There is no real controversy that the Republican tax act will redistribute wealth upwards. Its best friends have persuaded themselves that it will, however, benefit not only the Republican donor class, but the whole country. Most taxpayers will get some tax cut, at least in the first years. Yes, many will become medically uninsured. (That is, they will be “free to choose” between no insurance and insurance they could not begin to afford.) And the cost of health insurance will rise for everyone more than it otherwise would. Still, these and other disadvantages for the poor and middle class will, it is contended, be swamped by the tidal wave of new jobs and other benefits wrought through the economic magic of the supply side. It will not be a trickle down, but a Niagara. People, especially politician people, can persuade themselves of the darndest things when those things coincide nicely with their self-interest.
Let us throw all caution to the wind and make the assumption that this is not wishful fantasy, but reality. The tax cut will benefit the poorest among us. It might then seem that the act would pass muster under John Rawls’s difference principle, which permits measures that increase inequality so long as they benefit the least well off social class. Would the tax cut in fact be just if it benefited everyone at least a little, but increased inequality substantially?