The New Republican Trickle Down Con

Paul Ryan - Reagan 2.0We liberals have got to find a better way to point out the nonsense of Republican economic policy. Last night, Jonathan Weisman at The New York Times wrote, Obama’s Plans for Deficit and Taxes Are Detailed on Eve of Budget Proposal. In it, he quoted Paul Ryan repeating what is the most annoying Republican talking point in a decade, “The Obamanomics that we’re practicing now have exacerbated inequality. They’ve exacerbated stagnation. They’re made things worse.”

This is the same argument that Republicans have been making for decades, although in different words. Since the Democrats — just thirty years late — have decided to talk about income inequality, the Republicans have decided to grab the issue themselves. Certainly, this is at its base just more, “I’m rubber and you’re glue.” But at a minimum, it muddies the water. It now seems to be the case that everyone “cares” about economic inequality. At Davos this year, even the billionaires were stroking their chins in its direction.

Marketplace Magic: And Then a Miracle Occurs - Income InequalityOf course, the folks at Davos were not talking about food stamps and low income housing. Those kinds of programs would require that the rich sacrifice something — at least temporarily. That’s unacceptable. The Republicans are exactly the same way. For example, Ryan said, “It’s hard to imagine the president is going to want to work with Congress on entitlement reform.” Entitlement reform?! That’s the great idea to mitigate economic inequality?

This shows that the Republicans don’t care about income inequality. Just as with healthcare reform, their answer for income inequality is a collection of policies they always want. It’s like that old cartoon: income inequality will be fixed by some special feature of the free market, even though all the free market “reforms” enacted over the last four decades are what have made inequality so much worse.

So how should liberals counter these claims by the Republicans? What we can’t do is what Jonathan Chait did, Paul Ryan’s Most Shameless Lie Ever. He argued that Obama’s policies have reduced inequality — they just haven’t reduced it enough to overcome the structural forces that are causing more inequality. He’s right. But I wouldn’t give Obama too much credit there. Like the whole New Democratic movement, Obama is very much in favor of those very same structural forces. Just look at his continued support of TTIP and TPP. But even if we do give Obama credit, Chait’s argument is still incredibly weak.

Chait claimed that Obama has pushed against income inequality by raising taxes on the rich. But Ryan is still a supply-sider. He would simply counter that raising taxes on the rich just slows economic growth. And that’s true in the current situation where those higher taxes were simply used to pay down the debt in a depressed economy. And let’s fact it: Obama barely raised taxes. Chait provided a table that showed that even for the top 1%, Obama’s policy lowered taxes. It was only for the top 0.1% that taxes actually went up — and only by six percentage points.

What’s more, he presented a graph that shows that Obamacare is going to substantially increase the incomes of the bottom 20% of the country. That’s great! But it also shows that the lower-middle, middle, and upper-middle classes are all paying more than the upper class is. In addition, the lower one’s income (other than for the bottom 20%), the more one is negatively affected. In terms of economic inequality, harming the middle 60% of the nation is counterproductive.

At this point, I think that most people understand that supply side economics — trickle down — is hogwash. If Republicans want to claim that they care about economic inequality, let them. But don’t counter it with talk of transfer programs — especially when those transfers are usually very small. Talk about what Republicans want to do. And what they want to do is to give more money to the rich because even after 34 years of failure, they think it will trickle down to the rest of us.

See also: Why Conservatives Think Government Doesn’t Create Jobs.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “The New Republican Trickle Down Con

  1. Suspect the repubs give no thought to if “trickle-down” will help people below the 2% or not. Suspect this is a matter of total apathy for them, as they will be focused on more $ in their pockets for speculative investments and savings and other expenditures resulting in a very slow to no velocity of this extra $ through the economy. It’s better to give it to the middle class and poorer people, who will spend it quickly at local businesses, who will also soon pass it on for their expenses, etc., resulting in a more rapid velocity of this $ through the economy. The rich will get a piece of this, too, as people have more $ to buy stuff, including from rich business owners. The issue seems to be are rich people willing, to some degree, to share prosperity with much of society, most of whom want to work for it, or do they want to keep ever more of it for themselves at every one else’s expense.

    • I quite agree. You should read my article, I Was a Middle Class Food Stamp Kid. I suspect like most people, the Republicans don’t much think of it. If asked, they will say that tax cuts for the rich help everyone. If countered, they will say that the rich already pay too much taxes. And on and on. There is no reason behind it; they just think the rich should pay less in taxes.

      The rich are being shortsighted. A prospering middle class would only make the rich better off. But all they can see is their relative affluence. And so the whole economy is hurt as a result.

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