In the 1950s, a long-past GM CEO who had been appointed secretary of defense said that “for years, I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa.” That CEO, Charles Wilson, got misquoted as saying, “What’s good for GM is good for the country.” At the time, it was something to be embarrassed about. Or at least it sounded a little ridiculous to conflate your narrow corporate interests with the collective interests of the country, even if you were the nation’s largest company.
Now, by transforming tax fights into skirmishes over how many jobs this or that tax will “kill,” every single tax becomes something that hurts America. The narrow (and self-serving) interests of every tax-fighting corporation become part of our national project. And the battlefield becomes the competing spreadsheets of political opponents who say that one plan or another will create more jobs, when it’s pretty obvious that no one knows precisely how that whole mechanism works.