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Paul Ryan’s Principles

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Krugman explains why Ryan, McConnell et. al have remained on board the train Trump is driving into the Grand Canyon:

But there’s a third answer, which can be summarized in one number: 34.

What’s that? It’s the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the average federal tax rate for the top 1 percent in 2013, the latest year available. And it’s up from just 28.2 in 2008, because President Obama allowed the high-end Bush tax cuts to expire and imposed new taxes to pay for a dramatic expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Taxes on the really, really rich have gone up even more.

If Hillary Clinton wins, taxes on the elite will at minimum stay at this level, and may even go up significantly if Democrats do well enough in congressional races to enable her to pass new legislation. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that her tax plan would raise the average tax rate for the top 1 percent by another 3.4 percentage points, and the rate for the top 0.1 percent by five points.

But if “populist” Donald Trump wins, taxes on the wealthy will go way down; in particular, Mr. Trump is calling for elimination of the inheritance tax, which these days hits only a tiny number of really yuuuge estates (a married couple doesn’t pay any tax unless its estate is worth more than $10.9 million).

So if you’re wealthy, or you’re someone who has built a career by reliably serving the interests of the wealthy, the choice is clear — as long as you don’t care too much about stuff like shunning racism, preserving democracy and freedom of religion, or for that matter avoiding nuclear war, Mr. Trump is your guy.

And that’s pretty much how the Republican establishment still sees it. Getting rid of the estate tax is “the linchpin of the conservative movement,” one major donor told Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur. Gotta get those priorities straight.

The issue isn’t that Ryan is “unprincipled.” To the extent that the label is meaningful when applied to a politician with national ambitions, he’s had a pretty consistent set of principles, i.e. upper-class tax cuts and increased military spending and war, financed by a combination of debt and slashing social services (especially those to the poor.) The issue is that these principles are bad. But there’s nothing irrational about Ryan supporting Trump — if he wins, he gets to pass the agenda he’s always been committed to, and if he loses he needs to minimize downballot losses. It’s not complicated, really.

On the other side of the coin, Ed Kilgore has an entertaining typology of the #NeverTrump minority within the GOP.

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