Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
The Tax Bill
The Cold War and the Welfare State

If you look hard enough, you can almost find ideological consistency in the Republicans’ breathtaking tax bill.

Published on: December 4, 2017
Nils Gilman is vice president of programs at the Berggruen Institute and a monthly columnist for The American Interest.
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  • Angel Martin

    Translation: Trump rewards his friends and punishes his enemies. Republicans finally have political leadership as tough and smart as FRoosevelt and Johnson.

  • Dale Fayda

    “What is almost certain is that unless a radical threat from the Left reappears, the push for the final dismantling of Cold War-era welfare systems will continue to be the primary agenda of a revanchist Right that is feeling its political oats.”

    Oh, if it were only true!

  • Joe Eagar

    Well, that was a complete waste of my time. I suppose it would be a bit much to ask for evidence with my hyperbole, but what do I know. I’m reminded of the Bush tax cuts; whoever knew giving tax cuts to the middle class could be so darned expensive in a bill that only benefited the rich! All that money thrown at the middle class, I guess it just disappears!

    By the way, we all know that for Social Security to survive, the middle class will have to pay more in taxes. So why than would the GOP create a new precedent to raise taxes on them, if it wants to get rid of it. . .? Either the GOP is saving Social Security, or it’s not raising middle-class taxes 😛

    • Fat_Man

      I saw it was utter tosh by the time the first paragraph ended. Ever since Mead left and Garfinkle suffered from his stroke, the quality of writing and thinking at this web site has gone way down hill.

      Did you know that the world’s first social security system was created by Germany in 1881, when Lenin was a young boy. They were prescient to be afraid of Communism.

      • Trajan Fanzine

        Mead left? What??

        • Fat_Man

          A few months ago Meade announced that he was not doing TAI anymore because he had to write a book. He has published things in WSJ but not here in the last few months.

          • Joe Eagar

            I hope he finishes his book soon.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Good job describing the nature of the screw-over and the process of the screw-over. You even highlighted one particular individual, Orin Hatch, who exemplifies very well how this has happened. Where once upon a time his Mormon sensibilities demanded he tell a balanced truth, religion has deteriorated to the point where virtually nothing but economic double-talk is offered by GOP politicians and nothing but economic double-talk is accepted and heard by GOP voters. Years ago, some of these people could sell a program like CHIP on its obvious moral imperative and were even willing to say so. Now, the millions of children should not have health care because they don’t lift a finger. Church “eats up” such rhetoric these days. Didn’t used to be the case.

    Meanwhile, Trump got himself elected with older people by spinning his full support for Social Security and Medicare and by promising to take care of everyone on health care. That part of “populism” is exactly WHERE at this moment? Starved out without telling the Trumpees?

    • Dale Fayda

      High-end tax cuts! Yay!

  • rpabate

    “The one major exception was Democratic President Bill Clinton’s dismantling of Aid for Families with Dependent Children—“the End of Welfare as We Know It,” in his notorious phrase—which reduced the number of people receiving cash assistance from the government from more than 13 million in 1995 to just 3 million today.”

    I guess the 47 million Americans receiving food stamps is not considered by this author as “receiving cash assistance from the government.” For most normal people who pay taxes, food stamps are a form of cash assistance from the government”. That fact that the government imposes practically no restrictions on what can be purchased in food stores with these food stamps attests to the disfunction of the government. Not only are these food stamps adding to the national debt, but the diseases that will be caused by the foods purchased by the average food stamp recipient will add trillions in medical expenses that the government will also pay.

    • Everett Brunson

      rpabate–hoping you see this. You recently gave me an upvote on a TAI article and I was curious to “see” who you were. I notice you commented most often on climate issues. I just want to throw in this off hand thought–in 1900 the world population was about 1.6 billion. Today it is approaching 7.8 billion.

      My point–that is a whole lot of bodies exhaling CO2 that weren’t doing it 118 years ago. To your knowledge, is anyone including this in their computer models?

      Too, to be clear, I am NOT one of the AGWers. On the contrary, I think any increase in CO2 is beneficial–greater crop yields leading to a greater water cycle in newly greened areas.

      • Matthew_Snow

        You are educated but not intelligent. You cling to fringe theories like a life raft in a changing world. Massive cognitive dissonance. Do you get down on your knees and pray to conservatism?

        • Everett Brunson

          What’s wrong Matty? Cannot bring yourself to consider the CO2 impact of another 5.1 billion human beings? I have read much on climate change and climate change computer models. In none of them have I seen where world pop was allowed for in the models.

