I was watching ABC This Week this afternoon. It’s part of my Sunday ritual. I come back from church, and I watch the episode of ABC This Week that was taping while I was away.
Tom Friedman was being interviewed near the end of the episode. I often heard Tom Friedman’s name when I was a student in New York City, at the beginning of the Iraq War. Students and teachers around me liked to hold him up as some paragon of infallibility. “THOMAS FRIEDMAN said…” And, the way I am, when there’s a fad, I tend to go in the opposite direction!
I actually liked something that Thomas Friedman said this morning, though, as he transcended the usual left-right divide. He said:
“Well, basically, my own politics, George, is I’m actually to the left I think of Bernie Sanders on some issues. I think in this world of accelerations, we’re going to need better and stronger safety nets. I mean for single-payer health care. But at the same time, I’d be right of The Wall Street Journal editorial page. I think we should abolish all corporate taxes and replace them with a carbon tax, a tax on bullets, a tax on sugar and a tax on small financial transaction tax.
“Our challenge, and the challenge of politics going forward, is to get I think stronger safety nets, because this world is going to be too fast for a lot of people, George, and to pay for them, we need to get radically entrepreneurial.
“One side always emphasized the radical entrepreneurship, one just the safety nets and the two have got to co-evolve together.”
See here for a transcript of the episode.
That reminds me of a point that Bruce Bartlett made in his 2009 book, The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward. Bartlett is an economist who served in the Reagan Administration, yet he has come to despise much of the American right. In this book, Bartlett notes that there are countries in Europe that have a strong safety net, and yet their corporate taxes and taxes on capital are less than what the U.S. has. Instead, they have a VAT and higher taxes on gasoline and alcohol. See my write-up here.
Whether Friedman’s plan would work, I do not know. Speaking for myself, I voted for Measure 97 in Oregon, which would have increased the corporate tax, had it passed (which it did not). I would prefer for people who have money to pay more, rather than for those who struggle financially to be hit with higher sales taxes. (Yet, critics of 97 warned that the higher corporate tax would be passed on to consumers, while proponents of 97 offered the reassurance that competition would prevent that from happening.) On the other hand, I do not want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Plus, I don’t think it is a good idea for one economic class to do all of the rowing—-not that it does, entirely, but I just get leery when progressive politicians talk about creating all of these programs to help people and saying that they will pay for the programs by taxing the rich heavily.
In any case, I appreciate Friedman’s open-mindedness.