Friday, January 2, 2015

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

There is a persistent myth going around in the United States.

This myth states that conservatives are the "better guardians" of the US economy.  Everyone knows that its the "Tax and Spend Liberals" who generate recessions and debt, after all.  Everybody knows this.  This so-called "fact" is so well known that even most liberals don't question it.

Problem is, its false.  Not true.  A lie.  A bunch of hot air.  A load of bullshit, in other words.

If you take a close look at the usual conservative strategies when it comes to economic policy in this country, you find out pretty quickly that there are two problems with this myth that make it almost impossible for it to be true.

Those two problems are:
  1. Conservatives are greedy.
  2. Conservatives are amoral.

Thus, putting conservatives in charge of the economy is like going into business with the Mafia.  If you're part of the Mafia, you're probably going to come out with your pockets stuffed with cash, sitting pretty on top of the world.  If you're not a part of the Mafia, sooner or later you're going to get shanked and left to rot in some alley.

Now, for the sake of fairness I should say that when I talk about conservatives and how they mess up the economy I am not talking about social conservatives.  Social conservatives are the ones who want to restrict a woman's rights regarding birth control, and want to make sure that homosexuals are punished for the crime of existing, and who want to make sure that English is the only language spoken in this country.  Things like that.  I'm not talking about those conservatives right now.

I'm talking about the "professional" conservatives.  The corporate conservatives who represent the real wealth and power of the Republican party.  When it comes to the economy, the social conservatives are passengers just along for the ride.  And its a really bumpy, bumpy ride.

The most important thing to remember about corporate conservatives is this:  they want all governmental economic policy aimed at aiding the richest people in America become even richer.  They want the government to basically be at the beck and call of the corporations so that they can line their pockets with ever-increasing amounts of money.  Now, compare this to liberal economic policy, which is aimed at helping Joe Middle-Class thrive.

That last paragraph is American economics in a nutshell, by the way.

The conservative ideal of coddling the rich is called "supply-side economics."  Its also known as "trickle-down economics" (and, humorously, was once called "Voodoo economics" by then presidential candidate George H. Bush back in 1980 when he was running against Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination).  The core of this philosophy is low, low, low taxes for the rich and the corporations, and utter deregulation of commerce and the markets.

Historically, this policy generates cycles of boom and bust.  Its an "economic bubble" generator that produces no lasting stability and no lasting prosperity.  It gave us the Gilded Age and the economic panic of the 1890s.  It gave us the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression.  And most recently, it produced the Reagan-Bush and Clinton-Bush serial bubbles, the Savings and Loan disaster, the 2008 Bank Bailout, and then of course the Great Recession that the American economy is still very much mired in.

"Trickle down" works great if you start off at the top, but not so great if you're in the middle or, heaven help you, at the bottom.  The famous "trickle down" flood that Ronald Reagan promised would "float all boats" never seens to quite materialize, even as the people at the top of the economic pile, and the corporations they run and own, record record profits.

The liberal economic philosophy based on supporting the Middle Class is called "demand-side economics."  Its also known as Keynesian economics, after its creator and chief promoter, John Maynard Keynes.  Keynes work was adopted by Franklin Roosevent, and his policies created a relative calm in the American economy that lasted for nearly fifty years.  That calm created the largest expansion of the Middle Class in the history of the world.

Remember that "Golden Age" that Republicans are so nostalgic about, when a Middle Class family with only the father working could afford a decent house, a new car every few years, braces and piano lessons for little Susie, and everyone's covered by adequate health insurance and a decent pension was all but guaranteed?  When many companies cared enough about their employees that they paid them a living wage and considered them family and not just replaceable cogs in the machine?  When unions were strong, taxes on the rich and the corporations, not to mention regulation of business practices, were much tighter than today, and yet everyone was thriving economically?

Yeah, all that was created by the liberal economic policies of John Maynard Keynes.

The moral of this story is that the corporate conservative emphasis on making sure that the rich and powerful are taken care of first is compeletely backward if what you want to do is create a strong economy.  It doesn't matter how much "supply" you have, if there's no "demand" for it, you aren't going to sell it and your economy is going to fail spectacularly.  It takes demand to fuel an economy, and it takes a strong Middle Class to create demand.

Bottom line:  when the Middle Class is thriving , so is everyone else!

Think about it for just a moment, please.
  • If you are poor, but the Middle Class is doing well, there's a good chance if you work hard and cover your bases that you'll find yourself suddenly a member of the Middle Class.  Economic improvement.
  • If you're Middle Class and doing well, there's every chance that you'll suddenly find yourself climbing into the upper ranges of the Middle Class, or who knows, maybe into the Upper Class.
  • And if you're already Upper Class, when the people who work for you are doing well, they're spending more on the companies you've invested in, which means you get richer too!

This was the situation enjoyed in America right after World War II:  the economy was humming along like a well-oiled machine, there was butt-loads of upward mobility to be had, and pretty much everyone was doing better than they had been before the War.

