The Reagan Legacy

Here is 30 years’ worth of Reaganomics / Trickle-Down Economics / Supply-Side Economics / Voodoo Economics in one chart: 

And another, for good measure: 

 

The wealth. It didn’t trickle down. Let’s revive the middle class. End the experiment. 

Clarence Revote Budget : Tip of the Iceberg

Clarence overwhelmingly passed its revote budget last night. So did most other revote budget districts – Bemus Point passed its original, above-cap budget, but Wilson will be finding out about austerity next year.

In Clarence, 5,358 voted – less than May 21st’s record, but about double what the town usually sees for school vote turnout. On May 21st, 8,232 people voted, and the results were No: 4,801 Yes: 3,431

Last night, we had 3,541 yes votes and 1,817 voted no. That means we gained about 100 yes votes, and the no votes stayed home in droves. To the extent that the formerly warring factions came together last week to urge, in unison, a “yes” vote on this revote budget, we didn’t get a lot more “yes”, but at least the “no” weren’t energized enough to make the trip anymore.

A quality education is something to which every child is entitled (yes, entitled). There is a concerted effort underway in this country to dismantle the very things that helped lurch us from a frontier backwater into the superpower we are today. There is an organized and well-funded movement to fight a war on the middle class, protecting and comforting the very rich while punishing the poor and destroying the middle class that built this country.

On June 6th, serial entrepreneur Nick Hanauer testified before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs. (Website here) I think that what he said is a fundamental truth that helps inform why providing equal opportunity for America’s middle class families to thrive, excel, and do better each day as compared to the last.

For 30 years, Americans on the right and left have accepted a particular explanation for the origins of Prosperity in capitalist economies. It is that rich business people like me are “Job Creators.” That if taxes go up on us or our companies, we will create fewer jobs. And that the lower our taxes are, the more jobs we will create and the more general prosperity we’ ll have. Read more

We Are the Job Creators

A lot of what I learned as a political science major in the late 1980s is now obsolete – with a particular interest in Eastern European studies, all of my textbooks became woefully outdated between August and December 1989.  

But among my studies of why Weimar failed and analyses of Milovan Djilas’ New Class, I also recall that the American struggle for independence, the Civil War, and the European upheaval of 1848 were “bourgeois revolutions” and direct or indirect offspring of the Enlightenment.  A phrase that gets thrown about quite frequently in contemporary American politics is “class warfare”, but that’s absolute nonsense. The United States doesn’t have anywhere near the class conflict of, say, the UK. After all, we banned nobility and titles. 

The irony, of course, is that the notion of class struggle being a political struggle is an inherently Marxist concept. So, welcome to Marxism, Republicans!

These bourgeois revolutions generally replaced nobility and power-through-hereditary-entitlement with the rule of law and representative democracy. Some worked, others didn’t.  But in the United States, at least, the post-Civil-War 14th Amendment paved the way for the society we have today. But our national priorities and policies since the early 1980s have uniformly helped the very rich and harmed the middle class and working class. Unions are weaker, your purchasing power is stagnant, your earnings have stayed about the same.  Average Americans’ savings have declined, debt is up, trickle-down is a myth, and wealth has become ever-more concentrated, rather than spread around widely. 

So, as part of its “Ideas Worth Spreading”, the TED series of talks invited Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer to speak on March 1 at the “TED University conference”.  Hanauer’s topic was income inequality, and he argued that it was the middle class, and not wealthy entrepreneurs who are the true “job creators”.  TED, however, won’t release video of the speech. Too political. Too controversial. So, here it is

It is astounding how significantly one idea can shape a society and its policies.  Consider this one.

If taxes on the rich go up, job creation will go down.  

This idea is an article of faith for republicans and seldom challenged by democrats and has shaped much of today’s economic landscape.

But sometimes the ideas that we know to be true are dead wrong. For thousands of years people were sure that earth was at the center of the universe.  It’s not, and an astronomer who still believed that it was, would do some lousy astronomy.  

In the same way, a policy maker who believed that the rich and businesses are “job creators” and therefore should not be taxed, would make equally bad policy.  

I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated.

That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is a “circle of life” like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than a capitalist like me. 

Read more

Propaganda Minister Luntz

Republican Minister of Propaganda, Frank Luntz, is advising his underlings in the party, and its official organ, <<Fox News>> to modify the language they use in discussing the #Occupy movement. The reason? The Republicans’ unifying theme: fear.

“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist and one of the nation’s foremost experts on crafting the perfect political message. “They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”

Luntz, of course, is being too clever with that. #Occupy isn’t opposed to capitalism; it’s opposed to a crony capitalism that’s arisen in this country thanks to the ultra-rich, their Washington lobbyists, and compliant, greedy pols. From Luntz’s drecking points memo:

1. Don’t say ‘capitalism.’

“I’m trying to get that word removed and we’re replacing it with either ‘economic freedom’ or ‘free market,’ ” Luntz said. “The public . . . still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we’re seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we’ve got a problem.”

Interesting that, for all of their loud attacks against Obama’s brand of Kenyan socialism, the Republican pollster’s focus groups thinks capitalism is “immoral”.

