COUNTING ON DEMENTIA: REPUBLICAN ECONOMICS

It is common knowledge that the Republican base is comprised almost entirely of aging or elderly white Americans, prone naturally to bouts of forgetting. However, the rest of the country, unlike this relatively small sliver, certainly represents more robust and colorful demographics.

Yet, the unembarrassed and unashamed zeal with which Republicans continue to serve up their historically failed, and recently, catastrophically failed economic prescriptions surely must expect the ravages of severe memory loss of all who are within listening range.

Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, whose economic conservatism either led to the creation of, or ho-hummed in the face of the Great Depression were names synonymous with mud for many a decade after, except for the most rabid reactionaries (a small segment of Republicans then, the mainstream now). Likewise, the nation was in large part cured of and cleansed of dumb economic ideas and dumb economic practices for more than three decades. Then Ronald Reagan came to town. And he brought what Poppy Bush called “Voodoo economics” otherwise known as “supply side” or “trickle-down”. Call it anything you want, it has never worked.

Its basic claim is that the wealthy are so critical to the well-being of all ordinary Earthly creatures that any amount of taxes taken from them is an endangerment to the well-being of all, that not only by allowing them to keep all of their money will the economy boom, but it will boom so heartily deficits will disappear, and prosperity will “trickle down” to the lowliest of us as all as surely as god made little green ashtrays. As expected by everyone except those promoting the scheme, the slashing of taxes punched a hole the size of Bolivia in the federal budget; the pre-tax and after-tax income of the wealthiest Americans rose astronomically; working Americans increased their productivity as they always had, while their pay remained completely stagnant as the growth of GDP flowed to places above them, and stayed there. In other words, failure on every count.

Clinton, in the face of warnings of certain and imminent economic collapse by virtually every Republican or conservative taking breaths, raised taxes and eventually balanced the budget, leaving at the end of his second term a 200 billion dollar plus surplus after the greatest economic boom since after the war. And then George W. Bush came to town.

And here we went again but even worse. In a cosmological fluke of major gravity, Republicans found themselves controlling both houses of congress and the executive branch. Once in power, the spending-haters began to spend the bank dry as they always have been wont to do, leaving nothing left in the treasury for anything other than their own now well satisfied priorities (two wars and two tax cuts for the wealthiest) and in the process creating debt and deficit exploitable for destroying the social contract and American progress. Remember?

To recap, we had thirty years of lower and lower taxes on the wealthy, culminating now in the lowest in modern times, and overall the smallest amount of revenue paid in taxes by Americans since god was young; deregulation of business, and in particular lax regulation of banking and finance; and the dismantling of labor unions…in other words, the Republican bucket list. And what we did we get? Incomes stagnated, debt went up, GDP was sluggish. The wealthy took their money and squandered it in risky financial gambling rather than funneling it to their employees in better incomes, or investing it in job-creating or economically useful ventures, until at last the bottom fell out. It is simply not possible for policies to fail any more vastly, any more profoundly and any more conspicuously.

So naturally, now, Republicans insist on all but shutting down the nation’s legislative business at every turn, threatening an unprecedented national default and its consequences unless the nation continues to double down once again and commit itself in perpetuity to an economic model that has failed the nation for thirty years. Yes, no small portion of blame goes to the dunderheads who voted for these charlatans against their own economic interests in the 2010 elections. Dementia, indeed, one can only conclude.

Of course, it would make a lot more difference if it wasn’t me and any number of writers, historians, economists and pundits exhorting the nation to remember this, but Barack Obama himself, each and every day and at the top of his lungs, recalling this vivid and oh so recent history. The rest of elected Democratic officials as well.

Yes, Republicans are in the grip of a certain ideological madness and an ongoing pathology of wishful thinking and stubborn intransigence that their economic beliefs and ironclad prejudices are divinely inspired and close to earthly perfection. But that is no excuse on the part of Obama and Democrats. So here we are, Republicans threatening to hold their breath and turn blue until the economy goes entirely out the window (creating such misery and chaos they will pick the pieces of power up and put them together again under Republican rule, according to their expectations). And every Republican candidate for president is shouting the same old economic voodoo, or even more extreme versions of it from the rooftops now, as if it were the cure for baldness, mortality and the common cold, rather than a history and mathematically defiant death star.

As it is, if you weren’t living through this, you later could never be convinced it actually happened.

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