Friday, October 15, 2010

Republican + Con-Man = Republicon

Republicon politics is Supply-Side economics.

The heart and soul of Republican political philosophy for the last 30 years is a set of economic policies that:
  • always insist on tax cuts at all times - when the economy is good, bad or indifferent, and regardless of whether the national debt is 35% of GDP or 92% of GDP - which disproportionally favor the wealthiest and/or highest income segment of the population, 
  • discounts the notion that wealthier citizens have an obligation to help their poorer fellow citizens and/or utterly deny that the wealthy have a disproportionate responsibility for supporting government,
  • almost always seek to minimize business regulation and/or enact decidedly pro-business regulations, 
  • seeks to minimize the size, scope & effect of government in the belief that government is inherently a flawed endeavor (except when it comes to what goes on in your bedroom), 
  • assumes the highest pursuit of the nation should be to enable an individual to make as much money as possible (with as little regard of risks to others as can be politically sustained).
At its core, it is a belief system that is essentially Social Darwinism:  survival of the fittest centered on the accumulation of money & wealth.  Don't believe me?

I doubt I can tackle all of my points in a single blog entry, but at least I can show my tax cut claim is observably true (I'll tackle the rest in future blog posts).

Take a look at the chart below. Clearly, the vast majority of the increase in the national debt debt since WW II is attributable to the three Republican administrations existent since the advent of Supply-side economics... during which the three largest tax rate cuts in modern history occurred (at least, since Kennedy's 1960 cuts, anyway). 

Since the end of WW II, U.S. gross federal debt as a percentage of gross domestic product had been on a steady, almost uninterrupted decline through the end of the Carter administration in 1980.  Since then, based on the advice of Jude Wanniski, Art Laffer, Robert Mundell et al, the Reagan administration enacted massive tax cuts and promised they would be paid for by intermediate & long-term economic growth that would swell federal coffers and [at least!] offset any short-term tax expenditures.

A similar rationale - although with somewhat less conviction or prominence, and crafted by different advisers - was offered up for the Bush II tax cuts of 2001 & 2003.  In any case, it didn't happen, as the federal deficit ballooned under Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr., resulting in dramatic national debt increases relative to GDP.

Republican administrations - even with the benefit of majorities in both houses of Congress for most of Bush II's years and a Senate majority for most of Reagan's years - have not found a way to cut spending to pay for tax cuts.  Often they even admit they aren't even really interested in trying (e.g., witness Cheney's oft-quoted remark that "Reagan taught us deficits don't matter.").

Over the long run, as Brad DeLong points out in one of my favorite quotes of all time (see links above or below), even Milton Friedman was wont to say (as he did say when he- as DeLong tells it -yelled at George W. Bush during his 90th birthday celebration at the White House):  to spend is to tax.

Will the spending, and you will the taxes. If somebody claims to have cut your taxes without cutting spending, do not believe them: all they have done is to shift taxes forward into the future, and made taxes on current consumption lower while making taxes on long-term transfers of wealth into the future higher.
Republicans cut taxes, and imposed the burden of their spending on future generations.

And, I would hasten to add, not only that but their tax cuts overwhelmingly favored their obvious preferred constituency: the rich.

As Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty et al have persuasively demonstrated, income inequality in the U.S. has increased dramatically since 1960 [to levels not seen since the Roaring 20s].  Saez, Joel Slemrod and Seth Giertz further show that an equally dramatic flattening of the progressivity of the overall tax burden occurred over the same period.

So, not only did they decide to impose the burden of their tax cuts on future generations, but their priority for doing so was to largely give these tax cuts to the very small, already very wealthy portion of the current population who is least in need of a tax cut?  Interesting choice...

What other priorities do Republicans think are worthy of burdening your children, and my children and even their own children with?

An unnecessary war of choice rationalized by, at best, a willful misreading & misrepresentation of national security intelligence?  Check.  [At worst, possibly sold to the American public by outright lies.]

An incompetently prosecuted, under-resourced war of democracy- and nation-building in a place where we are neither trusted, respected nor welcome, and which has not had a credible democratically elected government for 50 years?  Check.

Further extension of upper income tax rate cuts for the wealthiest 2%?  Check.
Permanent elimination of the estate tax (again, which primarily benefits only the very wealthiest segment of society)?  Check
An expanded conventional military to project American exceptionalism out into the broader world, plus showy-but-technologically-infeasible Star Wars systems, despite the lack of a serious threat from foreign power threat?  Check.

More interesting choices...

And yet, after having run the ship of state aground from abandoning regulatory responsibilities and exploding the national debt burden, which [finally!] led the voting public to boot them from power (and requiring a classic Keynesian fiscal response to resuscitate a moribund economy), they have the amazing gall to immediately turn around and blame Obama and the Democrats?

If that is not the utter height of hypocrisy, I don't know what is.  As angry as voters are, I hope they are not so mad as to have forgotten how to think clearly.

Greg Mankiw Quits the New York Times? - Grasping Reality with Both Hands: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

No comments:

Post a Comment