New York Times Column on How to Use Tax Cut Plays Into Trump's and GOP's Hands

December 30th, 2017 12:56 PM

New York Times "Your Money" scribe Ron Lieber seemed blissfully unaware that the suggestions he made and the language he used in his Friday column on how individuals and families might use their savings from the just-signed tax bill mirrors what President Donald Trump, Republicans, and conservatives have been saying for years.

The irony began in the large photo at the top of Lieber's column. It shows a couple looking over a new car, and has this caption: "Putting tax savings toward buying a car is a way to give them some economic clout." In other words, as free-market, limited-government advocates have said for decades, allowing people to keep more of their own money will lead to more economic activity and economic growth. Imagine that.

The irony continued in Lieber's opening paragraphs (bolds are mine throughout this post):

If you are among the majority of Americans whose tax bill will decrease next year, there are some obvious ways to put the money to work.

People who are sick, indebted, or in an unstable job or relationship will need to pay the bills or save for imminent hardship. Others who are more stable but not saving enough to meet even modest retirement or college savings goals should probably increase account contributions by the amount they’re getting from the tax bill.

The more comfortable among us, however, ought to consider a less obvious course of action: Give the money back.

At this point, readers must have been thinking that Lieber wants readers who can afford it to give their tax cut back to Uncle Sam.

But no:

This is a bipartisan appeal. If you believe the Republican theory that these tax cuts will stoke more economic growth, you can help make it so by spending any extra money in a way that directly improves the American economy. Hire someone in your business. Pay a household employee more. Buy something that helps American workers. (which is exactly what the column's opening photo caption says will happen — Ed.)

Find the tax cuts and the Republicans who voted for them objectionable? Then take the money and put it toward people who have been left behind economically and causes that can help them.

Wait a minute.

A New York Times columnist was telling those who don't like the tax bill that directing their tax cut towards cherished causes is more effective than giving it back to the government; otherwise, he would have suggested that they return it to Uncle Sam.

How many times have we been told by pious editorial and op-ed writers at the Times and elsewhere, and even by religious clerics who really should know better, that only the government can effectively help "people who have been left behind economically," and that people who would rather have control over more of their own money than see the government waste it on "solutions" which more often than not haven't worked are greedy, selfish, and even racist? Now Lieber, in suggesting self-directed charity without government involvement, is effectively saying that they're all wrong.

Given that Lieber's column appeared on Friday, the following two paragraphs were stunningly ignorant and ill-informed:

There is plenty of reason to believe that many large public companies won’t give it (the tax savings) back to workers. Their executives work for shareholders after all, so the default reflex may well be to use winnings from the new, lower corporate tax rates to buy back shares or do other things that will lift stock prices directly and immediately.

One exception so far is Fifth Third Bank. Rather than handing out bonuses, which don’t help employees over time, the bank recently raised its minimum hourly wage to $15, which then becomes the baseline for any future raises. I reached out to the company’s chief executive, Greg D. Carmichael, to see if he wanted to take a pledge to give his personal tax winnings back, but the bank’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Wow. Lieber really complained about bonuses because they "don't help employees over time." Yeah, all they do is help employees immediately. What an outrage. (That's sarcasm, folks.)

As for Fifth Third, Lieber told readers that the bank's only move was to raise its minimum wage, i.e., that it was done "rather than" handing out bonuses. That's wrong. It's been known for over a week that the bank "will pay more than 13,500 employees a bonus and raise the minimum wage of its workforce to $15 an hour after the passage of the Republican tax plan that will cut the bank's corporate tax rate."

Lieber's treatment of Fifth Third's Carmichael was gratuitous, virtue-signaling harassment. How is Carmichael's decision as to what to do with his tax savings any of our business, especially because we already know that people shouldn't just send their money back to the government? Additionally, except for the amount of savings involved, how are the choices he has fundamentally different from anyone else's? Lieber has already given people many constructive suggestions for utilizing their savings, so anything Carmichael decides to do is apparently okay, right?

Lieber also seemed to imply that Fifth Third's decision to raise its minimum wage was a rare exception. In a Wednesday NewsBusters post, I identified five other companies which have announced minimum-wage increases. There are almost certainly many others, particularly closely-held enterprises, which are also doing so without fanfare.

The height of self-unawareness in Lieber's column was his frequent use of the term "winnings" to describe the tax-cut savings. The word appears an astonishing ten times in his column, and once in a separate photo caption.

The Times writer implied that readers really don't deserve their tax-cut, and that they're merely lucky to be receiving it. But in Donald Trump's linguistic framework, "winning" is what he repeatedly promised the American people they would be doing if they elected him.

Those of us who are aware of this can't help but get a chuckle out of the fact that a New York Times writer so frequently used a term which mirrors the rhetoric of the president the paper's executive, editorial writers, and employees so completely despise.

Cross-posted at