Bill de Blasio came to Washington in January promising to defend “strong capitalism” against the “Trumpaire economics” of the top 1 percent. The New York City mayor portrayed the Republican tax law as the latest example of a pro-corporate, anti-worker bill being forced down the throats of the American people, and complained that the new tax law punished the poor with the child tax credit while giving wealthy Americans relief through the cut in the corporate tax rate.
In Washington, de Blasio had a target. And he hit it. The Washington Post reported that the Wall Street Journal, which has been critical of the tax bill, was investigating “whether the mayor and other New York Democrats tried to pressure Journal reporters or editors into joining a campaign to undermine the bill.” Former New York Times economics writer Paul Krugman fired back, tweeting, “’Strong capitalism’ is a phrase borrowed from Lenin and a stick of dynamite to the fairness and economy of the United States.” And nowhere was the ire on display more visibly than at this week’s gathering of the New America Foundation, where de Blasio gave a progressive-class warfare speech inspired by his Saturday rant before the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Thus, de Blasio came to Washington this week with the sound of someone who has finally recognized his powerful foil, and with a definitive marker in hand. “Wall Street’s profit grab is no longer just a concern for conservatives or Republicans,” de Blasio said Wednesday. “The fact that the top 1 percent holds 47 percent of the wealth in this country, while the bottom 90 percent owns only 5 percent, can no longer be accepted as normal.”
If the real Bannon speaks, then America has a big fight on its hands.
The good news for the administration, including the president himself, is that de Blasio was left no alternative but to push back on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
President Trump could no longer support the new tax law, and unlike De Blasio, had nothing to offer as an alternative. He could find no Democrat with whom he could connect, and his symbolic introduction at the recent White House Correspondents’ Dinner—and the prelude with a conventional-versus-quasi-libertarian kind of theme that did not resemble what he really cares about—was a significant anticlimax.
Enter de Blasio. He left Washington with a clear issue: Wall Street’s new luxury-tax rate. To be fair, de Blasio doesn’t have the agenda—or the political capital—to move the ball forward from here. He’s trying to fix capitalism. And frankly, that’s where the rubber meets the road. If the real Bannon speaks, then America has a big fight on its hands.
Dana Milbank is a national correspondent for The Washington Post and a Washington Post media columnist. He served as White House correspondent and ombudsman from 1987-1993, and was also a White House reporter from 1966-1977.