Governing tough in the Electric Age

November 20, 2017 09:26 AM

It was very interesting to see Republicans succeed in passing the House version of their tax reform plan on Thursday, even if that still leaves quite a bit of uncertainty due to the more than a bit different Senate plan that was unveiled a week earlier. At this point, their tax reform effort still seems more of the same old ‘great plan’ promotion (ala health insurance reform) with a question over their ability to garner enough support within the Republican Party to pass the consolidated House-Senate plan into law. That is on assumption there will be zero assistance from Democrats, who are out in force over the last few days with anti-tax reform speeches and “kill the bill” rallies.

And there were further developments on Wednesday that are telling. Beyond some House Republicans (notably those from high tax ‘blue’ states) still refusing to vote for the House bill, most striking was an indication the very different Senate bill might be in trouble.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson from mostly Democratic and high tax state Wisconsin will not be voting for the tax reform plan. And his objection is on different grounds than the elimination of SALT (state and local tax) deductibility to which other blue state Republicans object. He is more so concerned about the fairness of ‘corporations’ getting a 20% tax rate versus 30% for ‘pass through’ structures more prevalent among small businesses. So there is another contentious twist on the overall plan’s chance of success.

[Thanks to Financial Times for opening graphic. © 2017 All Rights Reserved.]

Blame it on ‘the medium’
This gets to the overall theme of the ‘macro’ view in this analysis: the Balkanization of the U.S. political system. Many feel this is because of such divergent messages from the Social Liberals versus the Core Conservatives. See the graphic above for the indications of just how polarized the U.S. political system has become. This is also blamed to a goodly degree on various ‘media’ outlets that have gone from objective journalism to partisan coverage.

Yet rather than ‘media’ perhaps it is “the medium” that is the problem. That is consistent with the very prescient views of Marshal McLuhan back in the 1960’s when he noted electric media (television in particular) would destroy existing social structures.

And McLuhan has been more right than he likely possibly could have imagined! The progression beyond initial simple American broadcast TV watching had only evolved into early versions of cable TV back when he was still around (until his death at the end of 1980.) That has of course metamorphosed into the constant and immediate information access that is now available on smartphones and other personal devices.

Page 1 of 5
About the Author

Alan Rohrbach is Lead Analyst and President of Rohr International, Inc.  He is an international equity index, interest rate and foreign exchange trend advisor. His forte is ‘macro-technical’ analysis of how fundamental influences blend with technical aspects to drive trend psychology. Clients include international banks, hedge funds, other portfolio managers and individual traders.