The last 30 years of US economic policy can be largely characterized as a triumph of conservative free market fundamentalism.
It started with Reagan, who wrote the foreword to an edition of Milton Friedman's smug "Free To Choose", thereby endorsing the core themes of modern movement conservatism:
- Government is, for the most part, inept, and therefor bad;
- Ergo, progressive policies economic policies (strong business regulation, minimum wage laws, strong labor rights, Keynesian counter-cyclical fiscal spending & monetary policy, graduated taxes, a broad social safety net to offset negative externalities & other market failures) represent little more than governmental interference that, at best, achieve less optimal results than the market.
- Private enterprise in unfettered free markets is optimally efficient, and therefor good;
- Ergo, conservative policies that limit government's "interference" in the marketplace (minimal to no business regulation, anti-minimum wage laws, anti-labor rights, ever lower taxes [esp. on capital forms of income], Austrian or Chicago School fiscal & monetary policy,
- Rational self-interest - "greed" in the language of most religions; "objectivism" in the words of its crackpot philosopher-apologists - represents the highest moral aspiration, and therefor there is no such thing as the "common good" or the collective welfare.
Bush the Elder, of course, continued the dialogue (the tax increase sin notwithstanding). Among other things, the S&L scandal - a classic example of conservative regulatory policy coming to its logical conclusion - occurred on his watch.
Even Clinton ultimately seems to have been won over to the cause. Pushed by a militant group of Republicon freshmen that seized both houses of Congress, Pres. Clinton enacted NAFTA, implemented anti-progressive Welfare reforms, dismantled the last vestiges of the Depression era legislation separating commercial from investment banking, blocked regulatory oversight of derivatives, and ultimately accepted the "starve the beast" strategy of shrinking government via deficit reduction. He also employed the likes of Larry Summers, Bob Rubin and Roger Altman, and left a lifelong friend and fan of Ayn Rand - Alan Greenspan - in charge of the Federal Reserve.
Finally, conservatism saw its most fullsome, climactic expression in the tax-cutting, [phony] war-fighting, business-friendly anti-government administration of Bush the Younger.
Even Obama appears to have bought into the basic premise of conservative economics: make the rich business interests happy (they are, after all, givernment's primary customer).
What then is the empirical result?
Everything you need to know is right here:
Over the last 30 years, 98% of the growth in national income has been captured by the top 10% (most of which actually goes to the top 1%, actually)... leaving only 2% to be shared amongst the bottom 90%.
A rising tide does not, apparently, lift all boats. It only lifts the yachts.
The rest of us are bailing furiously, trying to stay afloat.
Interestingly, during the preceding 33 years of the post WWII era - which can be characterized as the era of liberal progressivism and Keynesianesque government intervention & regulatory oversight (e.g., the New Deal, the GI Bill, Civil Rights, enhanced labor rights, LBJ's Great Society & War on Poverty, etc.) - yielded dramatically different results:
- Average incomes grew faster (+$19K from 1945~79 versus +$11K during 1980-2008), and
- the richest 10% only got 31% of it,
- while the bottom 90% got 69% of the income growth.
Which era would you prefer to have lived in?
Economic justice is not only morally superior, it yields greater economic growth & national income.
Take that, Ayn Rand. Fuck John Galt and anybody who looks like him. The problem with Galt's enclave of ubermen is that there aren't enough 12-year old girls to kidnap, murder & dissect for the assembled sociopaths... lacking sufficient victims, eventually they must turn on themselves;
Take that, Hayek and von Mises and Rothbard and all you other anti-scientific Austrian School tautologists. You lost the debate during Keynes' lifetime, and could only score points after he was dead. And even then only because ideological allies (such as Patinkin at Chicago) misconstrued & bastardized Keynes' thought. Empirical evidence matters; logic fails when the experiment disproves the hypothesis.
Take that, Paul Ryan. I have to wonder what traumatic event triggered your sociopathic inability to feel empathy for -or- understand the suffering of others?
Obama needs to fire all of his Council of Economic Advisers, and start over with, e.g., Dean Baker, Joseph Stiglitz, Emmanuel Saez, George Akerloff and Mark Thoma..If not, soon there's going to be a revolution, with mobs in the street wearing "Eat The Rich" T-shirts.