Krusty the Clown Syndrome

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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I’m amazed at how many people are amazed that billionaires don’t like Elizabeth Warren. What? Were you taken in by their PR campaigns?

There is an episode of The Simpsons television show in which “Sideshow Bob” Terwilliger, the former sidekick to Krusty the Clown (a cynical, chain-smoking, Bizzaro-World version of Bozo), runs for mayor of Springfield. Sideshow Bob was imprisoned for attempting to frame his boss for robbery in revenge for Krusty’s constant abuse. He commits additional crimes, and goes back to jail again, but arranges for a pardon. Sideshow Bob then runs for mayor. Now, Sideshow Bob has also tried to kill Bart Simpson, Bart’s aunt, and Krusty the Clown. That might be an impediment to election, you’d think.

Don’t you believe it! Erudite, a Yale graduate, and a Republican, Sideshow Bob looks good on TV. He befriends the local Rush Limbaugh. And you have to see Krusty the Clown debate with himself on whether to vote for criminal Sideshow Bob to believe it.

Krusty: “Well, he framed me for armed robbery, but I’m aching for that upper-class tax cut!” (pulls the lever for Sideshow Bob)

Sit-com material? Of course. And it is sad to see it come to life in the form of exaggerating Bill Gates, tearful Leon Cooperman, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s whining about an “existential” threat, and affronted JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, the latter being unable to see why anyone should resent him just because he was a big part of the 2008 economic meltdown. How dare anyone “vilify successful people”? No matter how they made their billions.

Additional signs of the billionaire panic attack come in the form of a very unusual study by the Penn Wharton Budget Model, which was — naturally — plastered prominently in The New York Times, which also trembles at the prospect of President Warren. The study claims that Senator Warren’s wealth tax would reduce economic growth by 0.2%. What’s interesting are the contortions that were needed to come to that conclusion.

As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich pointed out in The Guardian, there are two implausibilities baked into the Penn Wharton Budget Model’s pie. The first is that the wealthy will stop investing in job-producing investments. Too late. They already have.

The bulk of the much-vaunted 2017 tax cut led to $437 billion in stock buybacks, which didn’t create one single job. Further, as Reich noted: “The investments of the wealthy are parked all over the world in everything from exotic tax shelters to real estate and works of art. Rather than generate social benefits, they are more likely to keep legions of investment bankers, money managers, wealth advisers, and tax lawyers busily employed, gaming the system.”

Secondly, and more importantly, the study presumed that every penny of the wealth tax would go to reduce the deficit — even though Warren wants to use it for universal child care, more funding for public education, student-loan forgiveness, the Green New Deal, and the much-needed overhaul of this country’s infrastructure. Why make such an unlikely assumption? Because otherwise, any honest examination of the wealth tax would see a big jolt to the economy, as states, counties, and private firms hired teachers, childcare workers, doctors, nurses, solar- and wind-power engineers and workers, architects, civil engineers, and construction workers. How many millions of jobs are we talking? So any honest appraisal would reveal an increase in economic growth.

And, as Reich pointed out, that’s where the corporate media comes in. The “more insidious attacks on the tax plan” are coming — and will continue to come — from corporate-funded think tanks and corporate media, like The New York Times, where its stars boast six- and seven-figure salaries, but they claim to be looking out for the poor and middle classes. The biggest divide isn’t left versus right, urban versus rural, Democrat versus Republican: “It’s between the establishment and the anti-establishment, the oligarchy and the rest,” says Reich.

The biggest divide isn’t left versus right, urban versus rural, Democrat versus Republican. It’s between the establishment and the anti-establishment, the oligarchy and the rest. – Robert ReichClick To Tweet

Again, Reich: “The denizens of corporate board rooms, C-suites, and Wall Street do not regard Bernie Sanders as a threat because they do not believe he has a chance of being nominated. But they are panicked by Elizabeth Warren.”

The denizens of corporate board rooms, C-suites, and Wall Street do not regard Bernie Sanders as a threat because they do not believe he has a chance of being nominated. But they are panicked by Elizabeth Warren. – Robert ReichClick To Tweet

So, expect that the bellowing of billionaires will continue, as they contemplate Warren becoming president. And listen for the panicky echoes of those bellows in the corporate media.

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