          • Matthew_Snow

            The answer of the ratio of human CO2 breathing to fossil fuels is 1:12. So there is some effect. One we can influence. What’s your proposal for limiting humans breathing?

            The US military considers climate change a threat, due to ‘food instability’ failed states. I guess they are a bunch Of leftists too.

      • rpabate

        I don’t know the answer to your question.

        Before about 2007 I believed the “alarmist” claims regarding CO2. Quite unexpectedly, I came across an online paper by Dr. David Evans that shocked me and made me take an interest in learning more. I had recently retired so I had the time to look into the matter far more carefully than when I was working. The more I read about the subject the more I was amazed at how we are being fed only one side of the issue, only information that serves the “alarmist” religion, falsehoods and disinformation. What is amazing is that so far we earthlings have experienced nothing but benefits from the small amount of warming since exiting from the Little Ice Age — longer growing seasons, increased crop yields, less severe winters, milder nights. We neither read nor hear about these benefits in the MSM or from the “alarmists”. I do not have to go into the issues here as I am sure you are familiar with them as well.

        By the way, I just ordered Bernie Lewis’ book, “Searching for the Catastrophe Signal” which is a history of how CAGW was seen as useful for certain segments of the population and therefore how it became a cause celebre. President Eisenhower in his “Farewell Address” warned about what has, in fact, happened. Section IV of his Address.

        I must say, if were a climate scientist, I would probably be a believer, since my livelihood would depend upon it. Not to believe would risk cognitive dissonance, in addition to the risk that billions in annual government funding could disappear.

        Another book that deals with “Science”, in general, and how it has been corrupted is “The Rightful Place of Science: Science on the Verge” publish by the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes. This book goes well beyond the corruption of climate science. In fact, what we see too much of today is science that is used to provide “policy based evidence” when the “Rightful Place of Science” should be to guide “evidenced based policy”, a world of difference.


        • Everett Brunson

          Thank you for your response. I, too, recently retired and now am having much fun on commentary sites.

          I just find it curious that human population contribution to CO2 isn’t seen or reported on more often. I had one commentor, Matt Snow, reply that it was a 1 to 12 ratio–human to industrial (cars included) emissions–but he provided no sources so I can’t check.

          I’ve also read extensively that CO2 is such a small part of the atmosphere as to be almost negligible
          (.02%) yet one can start wars within the climate community over that tiny little bit–where it is–atmosphere, ocean, biosphere–and how much it contributes–angle of refraction via the carbon molecule/oxygen molecule leg–and so on.

          Anyway, thanks again. I’m following you now so I’m sure we will see each other again in the future.

  • Gary Hemminger

    I don’t disagree with one thing this gentleman has noted, expect to say that there is no deficit spending Krugman didn’t like when it came from the left; but from the right, of course, it is disastrous. The hypocrisy on both sides when the pendulums swings the other way, would be laughable, if it didn’t in the end, make you cry. Never let a crisis go to waste, as Rohm said. If you have to create one, then all the better. The left knows how to play the game when they were in power; now they don’t like the rules when they are out of power.

    As a Californian I certainly don’t like that my state taxes can’t be written off, by why should other states have to pay for the privilege of my states high taxation. I wouldn’t mind the high taxes (and everything else here), if I thought the money was going to something besides transfer payments (and in state tuition) to illegal immigrants. I guess that is the price I have to pay to live here. Eventually I will cash out on my house and move to a low tax state. But for now I am too addicted to Silicon Valley income.

    Anyway, the Republicans aren’t at fault and neither are the Democrats. Look in the mirror Americans, there the fault lies.

    A little story on how things work here in California. During the drought, they said use less water, use less water. so we did. Everyone cut back about 30%. Now that we have the H20 from last years rain, people are still using 30% less. But the water company has informed us that now they don’t make enough money so they had to raise the price about 30%. My water bill in the middle of summer was over $100 per month. And that is the logic of California.

    • Psalms13626

      Hello, fellow tax sufferer. I live in New Jersey, which also never seen something it didn’t like to tax. A lot. Property taxes are ridiculous but at least you can get decent public schools. But state income tax? That disappears into a giant union-controlled hole never to be seen again. NJ raised gas tax $.23/gallon because of how underfunded the infrastructure maintenance fund was. NJ has all of the deep-blue excesses. But I’m glad taxes will go up for people in NJ. I’m willing to pay a little extra to punish people who voted for those who constantly raise taxes.
      I’m starting to try to have my company open Florida office. Somewhere like DelRey Beach, Boca, or Miami. There’s gotta be a critical mass of people that want to leave high tax hellhole. But like you, I’m addicted to Manhattan income. How can I make it South Beach income?

