The ear worm was a tune from the distant past — “Christopher Robin is Saying His Prayers.”
It began to play in my head just before dawn one day recently. With the tune came the words, all of them: “Little boy kneels at the foot of the bed, droops on his little hands, little gold head. Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares, Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.”
I don’t know exactly why these words, learned as a little boy with a soprano voice so he could sing, accompanied by his mother, for the church ladies and other groups, why these words chose this particular morning to assert themselves while i was trying to get back to sleep.
Maybe it was prompted by a review I read of the movie “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” stories of Christopher’s stuffed animals brought to life in books by his father, A. A. Milne — Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Owl and Tigger. He wrote in the 1920s, after he had served in World War I. I recall the books from my own childhood and read them to my children.
The reason I bring this up is to establish my credentials for long term memory. I am remembering in these days of tax proposals and with Eeyore’s sense of gloom the promises made when the Republicans and President Ronald Reagan cut taxes with the idea that giving breaks to business and the wealthy would cause investments in the economy and that would lift everyone’s boat. How much of that tax cut “trickled down” to lower income citizens is still being debated as we look at another yet another proposed tax cut that will benefit mainly the wealthy and corporations. I’m as skeptical now of that idea as I was then.
The most striking results of Reagan’s tax cuts and others since then is a record of soaring budget deficits. The national debt now is 20 times what it was when Reagan took office.
With more debt it has become more difficult to fund important upgrades in the nation’s health care, education, environment, security and infrastructure. And in the decades since the first “trickle down” promises, the gap between rich and poor has been growing dramatically; the share of total US income going to the top 1 percent has grown from about 9 percent in 1980 to 22 percent in 2015.
Inequality.org, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies offers another measure of inequality: “The CEO-worker retirement benefit gap is even larger than the wage gap. As of the end of 2015, just 100 CEOs had company retirement funds worth $4.7 billion — a sum equal to the entire retirement savings of the 41 percent of U.S. families with the smallest nest eggs. Workers lucky enough to have a 401(k) plan through their employer had a median balance of just $18,433.”
While the final form of the latest tax cut deal is still to be determined, it will inevitably involve borrowing money to further enrich the rich.
One wall street executive, Steven Rattner, writing in the New York Times earlier this year put it this way: “ ... perhaps the greatest damage inflicted by the Reagan tax cuts was to our political psyche, making respectable — particularly among Republicans — the terrifying notion that high deficits resulting from tax cuts don’t matter because faster economic growth will quickly close the gap.”
White House economic officials say the growth generated by tax cuts will pay back the lost revenue. Projections by Fitch Ratings, an independent credit rating agency, said Republican tax cuts would not pay for themselves through growth and will add significantly to long-term debt.
Rattner said he is all for reforms on loopholes, egregious deductions and complexities, as are many of us, but “what we don’t need — and can’t afford — is another round of huge, unpaid-for tax reductions that saddle us with large amounts of new debt without producing the growth levels being predicted.”
The Christopher Robins of America, while kneeling at their bedsides to say their prayers, might want to ask for less public debt that they will have to pay back when they grow up.
As Eeyore might have said, It could be worse, but I don’t know how.