With Tax Cuts, Republicans Need to Let Democrats Make Their Case for Them

With Tax Cuts, Republicans Need to Let Democrats Make Their Case for Them
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Story Stream
recent articles

“The food is just...When you taste it you feel good.” Those are the words of Daniel Awaitey, a 27-year old Ghanaian.  He was talking to New York Times reporters Dionne Searcey and Matt Richtel about his favorite restaurant in Accra, the capital city of Ghana.  That restaurant is Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). 

Awaitey is a young African with, according to Searcey and Richtel, a “well-paying job in the booming oil sector.” What’s extra interesting and uplifting about Awaitey is that eating at KFC is a major treat for him.  He was celebrating his 27th birthday at this most American of restaurants when the Times happened upon him.  While KFC is a fast food concept with all that the latter connotes in the U.S., Searcey and Richtel indicated that Awaitey’s birthday celebration at KFC amounted to something more formal; an “evening of laughter and selfies, lingering over dinner…”

In a perfect world every American, and certainly every American politician, would read about Daniel Awaitey.  He comes from a country that’s long been defined by equality in the sense that most have been equally poor in ways that the most destitute Americans couldn’t reasonably comprehend.  KFC’s existence there represents Ghana’s slow emergence from staggering poverty.  While Americans of all income classes take for granted eating at fast food restaurants that are ubiquitous stateside, they mean something quite different to people in the poorer parts of the world.  Eating American fast food amounts to a treat and an event, and as Searcey and Richtel indicated, a figurative and much-coveted taste of American prosperity.  Put simply, the KFCs in Africa in no way correlate with “low rent” in the way that they do for some in the United States.  They’re associated with what Searcey and Richtel refer to as “aspiration,” and are a kind of luxury item in parts of the world newly familiar with them. 

Considering the above through the prism of the United States, Americans can bash wealth and alleged favoritism toward the rich through the tax code from a rare perch: they’ve never had to endure life without the individuals who’ve amassed great wealth through brilliant need fulfillment.  Africans like Awaitey haven’t been so lucky, and haven’t had the luxury to be so thoughtlessly hateful.  The rich have long been scarce in Ghana, and evidence supporting the previous claim is revealed through excitement about the arrival of effects of American wealth creation like KFC and McDonald’s. 

In a July column, Foundation for Economic Education content director Jeffrey Tucker wrote lovingly about McDonald’s, that “Eating there is one of my earliest childhood memories.” Tucker added something about McDonald’s that is crucial:

“Its [McDonald’s] existence was not inevitable; it had to come into being through human effort, marketing, promotion, hard work, high risk, daring, suffering, and persistence, in a society where enterprise is valued and people are free to take risks in the service of others.”

Tucker’s discussion of McDonald’s as a wondrous result of the profit motive, and Awaitey’s modern experience with one of its top competitors is a simple reminder that the stunning array of goods and services that we enjoy were brought to us by truly remarkable people.  Nowadays McDonald’s are everywhere one looks, in areas rich and poor, in the United States.  But as Tucker adds, “the original McDonald’s was just one branch in San Bernardino, and the founders were too narrow-minded, squeamish, and lacking in vision that the situation proved ripe for a go-getting promoter like Ray Kroc to come along and franchise the idea.”

Kroc saw global possibility where McDonald’s originators saw a small business serving a tiny portion of America’s population.  Thank goodness Kroc envisioned what no one did, and better yet, acted on it.  McDonald’s didn’t attain a $100 billion market capitalization by exploiting people as much it got that way by virtue of serving the needs of a world desperate for a taste of much more than American food.  Like Awaitey, the world has long clamored for chains like KFC and McDonald’s given the world’s long association of each with quality, but also immense American prosperity.  To repeat a previous assertion, most of the world’s inhabitants have never been privileged enough to despise the rich as some of our thoroughly spoiled citizens do here.  Bashing of the successful is an activity that’s unique to societies that have never experienced life without them.  Where poverty is immense, or where it has been immense, people yearn for the goods and services that spring from wealth-enhancing entrepreneurial endeavor.  They would love to be in the position to “hate” the rich as only the relatively well-to-do can. 

