Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

“The Big Con”

I’ve recently read a fascinating book by Jonathan Chait, entitled “The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics.” Everyone who is interested in current politics, economics, or, particularly how things in this country got into their current sorry state should read this book.

Chait is a senior editor at New Republic magazine among other journalistic credits. He does not pretend to be non-partisan, but, the facts he cites match up with those I have seen from other sources, so I believe that as far as his factual basis goes, he is on solid ground.
In the first part of the book, he explains that “supply-side economics,” which ALL the Republican leadership, and all the present crop of Republican presidential candidates have signed on to, is bunk. It is based on a hypothesis, commonly known as the “Laffer Curve.” This purports to demonstrate that there is a consistent positive relationship between lower taxes and economic growth, and that tax levels are the single most important factor to be considered in planning for economic growth, essentially outweighing all other factors. In point of fact this conjecture had absolutely no scientific, statistical, or historical underpinnings, and has consistently failed to predict any economic developments since it was propounded in the 1970’s.

So, how has this idea nevertheless become the sole paradigm of Republican economic thought? Shortly after its inception, it was seized upon by a number of ‘small government’ zealots* and aggressively promoted, in large part to the newly rising big business/big money lobbies. After having been caught flatfooted by the wave of liberal-inspired public interest regulations of the early 70’s, Business went into lobbying with a vengeance. Not surprisingly, any policy which would reduce taxation and increase profitability looked just fine to the Business lobby, whether or not the other supposed benefits would actually accrue. With this expressed interest, the Republican party more and more began to see running on a lower tax platform a good way to be elected, which has resulted in a positive feedback loop.

The result, simplified, is that everything you’ve been afraid of about the Republican party becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Business is functionally true. In fact it’s more like that the Party, Big Business, the “K-Street Project” lobbying firms, and the pool of people that move among the three have solidly interlocking interests that work to exclude considerations of tax justice, worker’s or consumer’s rights, or environmental, health, or safety. And, in order to maintain a nominating interest in party organization, they have made an alliance with social conservative Republicans-guaranteeing an emphasis on lip-service to regressive civil rights policies. So far, the social conservatives have not twigged to the fact that they are the very junior partners in this alliance. Wisconsin being a case in point: immediately after getting in office, the Republicans rammed through legislation intended to keep themselves in power and to gratify their corporate sponsors. Now, fifteen months later, and having lost control of the State Senate, they are getting around to jumping on the anti-women’s rights bandwagon and debating onerous limitations on abortion.

I note that this is a 2007 publication: the fact that we haven’t heard more of this book points out another conservative “big lie”—the so-called “liberal media.”

I don’t know what can be done to break up this logjam. I’ve seen modest hopes expressed that either the ethical/moderate wing of the Republican party might break off and form a Centrist party with conservative Democrats, or that the Tea Party might form their own hyper-right party, neither of which I find very likely to occur. All I can suggest is that we continue to get the word out that the current Republican economic platform as stated is based on nothing; and in practice is totally serving the interest of the 1% (actually, the 0.1%--but who’s counting?).

*It may not surprise you to find that one of the early adopters and stalwart advocates of “supply-side economics” was and is former Vice-President Dick Cheney. Given this added to his oil-fueled advocacy of war on Iraq, and his anti-democratic and anti-Constitutional “unitary executive” theory, history may find Cheney to have been the most malign American political figure of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.)

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Tags: politics

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