Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One Size Fits All Economics

Remember when people called the Republican Party "the party of ideas"?! It never was, really, (list 5 important "ideas" the Republicans have generated in since 1995 when Newt Gingrich, the "big thinker" took over - go ahead, I dare you) but through much of the last 10 or 15 years it was a great marketing slogan. Branding, I think they call it.

Still, it is stunning that in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression that the Congressional Republicans have only one thing to say. Like that weird section of the Beatles' "Revolution #9" which just keeps repeating "#9," Republicans keep whining: tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.

This isn't only a measure of the complete poverty of ideas that the Republican Bund suffers, though it certainly is that. Instead, it is an honest reminder of what economic policy means for Republicans. Most of us, I suspect, think of economic policy as a way to pursue the common good - we might debate what that means and how best to achieve it, but we probably agree that economic policy should be shaped to foster those goals.

The goal for Republicans since 1981 has been single-minded: transfer money from the middle class to the rich. Contrary to what you hear from the Cato Institute and other right-wing assisted living centers, Republicans aren't interested in small government, or even free markets. Not when big government and manipulated markets have proven so much more effective at shifting wealth to the top.

And the fastest, easiest, most politically successful way to do that is through tax cuts of the sort that Reagan and Bush II enacted. (That so many Joe-the-Plumbers, who would have done better personally under Democratic tax plans, went along for the ride measures poverty of a different sort).

Go back to those bygone days of 2000. Remember the balanced budget? Remember the budget surplus? As a candidate, Bush sold his big "soak the middle class" tax cuts as a moral imperative: the government shouldn't keep a budget surplus - we had to give it back! As president, when the dot com bubble burst and the nation slipped into the first Bush recession, he announced that those very same tax cuts were the only thing that would stimulate the economy.

So no matter what the economic climate, no matter what the social problem, tax cuts are the solution to everything. Don't have health care? How about a tax cut! Schools are failing - cut taxes! Got male-pattern baldness - you need a tax cut!

In fairness, Republican tax cuts have been successful at making the rich richer. But speaking about the Great Depression - which resulted from Republican economic policies that look awfully familiar - Roosevelt was right in 1936 when he called Republicans "economic royalists." The only question worth asking, as Bob Herbert did in his Times column yesterday, is: why should we bother listening to Republicans who can only say #9, #9, #9, #9. . .


Schultz said...

In the current House stimulus bill I think both the Democrats and Republicans are to blame for the $825 billion bill being comprised of nearly $300 billion in tax cuts. The only difference between the two parties is who is getting the tax cuts. In an economic stimulus bill I would rather have the money to those individuals who will spend it - or small businesses, which, to be fair, is something the Republicans want more of. But again, both parties are to blame here because this bill should be about creating jobs through spending on fixing our aging infrastructure and building new infrastructure for clean energy and transportation. The bills fails on both counts because only a small amount of the bill is spent on these projects. Only about $25 billion is going towards energy related projects and research. About $10 billion is appropriated to rail and public transportation projects, while $30 billion is going towards our highways. I can't say who is to blame for the billions of pork in the bill but I think most of the bill was authored by the House Dems. Obama said he "did not have a hand in the authorship" of this legislation. Shame on them for now putting their President in a tough position. In order to do what is best for the country he now has to piss off his own party by having them strip the bill of all of the pork. I think he should also force a compromise on getting more of those tax cuts to small businesses since they are the ones who will be creating most of the jobs. I did some analysis of the bill over at "Green is Good."

likwidshoe said...

Keeping more of your own money is a "wealth transfer"?

Steve Conn, you're ass backwards.

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