A professor of economics at Columbia University and director of its Earth Institute, Jeffrey Sachs, writes:
The truth of US politics today is simple. The key policy for the leaders of both political parties is tax cuts, especially for the rich. Both political parties, and the White House, would rather cut taxes than spend more on education, science and technology, and infrastructure. And the explanation is straightforward: the richest households fund political campaigns. Both parties therefore cater to their wishes.
This strikes me as off-base on several fronts. First, Barack Obama managed to get elected in 2008 calling for a tax increase on the "rich." Second, while the "richest households" may be overrepresented among political donors, they are only a small minority among the voters. And while money can help convince voters, it's no guarantee, as the well-funded but unsuccessful campaigns of candidates such as Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, Meg Whitman, Michael Huffington, and Carly Fiorina demonstrate. Finally, at least in 2010, the debate on taxes and "the rich" has primarily concerned whether to extend existing cuts and thereby avoid an increase, not whether to make further cuts. I realize that distinction can be a semantic one, but it's nonetheless worth mentioning. Meanwhile, speaking of rich, Professor Sachs reportedly lives and works in an $8 million townhouse on Manhattan's 85th St. that is owned by Columbia — translation: no property taxes. Eight million dollars were what the property cost in 2002, and prices for Manhattan townhouses have gone up considerably since then.