Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thou Shalt Not Question Supply-Side Jesus

Over at Hullabaloo, David Atkins (thereisnospoon) has an excellent short post:

Has anyone in the media considered asking the Republican presidential hopefuls a few simple questions:

• In real dollar terms, how much more money do the rich need before they can create jobs?

• What would happen to the economy if we returned to Clinton era tax rates on the rich?

• Do you know what the marginal tax rates were under Eisenhower? Under Nixon? Why do you think the American economy was booming under those tax rates?

• What did an average college education cost at a public university in the 1960s? Why do we force our kids into a lifetime of student loan debt today?

• If the entire economy is hurting and everyone needs to tighten their belts in shared sacrifice, why are corporations showing record profits?

• Do tax cuts increase or decrease revenue? What tax rate percentage would change that equation?

Any one of these questions would throw the entire conservative messaging agenda on its ear. They're really simple questions, and they're pretty much the core questions that need answering.

And yet no one in the media is asking these questions. Which tells you everything you need to know.

I would love to see this actually happen. By all means, political figures should be able to make whatever claims they want, but it's unconscionable that even when they make outrageously false statements, they've rarely fact-checked or challenged. Conservatives have been making ridiculousy false claims about economics and taxes for decades now, yet they're rarely contested.

It's also crucial to recognize how much of conservative economic dogma is spouted in bad faith. Here's a Jonathan Chait piece from October 2010 I've featured before:

In 1993, conservatives unanimously predicted that Bill Clinton's tax increase on incomes over $200,000 would slow growth, reduce tax revenues, and likely cause a recession. Instead, of course, the economy boomed and revenue skyrocketed. Then George W. Bush cut upper-bracket tax rates, and conservatives predicted that this would cause the economy to grow even faster. Instead, the economy experienced the first business cycle where income was lower at the peak of the business cycle than it had been at the peak of the previous business cycle. It is rare that events so utterly repudiate an economic theory.

None of this evidence has penetrated the conservative mind to the slightest degree. Reading the right-wing press, it is exactly as true today as it was 18 years ago that reducing Clinton-era upper-bracket tax rates holds the key to economic growth. (The latest Weekly Standard editorial: The best place to combine fiscal rectitude and pro-growth economics is the tax code. "After repealing Obama-care, the second agenda item for the new GOP Congress is extending current tax rates.")

Paul Krugman, Digby and others have made this same basic point as well. Stop to really consider what it is, because it can't be overemphasized. Let's be charitable, and posit that the conservatives of just a decade or two ago truly, sincerely believed that Reaganomics, supply-side economics and big tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans really would help the economy and that raising taxes even extremely slightly on the rich would hurt it. Okay. But they were given proof positive that they were completely, utterly wrong on both counts.

Despite this – despite this being basic, public knowledge – despite it being the job of politicos to follow politics and study at least some rudimentary policy and recent history – despite the health of the economy being a central concern of every politician – we hear conservatives spouting the same falsehoods today.

Hmm. How could this be?

In stupid-evil-crazy terms, some may be genuinely dumb. Some others may be such zealots they have no interest in objective reality. Still others, a larger group, are bullshitters, in the sense that they simply don't care whether what they're saying is true or not; shilling for the rich pays well. And some know damn well what they're pitching is completely false.

Regardless, they should know better, and most do. I get very tired of people insisting that obvious scoundrels are arguing in good faith. If Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Mitt Romney and the rest really cared about stimulating the economy rather than funneling even more money to the plutocrats, they wouldn't completely ignore recent history. If they were honorable people and sincerely wrong, when reality showed that they were wrong, they would have changed their approach.

This is, once again, why "common ground" is so elusive. Virtually no Republicans care about responsible governance, and for decades now (starting with Reagan) they have abandoned fiscal responsibility. They serve only 25% of the populace at best, and truly only serve the richest 2%. The Republican approach, a reckless, mean and plutocratic one, interferes with a healthy economy, a functioning government and a functioning democracy.

There's much more on all this in "Attack of the Plutocrats," "Tax Cuts to the Rich Don't Raise Revenues," "The Persistence of Ideology," and most recently, "Extremism in Defense of Nihilism Is a Vice." (I'm overdue on a few follow-up posts.)

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