“President’s plan could stretch nation’s income inequality to ‘extreme’ levels.” That’s the headline in the paper edition of the Washington Post of an article about President Trump’s proposed budget.
Can a budget that cuts taxes and makes appreciable but relatively minor cuts in spending on giveaway programs really “stretch [the] nation’s inequality to ‘extreme’ levels”? I doubt it, and nothing in the Post’s story supports such a claim.
To assess the impact of Trump’s proposed budget on income inequality, one would have to project the impact of the budget cuts on incomes across the spectrum (along with the impact of increased defense spending). One would also have to project the stimulative effect of tax cuts on these incomes.
The Post’s article, by Max Ehrenfreund does neither. It cites no such research or analysis. It just quotes economists who say that income inequality has gotten worse — during eight years of Obama’s redistributionist policies — and opine that it will get worse yet under the policies described in Trump’s budget.
Ehrenfreund cites cuts in food stamps ($191 billion over ten years). Are food stamps really a meaningful response to income inequality in America? I don’t know and Ehrenfreund doesn’t tell us.
It does seem to me that imposing work requirements on food stamp recipients, as Trump proposes, might well reduce inequality. At a minimum, it should improve lives by restoring the dignity associated with having a job, just as the work requirements imposed for welfare during the Clinton administration did.
Ehrenfreund also punts on the impact of tax cuts on incomes. His only response to claims that such cuts would stimulate the economy and lift Americans across-the-board is to sniff that the Trump administration’s estimate of 3 percent growth may well be too optimistic.
John has already ridiculed the sudden skepticism of liberals about the possibility of 3 percent economic growth. But there’s another point to be made in the context of Ehrenfreund’s article.
The issue, for purposes of assessing the impact of the Trump budget on inequality isn’t just what the economic growth rate will be. The issue is also, and more fundamentally, what it would be without the tax cuts Trump proposes. This matter too is beyond the scope of the Post’s article.
If you’re a liberal, you probably think inequality in America is already “extreme” and that this constitutes a serious problem. If you’re a conservative, you may agree that inequality is extreme and view this as a problem; you may agree and think it’s not; or you may disagree. You might even be agnostic on the question.
Whatever your view, Ehrenfreund’s article sheds no meaningful light on how Trump’s budget would affect inequality and provides no meaningful support for the Post’s claim that it would “stretch inequality to extreme levels.”