It has been thirty years since Americans elected a b-movie actor on the promise of economic prosperity. His plan, and by “his plan” I mean the plan of his handlers, was to sell the public on the idea that if you put more money in the hands of the wealthy it would eventually trickle down to the middle class and poor. So we embarked on a policy of reducing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, people who had already seen their taxes slowly lowered over the previous thirty years, with predictable results.
“The rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer” was the common observation throughout the eighties. It continued to be true through the nineties, but there was so much wealth for the upper class and upper middle class, the people who through opportunity to vote and direct access to elected officials have undo influence on our politics, that no one paid attention. Just look at all these new housing developments, we told ourselves, someone has to be doing OK. It was true, someone was doing OK, just not most Americans.
Most Americans have been stuck on a treadmill for the last thirty plus years. They grind away, hoping they don’t miss more than one paycheck a year, because that is when things start getting really ugly. Not for those people who were supposed to be trickling that extra wealth down us though. No, they get by just fine outsourcing jobs to underdeveloped nations. They get by just fine getting the government to force hard-working Americans to sell them their property at “fair” market value so they can build another big box store. They get by paying less in taxes than the rest of us by putting their money in offshore tax havens. Since they are doing just fine, they, and the media they control have told us America is doing just fine, and we believe it.
We get excited that the Dow Jones breaks records, meaning more money for the 1% but continued economic uncertainty for the rest of us. We get excited to hear about the economic success of our country’s multi-billionaires. We fall for all this flash that we ignore the substance. We ignore the fact that the middle class is perilously close to falling over that ledge. School loans, once kept at low to no interest to boost our country’s talent pool have blown up, making our graduates eager to work at any wage just to keep their creditors at bay. Health care, a basic human right, and a basic duty of government if one believes that the basic duty of government is the security of its people, has become big business, and another threat to keep the frightened workforce docile.
The outcomes of World War II and the New Deal showed us that Keynsian economics works. We need a healthy welfare state to maintain a stable and growing economy. After all, if no one can buy our goods, how can we sell them? The plutocrats don’t want that though. They want you to believe that those beneath you are dragging you down so you don’t realize that it is they who are pushing you down. They believe they can keep playing this dangerous game of economic Russian roulette and it will not bite them in the backside. For a few of them I am sure it is true. Eventually though, they will have no one left to cannibalize. They will have to sacrifice their own to keep the game going, and soon, the game will collapse. Soon everyone, rich and poor, will drown on what’s been trickling down.
- Robert Reich: The Fed, Apple and Trickle-Down Economics (huffingtonpost.com)
- Tax avoidance and the myth of trickle down wealth (leftfootforward.org)
- I am still waiting for my share of the “trickle-down” economy! (americanliberaltimes.com)
- The Rise of the Corporate State (firedoglake.com)