I have to wonder just what it would take for supporters of conservatives who are part of what’s left of the U.S. middle class, or poor whites to realize that if trickle-down economics were going to work they would have done so by now.
Ask Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Wisconsin how it’s working for them. They went full-bore “supply-side”. Their unemployment is higher than the national average, their budgets are shot to hell, and they’re so broke that their major universities are laying off thousands of professors, facing losing accreditation for law schools, engineering schools, med schools; well, you get the picture.
Here’s a nice visual for supporters of Reaganomics, Supply-side Economics, or any other re-naming of the same old lousy garbage-economics the conservatives have been peddling to unwitting pawns to support even though it’s more harmful to them than anyone.
Let’s say you’re at a party. And at that party, the host has a malfunctioning iPod providing the tunes, but it’s playing the same song over and over. The guests are getting irritated as hell, and they are all trying to get someone to fix it. Now, it’s not only stuck, but the music is kind of lousy to begin with—but there is an even bigger problem:
One small group of the party goers are actual fans of this tune, and to keep their favorite tune playing, they have decided to block anybody who wants to change it…even though the vast majority of other guests would enjoy the party more and would be happier. But the small group of ne’er-do-wells could care less; and they have not only grown confrontational with determination to leave it stuck on the same tune, they become violent and belligerent to make sure it stays the same. They’ve gone so far as breaking glasses, tables, and chairs with no regard for the miserable conditions they’re creating for the rest of the guests.
Unable to reason with the bullies, some concerned bystanders join the disgruntled majority in a half-hearted attempt to end the distress. But it becomes apparent that the small group is determined to take whatever means necessary to maintain their preference and to hell with anybody else; they’ll lie cheat and steal to prove their preference is the only opinion that matters. Somehow, unbelievably, they’ve even convinced others that this is the greatest tune ever written and to listen to the guest who want to change the tune is tantamount to abject treason and letting the others deprive them of their right to listen to the tune they like! So the majority resigns themselves to the just put up with it, and one by one they give up, and go home or just stay and ignore the tune and the lousy, outdated music slogs along, hour after hour.
Such is the state of the American economy. The American people are the partygoers, conservative politicians and their wealthy supporters are the ones who make up the small group who wants everything to stay the same, regardless of the misery it causes the majority, and the music repeating over and over and over is Reagan’s voo-doo, so-called supply-side or Trickle-Down economics.
And it is painfully clear why that small group of people love it so much: Under trickle-down, the economy more than doubled, but the post-tax incomes of the top 1 percent tripled. Unfortunately for everyone else (at least 99 percent of the population), the results have been decidedly painful: The median male worker earned less in 2014 than he did when Reagan took office, and the pre-tax cash wages and salaries for the second and third quintiles (the 20th–40th and 40th–60th ranked percentage of the population by income) dropped by 10 and 5 percent, respectively. Even the relatively rich aren’t having that much fun: wages and salaries of the 81st–90th percentile grew by 27 percent—which is not exactly nothing, but it’s a huge gap from what the richest of the rich are getting. To the extent this scenario can even be compared to a party, I think it’s safe to say…this party sucks.
But if this latest lineup of prominent members of the small group who likes this junk—Rubio, Cruz, Trump, and the rest—have taught us anything, it is that this party can get much, much worse.
Ted Cruz not only plans to play the same music again, he wants to turn the volume up. Of a nearly $12 trillion 10-year personal income tax cut, Cruz would give half to the top 1 percent (just over $400,000 per individual), including 22 percent to the top 0.1 percent (just under $2 million per individual). For those of you keeping score, that leaves a little under 18 percent for the rest of us (four-fifths of the population) to divide among ourselves. But don’t get bent out of shape, because the middle classes’ rates will go down too (by a whopping *extreme sarcasm* 2 percent, or $1,783 per person)!
Like Cruz, Rubio and Trump also want to turn up the volume on trickle-down, but not quite as much: Under their proposals, the top 1 percent keep a mere 70 and 67 percent of their respective multitrillion-dollar cuts.
But that’s all beside the point because, as trickle-down doctrine tells us, once our group guarding the broken iPod have all this extra money, they’re going to spend it on businesses and investments that will boost the economy like we’ve never seen, and really get this party rocking. Well that’s been proven to be pure bullshit.
Now they don’t want you to listen to veritable army of experts who tell us that tax rates do not significantly impact growth in either direction. And for sure, don’t let still more experts who tell us that tax cuts for the wealthy are especially unhelpful. Never mind the fact that, since trickle-down went mainstream, corporations have gone from investing 40 cents of every dollar to improve their products, or improve their equipment, or, god-forgive, give the workers a little taste of their success, to just 10 cents, while they pass more and more profits to wealthy shareholders. And—perhaps most importantly—don’t pay attention that 40 years of actual experience in which trickle-down has completely failed to deliver the promised gains.
But it’s not completely fair to place the blame solely on Republicans and their garbage-based economics. Capital gains taxable rates dropped under Bill Clinton as well as Bush. It turns out the idea of blaming our economic woes on something everyone would prefer to abolish is pretty appealing for those in office, regardless of party affiliation. Unfortunately, we need taxes to pay for the little things, like roads, schools, protection against runaway banks, protection against runaway pollution, protection against all the scams companies love to heap on the general populace, and, yes, the military, that make us a country.
Finally, perhaps the most frustrating part of the continued obsession with tax cuts and trickle-down economics is that proponents want to repeat not only mistakes that we’ve already made but mistakes that we are still making. You see, it’s not as if the Reagan tax cuts were repealed: The top marginal income tax rate was 50 percent prior to Reagan, and the top capital gains rate was 28. Today those rates sit at 39.6 and 23.8 percent, respectively.
Their “tune” is already playing, and even so, the trickle-down partiers who benefit from that obnoxious tune cry, “Play it again! Play it again!”
Call me a wet blanket, but this song just isn’t my thing. And if you’re in the bottom 99.9% like me, I bet you feel the same.
So, in what’s left of this election season, perhaps American policymakers should stop using taxes as a political rallying cry and start talking seriously about the good and bad incentives our tax code creates, our public investment needs, and the distribution of our tax burden.
Maybe then we can have a party where everyone enjoys the tune that’s playing.