—Roll Call does good work with a story on yet another element of the money-in-politics machine. The paper reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hosting a fundraiser this week, with lobbyists expected to cough up $1,000 for dinner. But the big draw for the event isn’t the members of Congress who usually headline these things. Instead, lobbyists are paying for a chance to mingle with about 50 top House staffers.
Ethics watchdogs don’t like it, but the DCCC says it’s not breaking any rules. Roll Call says Republicans do the same thing. And, for reasons that are a bit perverse, this has become a big night on the DCCC calendar:
The event has become an even hotter ticket as lobbyists have fewer chances to interact with staff in social settings following ethics restrictions that bar lobbyists from paying for most staffer entertainment and restaurant tabs.
That still doesn’t make me feel good about it. Neither does this:
Rick Kessler of Dow Lohnes Government Strategies also minimized the amount of official business that actually gets done at dinners like this.
“When you are at something that big, it makes the likelihood of something untoward happening much smaller,” Kessler said. “It’s not intimate in that sense. There’s very little business or shoptalk that I would engage in. It doesn’t feel right.”
Oh, is that supposed to make it OK?
—Jeffrey Sachs started a hot debate with an op-ed in the FT proclaiming that it’s time to prepare for a “post-Keynesian era.”
As Sachs, who directs the Earth Institute at Columbia, sees it:
Mainstream Keynesian economics is facing its last hurrah. The global fiscal stimulus championed last year by the Obama administration is coming undone, repudiated by the same Group of 20 that endorsed it last year. Now, against a backdrop of a widening sovereign debt crisis, we need to abandon short-term thinking in favour of the long-term investments needed for sustained recovery.
Faced with weak demand in the U.S. and Europe, big budget deficits, downgrading of sovereign debt and consumers who don’t want to borrow, governments are wrong to turn to spending cuts, Sachs argues. Instead, he offers five handy guidelines to “reset our macroeconomic timetables,” focusing on long-term investment, not short-term stimulus.
The last one is interesting:
Fifth, governments and the public should insist that the rich pay more in income and wealth taxes – indeed, a lot more. The upward re-distribution of the past 25 years has made our economies into extravagant playgrounds for the super-wealthy. Politicians of both the mainstream left and right in the US and UK have fawned over those who pay their campaign bills in return for low taxation. Even playgrounds should collect tolls – when it is billionaires in the sandpit.
Felix Salmon thinks it’s a nutty idea:
I don’t think this is possible, politically, in either the US or the UK. In the US, the middle classes are implacably opposed to tax hikes on people making more money than they themselves will ever make. I’m not entirely clear on the reasons for this, but I suspect it has something to do with the American Dream of becoming incredibly successful: no one wants to reach that gilded land only to find it full of taxes.
Kevin Drum read that, and turned it into an assignment:
Someone — a journalist or an academic, I’m not sure which — should consider this an assignment desk piece: Why are Americans so unsympathetic to higher taxes on zillionaires? Does it really have something to do with an unfounded optimism about themselves someday becoming rich? I’ve heard this explanation a thousand times, but there’s really never any evidence for it except for one thing: an old poll (which I can’t locate just at the moment) showing that 19% of Americans think that someday they’ll be millionaires. The problem is that (a) it’s just one poll and (b) it’s still only 19%. If that were really the reason Americans were opposed to taxing the rich, we’d still have about 80% of the country in favor.
It’s a good point, and one that should get an answer—or at least some examination—as the debate over taxes and spending heats up.