Monday, March 29, 2010

Learn Something New Every Day?

. Monday, March 29, 2010

I won't bother sharing the weird chain of events that led to my reading the Wikipedia entry on Jerry Brown's 1992 Presidential campaign. Suffice it to say, I remember 1992 and some of the election coverage but I had no political awareness then so I can't really recall the dynamics of the Democratic primary. Could this possible be true?

As he campaigned in various primary states, Brown would eventually expand his platform beyond a policy of strict campaign finance reform. Although he would focus on a variety of issues throughout the campaign, most especially his endorsement of living wage laws and his opposition to free trade agreements such as North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), he mostly concentrated on his tax policy, which had been created specifically for him by Arthur Laffer, the famous supporter of supply-side economics who created the Laffer curve. This plan, which called for the replacement of the progressive income tax with a flat tax and a value added tax, both at a fixed 13% rate, was decried by his opponents as regressive. Nevertheless, it was endorsed by The New York Times, The New Republic, and Forbes, and its raising of taxes on corporations and elimination of various loopholes, which tended to favor the very wealthy, proved to be popular with voters. This was, perhaps, not surprising, as various opinion polls taken at the time found that as many as three-quarters of all Americans believed the current tax code to be unfairly biased toward the wealthy.


Clunky prose aside... WTF? I believe that Jerry Brown ran from the left on a populist platform. I also believe that he opposed NAFTA and free trade agreements more generally. I have no difficulty accepting that he used anti-corporate/anti-rich rhetoric and advocated tax reform to address those concerns.

But his solution was a flat tax created by Arthur Laffer? Could this possible be true? And it was endorsed by the NY Times and The New Republic? (Well, TNR was edited by Andrew Sullivan then, so maybe that's feasible. But only barely.) It isn't sourced, and it is Wikipedia, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. But this makes no sense at all. Does anyone out there have a longer memory than I? If so, can they confirm or refute?

3 comments:

John Lovett said...

People Magazine has this piece from 1979 where Brown refers to himself as a born again tax cutter:

http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20073359,00.html

Doesn't completely explain it, but it sets up the basis for it.

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Learn Something New Every Day?
 
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