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Monday, December 19, 2011

Economist Jeffrey Sachs Says Raise Taxes To Save Civilization

Congress is deadlocked with another bitter debate over tax cuts and government spending and economist Jeffrey Sachs says his profession is partly to blame.

Economics, he says, has been wrong on taxes and government for the last 30 years. Relying on the theories of free-marketers like Frederich Hayek and Milton Friedman, most economists approved lowering taxes on top earners and deregulation of industry as a way of fostering economic growth.

The result, says Sachs, has been a disaster — “the U.S. is unilaterally ceding its global leadership in education, science, and infrastructure.” Sachs is critical of both parties, saying of President Obama, “His entire economic program rests on a fiscal fallacy,” because the President promises continued low taxes even as he talks about investing in America’s future.

Sachs says America’s economic problems cannot be solved by tinkering with monetary policy at the Federal Reserve. He says it will take significantly higher taxes and a more active government to restore America’s economy and culture.

Critics, like Republican Congressman Paul Ryan accuse Sachs of wanting “to replace the vision of [America's] Founders.”


  • Jeffrey Sachs, economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. His new book is “The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity”

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  • J Frog

    I tuned this guest out when he attacked Paul Ryan…not for his ideas…but by implying that he was corrupt and in the pocket of big business.  Like his ideas or not…Paul Ryan seems (to me) to be an earnest person trying to do the right thing.  Even if you don’t believe that, why not argue the facts and policies instead of ad hominen attacks?  

    • Stan Duncan

      I agree with your point. He should have stuck to the ideas of Ryan. He was clearly angry and slid away from his arguments and into a personal attack. It is, of course, quite possible that Ryan really is in the pocket of big business, but that’s another story for another time. Sachs did himself and his points a disservice by caving into his anger instead of staying on focus. It caused good people like you who probably would have benefited from what he had to say, to turn him off and not hear the big picture message that we are starving our country into a third world status by being afraid to raise the taxes to pay for the things that have made us a great nation. 

    • Ted Paxton

      Are you being serious?  Two sentences about Paul Ryan, which is pretty mild considering what I hear the majority of “talkers” say each day about the president and other  politicians, and that gets you so upset that you “tuned out”?  You must be pretty thin-skinned, not sure how you get through each day being that sensitive.  I’ll be watching for your comments the next time a capitalist says something along the same lines.  I’m sure you will be just as outraged    :-7

      And, BTW, Ryan does take money that runs in opposition of helping the middle class, although he’s not the only one, because both parties do, so I think the comparison is pretty accurate:


      • J Frog

        I didn’t see anything in your link showing Ryan “in opposition to helping the middle class”….but you are probably right about the “thin skinned” part  :-)…as far as “I’ll be watching for your comments the next time a capitalist….”… we”ll probably have a long wait before we get one of those on NPR. :-)

    • willschroeder

      you didn’t like what he said.. so you stopped listening.   typical of any party left or right who only listen to people of like minded..   listen to the other party and you might learn something.

  • JD Rockefeller

    The whole “raise taxes on the rich” thing is off base. Better – and more accurate – would be to demand those who benefit most from the American system be required to PAY market ratesfor their advantages.

  • BHA in Vermont

    Everything is short term for both parties, plan for the next election. Same for CEOs and Execs of big companies – plan for the next quarter and personal short term ‘performance’ bonuses.

  • BHA in Vermont

    Naw, someone worth $5M could not POSSIBLY make do if they shelled out $50K in extra tax.

    Capitalism DOES NOT MEAN “steal from the poor and middle class with what ever laws you can pass”. It means PRIVATE ownership of the means to make goods and services to sell at a profit.

    The former is class warfare.

  • CreekProf

    As with most liberal politicians and social sciences academics, Sachs thinks the answer is to raise taxes. Why not try something innovative for once? Why not stop the out of control government spending? Hey! Now there’s a thought!

  • It

    Your guest was not worth your time.  It was obvious he was too emotionally
    attached to the topic.  The guest should
    study his history.  The income tax was first
    sold to us with the caveat that it was only on the rich.  Now he is debating the amount on us all.  When the government gets an income stream it
    will do all it can to expand that stream.

  • Smhboston

    Robin Young doesn’t understand the information,  so cannot have an intelligent conversation about this, or help enlighten anyone. She is not alone – most media hosts/interviewers cannot seem to grasp the most simple concepts about our economy.  They continue to misinform the people, and make a bad situation worse.  While half of Americans are now considered low income, and more each day are falling into poverty, the wealthiest have not only seen their money grow obscenely, they have record low taxes levied against that income. The debate in Washington right now is over a 2 month extension of a 2% cut in the social security tax, which only effects those making less than 105K per year. If you are not horrified that this is the big debate, than you do not understand the big picture either. If you do not understand that low income Americans pay more in taxes proportionately to income than do wealthy Americans – taxes by the way that fund roads, ports, fire, police, schools, defense, community programs, etc. that the rich make use of also, and make this a civilization in the first place, than you do not know enough be commenting. If you choose to remain ignorant, please have the decency to keep your mouth shut, and your thoughts to yourself.

  • Archie Douglas

    Can someone direct me to the study Sachs cited about 1 in 2 Americans now living in sub-standard circumsances (I forget the exact words)?  Regardless of one’s opinion on Sachs’ argument, that data would be interesting to look at.

  • NMcM

    I couldn’t agree more with Sachs that it’s time to grow up and pay for the services we use/demand for what he correctly calls “a decent society.” I live in California, home of the tax revolution, where people think the good life is free, like the good weather.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/William-Delano-Gaston/1051430158 William Delano Gaston

    He DOES want to replace the vision of the founders.  YOu people believing this garbage are one step away from socialism!

    You try to blame the free market?  We havn’t had a TRUE free market since the civil war, and arguably not even then.

    Anyone who gets their news from CNN or FOX needs to have their head examined.  These people are the same people who told us there was no incoming housing collapse and subprime loans were safe.  The same people who filled our heads with propoganda 24-7 so that we would be ok with going to war with Iraq for no reason.

    These people now have you convinced that there is no spending problem!  What is WRO”NG with you?  There is only ONE candidate running for the GOP who has proposed ACTUAL spending cuts that would remove our deficit in ONE YEAR!  All the others just want to TAX MORE!

    You do NOT stimulate spending by taking MORE of peoples money!  Taxes had to be amended into the constitution, it’s not even the original intention! 

    Now we have a huge bureacracy running our education, housing, pharaceuticals….and you liberals want to let them continue and give them even MORE money?  And then pay for it by RAISING TAXES?!?!


    Google Ron Paul.  If you can’t handle the truth, then keep electing puppet presidents and then pointing fingers to the other side of the aisel.  Both party’s get their campaign funds from lobbhyists.

    Ron Paul is the ONLY candidate on BOTH sides of the aisle who does not accept one dime from lobbyists or special interest groups.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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