Which brings us to commentary from the left about the Republican tax proposal released last week.  It’s been demeaned as a “wish list of tax cuts for the wealthy” by the New York Times editorial page, and then the Tax Policy Center lamented that the top 1 percent of taxpayers will “receive about 50 percent of the total tax benefit.”  The left’s response was so predictable, but it also arguably created a huge opportunity for Republicans.  Rather than run from the attempted slights, members of the Trump administration, GOP lawmakers, and pundits should embrace the mindless lefty critiques, and in the process make sure that their tax cuts more than live up to what the left despise about them.   

Republicans need to speak above politicians and talking heads to remind the voters that economic growth is a specific effect of individuals like Ray Kroc becoming extraordinarily rich, and once extraordinarily rich, working diligently to find ambitious strivers like their previous selves to invest in. 

Without people like Kroc, life as we know it would be defined by unrelenting misery.  Individuals grow rich by virtue of erasing life’s miseries.  That they do speaks to why Republicans must cease running from lefty critiques of their tax proposals.  Instead, they must wear them as a badge of honor: people grow rich by meeting myriad previously unmet needs, and Republicans will unrelentingly push for a tax structure that penalizes neither the innovators who attain great wealth, nor those who already have great wealth, and whose investable funds are directed toward the strivers eager to turn scarcity into abundance on the way to even greater wealth. 

Republicans need to ask voters how, absent entrepreneurs being matched with risk-oriented capital, companies and jobs can be created.  And having done that, they need to unabashedly tell voters that they’ll relentlessly vote for reduced penalties on entrepreneurs and investors alike.  Republicans must proudly wear the words of their most ardent critics.

They then need to ask voters how many times they’ve purchased something on Amazon in the past month, how many of them own Apple products, or Dell products.  And when audiences respond in the affirmative to all three, the Republicans need to remind voters that Jobs died worth billions, Dell is worth $23 billion, and that as the world’s third richest man, Bezos is worth $81 billion.  Republicans then need to ask voters if they would prefer that all three of those mentioned had been layabouts. 

No doubt a congenitally socialist minority will respond in the affirmative to the above question, at which point Republicans can cease worrying.  They can only worry about the majority who logically want many, many more entrepreneurs like Jobs, Dell and Bezos, only for Republicans to promise to once again do everything possible to reduce the tax burden on those innovating toward great wealth, and those whose keen investing will make the wealth-creating innovation possible.  Rather than run from their tag as the party of the rich, Republicans should proudly accept the tag much as Karl Marx unwittingly aided the profit-motivated by referring to them as “capitalists.” Capitalism is wonderful, and so are the fruits of the profit-motivated wonderful.  The rich get that way by making things better, and by shrinking the lifestyle gap between the rich and poor.  Why then, would Republicans run from such complimentary rhetoric from the other side?  

Lastly, when critics argue that lower penalties on work and investment will “reduce federal revenues,” Republicans should avoid a revenue fight.  Even when they’re right that tax cuts beget tax revenue-increasing economic growth, they’re still wrong.  They are because they turn what should be a debate about freedom, economic growth and rising living standards into one about raising more money for Congress to spend.  Instead, Republicans should embrace – indeed trumpet! – Democratic laments that GOP tax policies will shrink Congress's spending power. 

And having accepted the Dems’ critique of their tax cuts, Republicans should grandly talk about how they hope their tax cuts are big enough such that dollars flowing to Washington plummet.  Indeed, as the party of small government, Republicans should champion tax cuts so big that they reduce the ability of politicians to meddle.  Republicans need to remind voters that every dollar Congress spends – whether taxed or borrowed - amounts to more federal control over the economy. 

So there you have it.  Democrats have unwittingly done the Republicans a great turn.  They’ve said over and over again that the Republicans are the party of reduced revenues for Washington, reduced penalties levied on work, and reduced taxation of the very people who attain great wealth by virtue of making our lives exponentially better.  Unknown is whether or not the Republicans will ignore the gift that Democrats have long been falling all over themselves to give them. 

John Tamny is a speechwriter and writer of opinion pieces for clients, he's editor of RealClearMarkets, Director of the Center for Economic Freedom at FreedomWorks, and a senior economic adviser to Toreador Research and Trading (www.trtadvisors.com). His new book is The End of Work, about the exciting explosion of remunerative jobs that don't feel at all like work.  He's also the author of Who Needs the Fed? and Popular Economics. He can be reached at jtamny@realclearmarkets.com.  

Show comments Hide Comments

Related Articles