The shiny attraction of tax cuts

Y ears ago, as I was working on consulting teams, we helped companies like GE globalize their production. That meant moving jobs out of the U.S.

The only way for the U.S. to adjust to this new global world involved making investments to upgrade the skills of people that were inevitably displaced. That required a dramatic rethinking of policies for education, unemployment, community development, economic development, and workforce development.

The U.S. did not follow this path. Those of us making these arguments were branded as advocates of “industrial policies” which had the government undermining “the free market”. (Also, an undertone of being slightly un-American.)

Instead, the U.S. bought into the mythology of Supply Side Economics, promoted by some quasi-academic hacks. Cut taxes for the wealthy, and everything will be fine.

Well, of course, everything did not turn out fine. Middle class wage growth eroded. Our obsession with finance — Gordon Gecko, “greed is good” — generated destructive bubbles and short term thinking. And our economy created income disparities that are as bad as they have ever been…all of which, of course, undermines our democratic consensus.

So here we are. On the precipice of another lurch toward the shiny object of tax cuts for the wealthy. We are ignoring the imperative to invest in the future: education, science, technology, infrastructure.

The ultimate political sin, in my book: the rise of libertarian philosophies, spirited by another quasi-academic hack, Ayn Rand. Libertarianism basically translates into “I got mine, leave me alone.” It is a fundamental misreading of our democratic ideal of mutual interdependence. If you have trouble understanding this, I suggest Tocqueville. He nailed it.

In 1838.

Ed Morrison is Director of the Purdue Agile Strategy Lab. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. For the past five or six years, he has been developing new, agile approaches to strategy in open, loosely joined networks, a discipline he calls Strategic Doing. Prior to starting his economic development work, Ed worked for Telesis, a corporate strategy consulting firm. In this position, he served on consulting teams for clients such as Ford Motor Company, Volvo, and General Electric. He conducted manufacturing cost studies in the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Canada, Italy, Sweden, and France. Ed started his professional career in Washington, D.C., where he has served as a legislative assistant to an Ohio Congressman, staff attorney in the Federal Trade Commission, and staff counsel in the US Senate. He holds a BA degree cum laude with honors from Yale University and MBA and JD degrees from the University of Virginia.

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