  • Jonathan Dembo

    Mr. Gilman correctly tied progressive American domestic social policies to American foreign policy needs during the Cold War, 1940s-1980s. The US had to make concessions to communist ideology to fight the Soviet Union. In other words, American welfare state was a weapon against the Soviet Union; its actual social impact was secondary so long as it seemed egalitarian. But Mr. Gilman obviously lacks the courage of his convictions. Do we need a welfare state to fight ISIS? Do we need a welfare state to compete with China? According to Gilman’s own analysis, American social policy should be moving away from the welfare state to a more individualistic, non-interventionist social policy. Yet he clearly objects to such a move. He clearly favors “mission creep”: if a social welfare policy won the Cold War, it should also be able to beat ISIS and China. Like the ginsu knife Mr. Gilman’s social policy can make a single tomato last all winter.

  • Boritz

    Of course “far Left” is a historical term that describes nothing in the present. The modern terms are Left or center Left. The same is true of the historical term “right” which in modernity is “far right”. “Center right” is permissible but only when describing Euro-socialists such as Merkel’s CDU.

    • Everett Brunson

      Tilt much there Boritz? So in “modern” terms the far left no longer exists but the far right does–and center right no longer applies to Americans?

      • Joe Eagar

        He’s right that the far left doesn’t exist anymore, and frankly neither does the American far right. Our political spectrum goes, right-to-left, from libertarian to neoliberal to feudalism. It’s hilarious how the left now represents what used to be considered the most primitive social order in Marxism.

  • Everett Brunson
  • Jeff77450

    Gosh, where to begin. Paul Krugman’s statement that this bill is a redistribution of income from the poor & middle-class to corporation & business owners, i.e. the rich, is an out-and-out lie. A tax-cut doesn’t give people money and it doesn’t redistribute money, it simple takes less of someone’s money to begin with.

    Probably everyone already reading this knows that the idea behind reducing corporate tax-rates is to encourage corporations to bring their overseas earnings, which have already been taxed once, home and invest it here. Let’s give it a try and see what happens.

    As per Adam Smith government has three necessary & legitimate functions, (1) national defense, (2) a criminal & civil justice system to protect people & property (includes a legislative body & a patent office), (3) services & infrastructure that the public wants & needs but which aren’t profitable or practical for private industry to provide, i.e. services & infrastructure *unique* to government. The Constitution reflects this thinking. How anyone can read the Constitution objectively and conclude that wealth redistribution schemes are part of the ~sixteen functions assigned to the federal government is just beyond me. (~Twenty functions, five of which deal with defense). No, “promote/provide for the general welfare” is not a delegated function. Both times that it’s used it’s part of a preamble.

    I *do* wish that this bill included $2 in spending-cuts for every $1 in tax-cuts. Off the top of my head, it took from 1835 to 2000 for the national debt to go from zero to $5.7-trillion. It took just sixteen more years to increase to ~$20-trillion. That is not sustainable. Interest-rates have been below average for many years. If they go back to the historic average of 5% we’ll be spending a *trillion* dollars a year just to service the debt. If-and-when that happens what will we have to give up? I don’t know but I suspect that we’re going to find out.

    Mr. Gilman is quite exercised at the prospect of the “poor” having their hand-outs cut. I’ve written about this before in this forum but I feel the need to do so again. My mother, R.I.P., was one of ten children born & raised in truly horrific poverty in the 1920s & ’30s. They lived in a wooden shack that didn’t have plumbing, electricity or insulation. They walked a lot. They hauled water from a stream. Sometimes the water would be to dirty to use as-is. When that happened they’d put the water in a barrel and dump wood-ash on top. As the ash settled to the bottom it would pull down the worst of the “particulate matter” and they could skim water off the top.

    My mother said that technically they never missed a meal but that there were stretches where the choices were “oatmeal or oatmeal.” For all intents & purposes there was no government assistance which leads me to the punchline: In the early 1940s a “free” (to the end-user) school lunch program was started. My mother: “Do you think that my father would allow us to accept a ‘free’ lunch? Heck no, we made do and brought something from home.” Did you see that, Mr. Gilman? There they were just as poor as church-mice and my grandfather would not avail himself on one modest act of charity. Compare that to today’s parasites. As God is my witness, if I could I’d phase-out *all* of the wealth-redistribution schemes. I damn sure would.