2. Don’t say that the government ‘taxes the rich.’ Instead, tell them that the government ‘takes from the rich.’

“If you talk about raising taxes on the rich,” the public responds favorably, Luntz cautioned. But  “if you talk about government taking the money from hardworking Americans, the public says no.Taxing, the public will say yes.”

Government takes money from everybody.  It’s the price we pay for a civilized, Western, First-World society.

3. Republicans should forget about winning the battle over the ‘middle class.’ Call them ‘hardworking taxpayers.’

“They cannot win if the fight is on hardworking taxpayers. We can say we defend the ‘middle class’ and the public will say, I’m not sure about that. But defending ‘hardworking taxpayers’ and Republicans have the advantage.”

And with that, the Republicans acknowledge that they have abandoned the middle class altogether. It’s as if the United States wasn’t the embodiment of the oldest and most established anti-feudal bourgeois revolution(s) in history. (Plural because I’m including the Civil War as the second American bourgeois revolution).

4. Don’t talk about ‘jobs.’ Talk about ‘careers.’

“Everyone in this room talks about ‘jobs,'” Luntz said. “Watch this.”

He then asked everyone to raise their hand if they want a “job.” Few hands went up. Then he asked who wants a “career.” Almost every hand was raised.

“So why are we talking about jobs?”

Because you can’t have a career if you don’t have a job, and right now we have a jobs crisis. Mass layoffs and slow hiring lead to an unemployment malaise and record corporate profits. When those companies start realizing that unemployed people can’t buy their tchotchkes, they’ll find themselves in quite a pickle. The economy trickles up, not down.

5. Don’t say ‘government spending.’ Call it ‘waste.’

“It’s not about ‘government spending.’ It’s about ‘waste.’ That’s what makes people angry.”

Is it waste when those “Me Generation” boomers start whining about the government keeping its grubby hands off their Medicare?

6. Don’t ever say you’re willing to ‘compromise.’

“If you talk about ‘compromise,’ they’ll say you’re selling out. Your side doesn’t want you to ‘compromise.’ What you use in that to replace it with is ‘cooperation.’ It means the same thing. But cooperation means you stick to your principles but still get the job done. Compromise says that you’re selling out those principles.”

Of course not! The Republicans have shown us over the last 2 years that compromise is anathema to them. Why would we have two two-party deliberative legislatures if the Founding Fathers expected there to be “compromise”? That’s un-American treason, for God’s sake!

7. The three most important words you can say to an Occupier: ‘I get it.’

“First off, here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ . . . ‘I get that you’re angry. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.”

Then, he instructed, offer Republican solutions to the problem.

That’s what my tween girl says to me when she gets mouthy after getting in trouble. It sounds condescending and rude. Sort of like the contemporary Republican Party.

8. Out: ‘Entrepreneur.’ In: ‘Job creator.’

Use the phrases “small business owners” and “job creators” instead of “entrepreneurs” and “innovators.”

Entrepreneur is a French word. France is communist and permissive.

9. Don’t ever ask anyone to ‘sacrifice.’

“There isn’t an American today in November of 2011 who doesn’t think they’ve already sacrificed. If you tell them you want them to ‘sacrifice,’ they’re going to be be pretty angry at you. You talk about how ‘we’re all in this together.’ We either succeed together or we fail together.”

I don’t know how this jibes with the Republicans going out of their way to screw the middle class, “hardworking Americans of less means than Trump” but I’m sure they have it figured out.

10. Always blame Washington.

Tell them, “You shouldn’t be occupying Wall Street, you should be occupying Washington. You should occupy the White House because it’s the policies over the past few years that have created this problem.”

Actually, no. It’s the policies that have been bought off through lobbying by the wealthy that have created this problem. If Washington had balls, a moral compass, discipline, and a true desire to fix problems rather than just win elections, this would be moot. The solution isn’t to occupy the White House; the solution is to get money out of politics. Want to blame Washington? Blame the Supreme Court.

BONUS:

Don’t say ‘bonus!’

Luntz advised that if they give their employees an income boost during the holiday season, they should never refer to it as a “bonus.” 

“If you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you’re going to make people angry. It’s ‘pay for performance.'”

Semantic newspeak. “Orwellian” doesn’t begin to describe the Luntz-Fox axis.

Class Warfare

Here’s a Presidential follow-up to this post from earlier this week. Sure, there’s class warfare going on, but it’s being waged by the Republican Party against the American wage-earning middle class.

Statement by the President

Tonight, Senate Republicans chose to raise taxes on nearly 160 million hardworking Americans because they refused to ask a few hundred thousand millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.  They voted against a bill that would have not only extended the $1,000 tax cut for a typical family, but expanded that tax cut to put an extra $1,500 in their pockets next year, and given nearly six million small business owners new incentives to expand and hire.  That is unacceptable.  It makes absolutely no sense to raise taxes on the middle class at a time when so many are still trying to get back on their feet.

Now is not the time to put the economy and the security of the middle class at risk. Now is the time to rebuild an economy where hard work and responsibility pay off, and everybody has a chance to succeed.  Now is the time to put country before party and work together on behalf of the American people.  And I will continue to urge Congress to stop playing politics with the security of millions of American families and small business owners and get this done.