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Mitt Romney isn’t evil but that doesn’t mean he’s right about taxes, George Pyle writes

Rich people don’t create jobs. Customers create jobs. Customers who aren’t struggling with poverty.

(Screenshot via Twitter) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, dressed as the character Ted Lasso, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-AZ, dressed as the character Rebecca Welton from the series ahead of Halloween on Thursday, October 28, 2021.

In the run-up to the 2016 election, humorist P.J. O’Rourke explained that even though he was a conservative, he would not vote for Donald Trump. He would support Hillary Clinton for president.

“She’s wrong about absolutely everything,” O’Rourke said of Clinton, “but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”

By which he meant that Clinton, in his view, wasn’t trustworthy and wouldn’t keep her promises. But, unlike that year’s Republican nominee, she wasn’t a clear and present danger likely to start a nuclear war.

Mitt Romney is not wrong about absolutely everything.

Utah’s junior U.S. senator, unlike some other Republicans, is not a fascist who supports attempts to overthrow the government of the United States by violent means. He thought Trump should have been tossed out of the White House. Twice. He’s happy to tell you that he’s fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and thinks employers should have the power to require their employees to get the jab.

And Romney sees a role for the federal government to give financial support to families as they attempt the difficult and crucial job of raising their children. Difficult enough that more and more people are deciding not to do it.

Romney’s proposed Family Security Act would provide most families with a monthly benefit of $350 for each child from four months before birth up to age 5, and $250 for children up to age 17. He says it is an improvement over the Earned Income Tax credit in that nobody would have to file for it. It would come reliably every month. He’d pay for it all by taking away other family benefits such as the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (what used to be called “welfare”).

But Mitt is still a Republican. So part of what separates his plan from the child assistance portion of Joe Biden’s Build Back Better proposal is that there are no tax increases involved.

I guess you can only move the window so far.

Romney remains stuck on the idea that tax increases on the wealthy, a core of what may still be left of Biden’s plan as it survives the haunted house of congressional Democrats, are bad for the economy because they discourage really rich people (like Mitt Romney) from becoming that superhero of the American not-so-looney right, the Job Creator.

He parroted this line on an appearance on Fox News the other day, invoking the name of Apple and iPhone creator Steve Jobs as among the people who wouldn’t create all that cool stuff if they were taxed at a higher rate.

Which is certainly not the impression Romney would get if he had read the Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs. (Actually, I’d bet he has read it. But it doesn’t fit the Republican narrative so maybe he pretends he hasn’t.)

What comes across in Isaacson’s telling is that what inspires truly creative business people is the desire to see the product they made on every desktop, in every pocket, every driveway, every kitchen in America, if not the world. Because they’re better than the other guy’s. Indecent scads of money are just one way to measure that success.

Sure, tax avoidance and minimization is always on their radar. That’s why Apple has parked so much of its spare cash in low-tax Ireland and why the Democrats’ plan includes new minimum taxes on multinational corporations.

Even with the tax rates envisioned by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, people in the Steve Jobs/Bill Gates/Elon Musk orbit who are multi-billionaires before paying their taxes would still be multi-billionaires afterward. If that’s the kind of thing that would discourage their entrepreneurial spirit, well, there wasn’t that much of it to begin with.

The Republican blind spot that still afflicts most Republicans — and swing Democrats like Romney’s new best friend Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — is the idea that rich tycoons create jobs.

They don’t. Customers create jobs. Customers who have money to spend, who don’t have to count every penny figuring out how to make the rent, fix the car, have the kind of internet connection their children need for school, fill their prescriptions and improve their job prospects with more training or education.

Romney’s aid to families plan gets that, a little. It’s the core of Biden’s program. It’s what motivates other Democrats, those who are more than a little steamed that that bill keeps getting smaller.

Trickle-down economics is a lie. Always has been. Always will be. The economy grows from the bottom up. Or it would, if Congress ever leaves Romney and Sinema behind and keeps Joe Biden’s campaign promises.

George Pyle, reading The New York Times at The Rose Establishment.

George Pyle, opinion editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, promised he would read a lot of books when the coronavirus quarantine began. He did read “Steve Jobs.” And a couple of others.

gpyle@sltrib.com

Twitter, @debatestate




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