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be gone, too. The country will remain,” Carlson said. “What kind of country will it be then? How do we want our grandchildren to live? These are the only questions that matter.”

Carlson offered no quick fix for what ails America, but he did point to a place to start – the same place flamboyantly targeted by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: the tax code.

“Under our current system, an American who works for a salary pays about twice the tax rate as someone who’s living off inherited money and doesn’t work at all. We tax capital at half of what we tax labor. ... Our leaders rarely mention any of this,” Carlson said.

Ocasio-Cortez proposes to raise the top marginal tax rate on incomes over $10 million per year to 70 percent. It’s been a lot higher than that in the past, including during many of America’s most prosperous and politically less toxic years. Her proposal has won support from conservative firebrand Ann Coulter and, in a recent poll, 59 percent of the public and 45 percent of Republicans.

Raising the tax rate won’t pay for health care for all, but it would make it easier to do things for the public good that the free market hasn’t done, like rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, transitioning to clean energy, reducing college tuition, or subsidizing child care for low- and middle-income families.

Ask the presidential candidates campaigning in the Free Market State what they would do to make America’s tax system fairer and more progressive. Ask what you would do.

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