Taxes are a controversial topic in the United States. Some Americans see taxation as a penalty on hard work, while others see it as a way to alleviate social ills and discourage activity they deem undesirable. And because taxation is inseparable from the question of government’s role in people’s lives, it is one of the issues that most divides the two major parties in modern America. In today’s episode, Bob and Ben speak with Robert McElvaine, an expert on the history of the Great Depression, to get his take on what the past can teach us about tax policy and the economy. McElvaine explains why he thinks that history has disproven the Republican principle of supply side economics, and why he sees the recent GOP-backed tax reform as reminiscent of the policies that led the US into the Great Depression.
Dr. Robert S. McElvaine is Elizabeth Chisholm Professor of Arts and Letters and Professor of History at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. He is the author of seven books and the editor of three, including The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941 (Times Books/Random House, 1984, 1993; 25th anniversary edition, 2009). He also pinned an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled “I’m a Depression Historian. The GOP Tax Bill is Straight Out of 1929” (Nov. 30, 2017).
This episode is the first in a two-part series on taxation and the economy. For an alternative take on the GOP and Tax Policy, check out episode #89: The GOP and Tax Reform Revisited w/ Brian Reidl.