    By the way, my father’s, R.I.P., family was even poorer. His father was a share-cropper and never owned a piece of property in his life. One winter in the 1930s things were so bad that they lived in a man’s barn.

    For all intents & purposes there are no poor people in the developed world. The so-called poor are actually rich beyond the wildest dreams of 99.99% of all people who have ever lived. If the rich from just eighty years ago could see how today’s poor live they’d be amazed and even envious of certain aspects of their lives. The overwhelming majority of the poor in the developed world live in places with electricity & plumbing and all the major appliances. Many of them are spending $400-500 a month on beer, cigarettes, lottery-tickets, cable and “bling.” My wife & I come from humble beginnings and I know of what I speak.

    • Everett Brunson

      More and more, the progressives continue to float the “minimum basic income” scheme. Where do they think that money is going to come from? Oh yeah, the taxpayers.

    • monbesaquena

      Yes! Thank you.

  • Psalms13626

    Wait, somebody quoted Paul Krugman unironically? The guy who on the eve of the election confidently predicted that markets will never recover and will continue to sell off forever? That’s a pretty poor appeal to authority from Nils Gilman.
    The purpose of tax bill is to increase economic growth. If that happens, everyone gets happy. And perhaps it is time to end welfare for people who won’t lift a finger for themselves. That’s not healthy, most of all for them.

    • Trajan Fanzine


  • AuntyNF

    Penned by someone from an ‘institute’ populated by dubious characters like Eric Schmidt, Lawrence Summers, Arianna Huffington, a bunch of cloistered life-long academics and associated lesser lights, no one should be surprised by the above tripe.
    Mr Gilman also keeps throwing out the $1.5T deficit number without mentioning that it’s $1.5T spread out over 10 years. I’m no fan of deficit spending but let’s keep in mind that’s ~$150B annually out of a $4T+ budget – and it’s a good bet Obama is still hailed as a hero around the hallowed halls of the Berggruen Institute for racking up nearly $7T in deficits during his 8 years in office.

  • CapitalistRoader

    Then again, it could also spell the return of a more radical politics of redistribution from the Left.

    I think we’re already seeing this in the form of Le Pen, who wants to save welfare benefits for native French, and Sanders, who simultaneously calls for increased wealth redistribution and reduced immigration. It’s a socialist movement but also a nationalist movement.

    Who knows how successful the various national socialist movements will be in Europe? In the US, however, we dodged the bullet with the election of Trump. He gave a voice to the tens of millions of workers who’ve been systematically ignored and abused by the Democratic/Republican uni-party for so many decades, the parties that took care of themselves and their globalist partners instead of their constituency. And I think people the US, perhaps except for the very young, are more pragmatic than Europeans. Americans as a whole see the fundamental problems with socialism, remember how awful the USSR and Warsaw Pact countries were, and as a result are too knowledgeable to be attracted to such socialist idiocracies.

  • Trajan Fanzine

    I looked at the Painting at the top of the this article, thought, oh no way am I wasting time on this, the painting says it all…..but, one should not critique if one hasn’t read the material…so, I did and, the painting does indeed say it all, and I am to tired and dont give a damn enough to refute this bushwah…. theres 15 minutes of my life gone I wish I had back…………

  • Europa

    The Cold War is a direct product of World War 2 when Communism won and Fascism lost. During this time there were several “hot wars” ranging from the Korean peninsula to South East Asia and the Middle East. At the end we won when the Soviet Empire collapsed but it was and is not that straight forward.
    Communism uses a few methods to expand. Revolutions are the chosen method. Failure of that option means invasions and wars, while the third option of subterfuge is used either during war or in its absence. We lost on that ground. Back in the 1930’s the Frankfurt School of Cultural Marxism was imported into the US by East European refugees and migrants. The aim was to undermine America’s traditions including Christian traditions and introduce anti social elements.
    The greatest expression of Cultural Marxism took place during the 1960s to the present. It expressed itself through the Feminist movement, Gay movement , Atheism, push for the separation of Church and State, the destruction of the American family, pro abortion, pro Divorce, the radicalization of our Universities, Anti Christion, pro Open borders, pro illegal drugs, the transgender movement to an aversion of anything Traditional. The Cold war and Communism won through the use of Cultural Marxism.

  • jsulz

    Is it too much to ask for the author to get basic facts right, like that tax bills are scored not by the Congressional Budget Office but by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), and that there was in fact a JCT score for both the House and Senate bills before they were voted on?

    I guess it is. Disappointing.

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