WASHINGTON — In a much circulated video last week, President Donald Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn spoke at a Wall Street Journal conference of CEOs and, naturally, the topic was the GOP tax reform bill, as the heart of the legislation is a drop in the corporate tax rate form 35% to 20%.
A Journal editor asked those gathered for a show of hands of those executive who planned to increase investment if the tax bill passed. A few hands were raised, but not many.
“Why aren’t the other hands up?” Cohn asked.
In fact, relatively few companies have made commitments for investment should the tax bill get signed into law. AT&T, seeking government approval for its acquisition of Time Warner, recently committed to spend $1 billion in infrastructure should that happen, but so far the number of companies making similar public commitments is hardly widespread. Few if any major media companies, including film studios and broadcasters, which have been championing a drop in the corporate rate, have done so.
The new documentary “Saving Capitalism” arrives right in the midst of the tax reform debate. The focus of the project, directed by Jacob Kornbluth, is on Robert Reich, the progressive former secretary of labor, but its intent is to show that the problems with income inequality are rooted in corporate influence in Washington that started many decades ago. As the gulf between the rich and the poor has only deepened, the activist energies on both sides of the political spectrum are coming from a populism that sees D.C. as a swamp-filled center for corporate cronyism.
“This so-called ‘tax reform’ seems to be leaving open more loopholes than it is closing,” Reich tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM. “Those loopholes are the loopholes that are favoring the very wealthy and big corporations. So it is hard to find anything in this bill that one would call ‘reform.'”
Reich says that “there is nothing more complicated than passing a tax bill. Every industry, every particular company, has their own kind of cost structure and their own desires. And the Republican donor class is split on what exactly they want.”
Kornbluth said that Republicans have been effective at amassing a coalition of the GOP donor class, corporate executives and white working class voters, but the tax reform proposal could create fissures. “I am not sure that coalition can hold through the struggles ahead,” he says.
Reich says that it is “rubbish” to think a corporate tax cut will lead to a dramatic spike in investment. “What corporations have done [with past tax cuts] is raise executive salaries and also buy back shares of stock, in order to raise stock prices. They don’t invest the money in additional jobs or additional machines or additional equipment or things like that because there is no reason for them to unless they have got more demand for their goods and services. And this bill is not going to create more demand.”
Errol Morris on ‘Wordwood,’ a 65-Year-Old Cold War Mystery
Frank Olson was a government chemist who mysteriously fell to his death from a New York hotel in 1953. At the time, the Army ruled it a suicide. Just over two decades later, in the wake of congressional focus on illicit and illegal CIA activities, it was revealed that Olson actually was part of LSD experiments, and Olson’s family earned an apology from President Gerald Ford.
But Olson’s son Eric has been on a quest since then to find out the full truth of what happened to his father that night, and, as is seen in Errol Morris’ upcoming Netflix miniseries “Wormwood,” questions still linger to this day. The suspicion is that Frank Olson was murdered, as he was involved in top-secret experiments in the use of chemical weapons but had begun showing signs of breaking down as his LSD use continued.
Morris talks about the challenges of making this project, why he decided to blend narrative and non-fiction filmmaking and why his work investigating what happened to Olson will continue even though his Netflix project is finished.