Let’s remind ourselves of the meaning of ‘zealot’. Historically, it denoted a member of a fanatical sect in Judea during the first century AD that militantly opposed the Roman domination of Palestine. Today it describes a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of religious, political, or other ideals.
We still have zealots in our midst. This piece exemplifies two instances of zealotry: the zealots that deny the reality of anthropogenic global warming, and those that cling tenaciously to trickle down economics.
It is hard to contemplate that in the face of steadily mounting evidence that our planet is warming inexorably, there are still those who deny it strenuously.
In early August we saw Europe sweltering in record heat
. Climate scientists insist that this was due to the superimposition of contemporary weather events, to wit intensely warm air sweeping up from North Africa, on the established and a well documented increase in global temperatures worldwide. Record high temperatures were experienced in Western Europe, particularly in Spain and Portugal. Fires burned out of control.
How do climate deniers explain that?
This year we saw three of California’s biggest wildfires ever
In the state of Virginia, after six inches of rain fell in just a few hours, floods resulted that were so severe that the College Lake Dam near Lynchburg that holds back millions of litres of water was threatened with collapse
. Should that have occurred, the surrounding countryside would have been flooded to a depth of 17 feet in 10 minutes, wiping out all before it. Mass evacuations were carried out just in case the catastrophe occurred. Fortunately it didn’t.
Could these events be a side effect of global warming?
In our own country, we are experiencing one of the worst droughts in our long history of severe droughts. Again, climate scientists implicate global warming. This week’s Essential Poll
shows that 54% of respondents agree; only 25% don’t. The scientists assert that such extreme weather events will increase in frequency and severity as the planet warms. The zealots that deny anthropogenic climate change disagree. They argue that we’ve always had such events, and that they represent just ‘normal climate variability’. And they’re still calling for more heavily polluting ‘base-load’ coal-fired power generators as they debate the NEG.
Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and Co. are still calling for the NEG to be scrapped on the basis of its inappropriate emphasis on reducing emissions! If you have the stomach for it, take a look at the first seven minutes of Abbott being interviewed by Leigh Sales on 7.30.
There is no way of persuading such zealots to another view. Denying global warming is an entrenched belief; no matter how convincing is the evidence to the contrary.
Trickle down zealots
Lets’ look briefly at another example of zealotry: the entrenched belief that giving tax cuts to large corporations is sound policy. It’s what Australia needs, the Coalition insists. Treasurer Morrison, Finance Minister Cormann, PM Turnbull, and all his ministers push this line every time they are challenged about the wisdom of giving tax cuts to large corporations. The argument goes that with less tax to pay, corporations will become more competitive on the world stage, more investment will result, businesses will expand, more jobs will be created, and wages will rise. It stands to reason they say, and to many who have no evidence to judge the validity of their claim, it does sound reasonable, but it’s just good old trickle down economics all over again.
Predictably, following the revelations of the Banking Royal Commission, the public is strongly opposed to giving tax cuts to large corporations, as the Longman by-election showed. This should hardly be a surprise. Alan Stockman, a Republican in Ronald Reagan’s administration way back in the 1980s, admitted ‘Trickle down is hard to sell’.
So what is the evidence to support the ‘trickle down’ theory of economics? None. From when it was first proposed in the 1890s, then known as the ‘horse and sparrow theory’, it has been consistently debunked. To trickle down zealots this is immaterial.
There is a mountain of evidence that corporate tax cuts do not end up in workers’ pockets. The most recent evidence comes from the US where corporate taxes have been cut under the so-called ‘Tax cuts and Jobs Act’ (TCJA). The US Economic Policy Unit has a helpful analysis of what actually happened. Here is some of the Institute’s analysis
The Trump administration’s Council of Economic Advisers released a paper last year arguing that cuts in the statutory corporate tax rate would lead to gains in business investment, productivity, and wages. We noted in the report released shortly thereafter why this was unlikely to be true. The simplest reason that cutting corporate taxes will not boost American productivity or wages is that the past history of corporate tax cuts in the United States shows no such relationship.
A figure in the analysis displaying the top corporate tax rate, productivity growth, and growth in typical workers’ hourly pay since the 1950s, shows clearly that productivity and pay actually grew more rapidly when tax rates were higher.
The analysis concluded:
The case that large, deficit-financed corporate tax cuts will boost capital investment, productivity, and wages in the United States is extraordinarily weak. Evidence from past changes in federal taxes, from cross-national comparisons, and from the experiences of individual U.S. states all argue strongly that wages for typical Americans will not benefit from the tax cuts…All in all, the tax cuts will serve to boost incomes for the already-rich while doing nothing to help the wages of typical American workers.
How much more evidence will convince the trickle down zealots that they are wrong? No amount. They will never be moved from their entrenched views.
Beware of rabid zealots!