Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Sowell: Can Republicans Talk?

This is a very important question. Sadly, the answer may be no. They can't seem to articulate what common sense tells us. Even with overwhelming evidence, they have trouble making a cohesive argument for the Bush Tax Rates being extended (again, note the vocabulary here. We are not talking about more cuts, but keeping things the same rate). To wit:
Reich advocates “extending unemployment benefits for struggling families without a breadwinner” because “these families need the money. The rich don’t.”

This is the Democrats’ argument in a nutshell. It seems very persuasive on the surface, however shaky it is underneath. But cuts in tax rates do not mean cuts in tax revenues, as Reich assumes. How the tax-rate battle in Congress turns out may depend on how well the Republicans answer such arguments.

These are not new arguments on either side. They go back more than 80 years. Over that long span of time, there have been many sharp cuts in tax rates under presidents Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. So we don’t need to argue in a vacuum. There is a track record.

What does that record say? It says, loud and clear, that cuts in tax rates do not mean cuts in tax revenues. In all four of these administrations, of both parties, so-called “tax cuts for the rich” led to increased tax revenues — with people earning high incomes paying not only a larger sum total of tax revenues, but even a higher proportion of all tax revenues.

Most important of all, these tax -rate reductions spurred economic activity, which we definitely need today.

These are the facts. But facts do not “speak for themselves.” In terms of facts, the Republicans have the stronger case. But that doesn’t matter, unless they make the case, which they show little sign of doing.

Democrats already understand the need for articulation. Robert Reich is only one of many articulate Democratic spokesmen. But where are the articulate Republicans? Do they even understand how crucial articulation is? The outcome of this lame-duck session of Congress may answer that question.