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"Pieces of Silver"
"By now, it’s obvious to everyone with open eyes that Donald Trump is an ignorant, wildly dishonest, erratic, immature, bullying egomaniac. On the other hand, he’s a terrible person. But despite some high-profile defections, most senior figures in the Republican Party — very much including Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader — are still supporting him, threats of violence and all. Why?
"One answer is that these were never men and women of principle. . . . Another answer is that in an era of intense partisanship, the greatest risk facing many Republican politicians . . . is that of losing to an extremist primary challenger. This makes them afraid to cross Mr. Trump, whose ugliness channels the true feelings of the party’s base.
"But there’s a third answer, which can be summarized in one number: 34. . . . the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the average federal tax rate for the top 1 percent in 2013, the latest year available. . . .
"If Hillary Clinton wins . . . . her tax plan would raise the average tax rate for the top 1 percent by another 3.4 percentage points, and the rate for the top 0.1 percent by five points.
"But if 'populist' Donald Trump wins, taxes on the wealthy will go way down; in particular, Mr. Trump is calling for elimination of the inheritance tax, which these days hits only a tiny number of really yuuuge estates (a married couple doesn’t pay any tax unless its estate is worth more than $10.9 million).
"So if you’re wealthy, or you’re someone who has built a career by reliably serving the interests of the wealthy, the choice is clear — as long as you don’t care too much about stuff like shunning racism, preserving democracy and freedom of religion, or for that matter avoiding nuclear war, Mr. Trump is your guy. . . .
"Should we be shocked at the willingness of leading Republicans to make this bargain? Well, we should be shocked. . . . But we shouldn’t be surprised, because it’s just an extension of the devil’s bargain the economic right has been making for decades, going all the way back to Nixon’s 'Southern strategy'. . . .
"Recently Avik Roy, a leading Republican health-policy expert, had the personal and moral courage to admit what liberals (and political scientists) have been saying for years: 'In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.'
"Just to be clear, I’m not saying that top Republicans were or are personally bigoted — but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they were willing to curry favor with bigots in the service of tax cuts for the rich and [for] financial deregulation. . . .
"All that has happened this year is a move of those white nationalists from . . . supporting cast to a starring role. So when Republicans who went along with the earlier strategy draw the line at Mr. Trump, they’re not really taking a stand on principle; they’re just complaining about the price. And the party’s top leadership isn’t even willing to do that.
"If this election goes the way it probably will, a few months from now those leading Republicans will be trying to pretend that they never really supported their party’s nominee, that in their hearts they always knew he was the wrong man.
"But whatever doubts they may be feeling don’t excuse their actions, and in fact make them even less forgivable. For the fact is that right now, when it matters, they have decided that lower tax rates on the rich are sufficient payment for betraying American ideals and putting the republic as we know it in danger."
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That is typical, hard-hitting Paul Krugman. But is he wrong? I don't think so. I would only argue that cutting taxes for the wealthy is not the only thing . . . but, in the end, it is very nearly the main thing, along with related things like deregulation of the financial industry, and ensuring a conservative Supreme Court for decades to come.