On the other hand, when the Middle Class is getting constantly hammered, like they have been since the 1980s, the only mobility is downward.  Middle Class people get laid off and become poor people, and poor people are so poor that they're stuck there with no chance of improving their condition at all.

Of course, no matter what, the rich do just fine, but then they're rich.  They would be prospering even if every non-rich person in America was reduced to economic serfdom.  As the saying goes, its easy to get to home plate when you start out on third base.  But when the only people thriving are the folks who are already thriving, and none of them are willing to share with the less fortunate, you're courting disaster.  Thus, the booms, busts, panics, crashes, depressions, recessions, and bail outs.

So, what you have to do is ask yourself a simple question:  which economic policy works out best for you and your family?  If you're a so-called "one percenter," then obviously trickle-down works much, much better for you.  But if you're in the vast population of people who aren't in the one percent, why the hell would you ever consider voting for people who want to continue keeping you in the poor house?  Seriously, are you insane?

But wait!  There's more!

It turns out that corporate conservatives are lying to you about more than just the effects of trickle-down economics.  Corporate conservatives spend a lot of their time telling you how evil the government is, and how government spending is a sin and how it must be stopped when they're asking you for your vote.  But have you ever noticed that when they're in power, they don't actually do anything about it?

Oh sure, they promise to cut government spending, but once in office they actually do the exact opposite.  They lied to you to gain your trust and to get elected, but they never once had any intention of cutting government spending.  All those platitudes about "shrinking big government" were just that:  platitudes.  Conservatives simply love deficit spending and big government.  The bigger the better, in fact, because it allows them to manipulate things for their own benefit all around the world.

A look at the facts prove that conservatives are the worst money managers and the most profligate spenders of all.  The comparison between conservative spending and liberal spending isn't even close.  Conservatives accuse liberals of being "tax and spenders," but the truth is, conservatives are "charge and spenders," which is much, much worse.  They put everyone on the national credit card without any clue as to how things will be paid for.

"Tax and spend" is a caricature of liberals, just another way conservatives lie, but at least taxing and spending provides some means to pay for what is being spent.  If a conservative ran your personal economy in the same way they manage the national economy, you'd be up to your ears in overwhelming debt within hours of you handing your checkbook to them.

Corporate conservatives continually bleat about this myth of a "small government," as if in the modern world there could even really be such a thing.  Its all a big web of lies.  Conservatives are liars.  They say one thing, and do the exact opposite.

You know which two presidents were the biggest promoters of the idea of small government in the history of the United States?  If you guessed Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, give yourself a cookie.  Now, can you guess which two presidents were the two biggest expanders of the federal government in the history of the United States?  If you once-again guessed Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, you get another cookie.

Even worse than putting everything on credit is the truth about what all that money was spent on.  Rather than spending it on our crumbling national infrastructure, or on health care, or on education, or maybe on cleaning up the environment, it was mostly given away to the rich and the corporations.  And when it wasn't handed out to people who were already sitting on huge stacks of cash, it was being spent on useless and meaningless military adventurism.  We the People... got almost nothing from Conservative largess.

Tax cuts for the rich and a policy of allowing corporations to wriggle out of their fair share of the tax burden are the primary reasons why our government operates under an astronomical amount of debt.  Ronald Reagan went hog-wild on military spending as part of a plan to "kill" the already-dying Soviet Union by way of the arms race.  But that was just a warm-up to George W. Bush's squandering of $3 trillion, most of which ended up in the pockets of his friends and his father's friends.  That $3 trillion includes at least $19 billion that simply vanished.  Oops!  Its gone!  The money vanished and we don't know where it is!  Sorry about that, heh heh heh...

Can you imagine the Republican reaction if someone in the Obama administration managed to just misplace $19 billion?

And then there's the tens of billions that we know -- that we can absolutely fucking prove -- were slid across the metaphorical table and into the pockets of Haliburton, KBR, and Blackwater.  All of which corporations were owned and operated, it must be noted, by friends and family members of both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

That's the conservative economic management style.  "Grab as much cash as you can for you and your friends and fuck everyone else."  And they're not even going to buy you dinner first.

Most corporate conservatives know damn well that trickle-down economics just doesn't work.  They know its a lie.  Worse, they know its effectively theft.  But they like getting rich and have no moral center at all, so they stick to propaganda about cutting spending, lowering taxes, shrinking the government, and protecting the so-called "job creators."  The irony is, they are also not doing anything illegal.  They're rigged the system so that it only benefits them, which as I noted isn't illegal.  Its just utterly corrupt and immoral.  Of course, like the horde of bloody-minded pirates they are, they don't care about morals either.

Each time a new election comes around, the conservatives trot out the same old bullshit.  The Republican Lie Machine is currently (as I write this) trying to pin everything bad that's going on with the economy on Barack Obama.  They promise to cut government spending and usher in "small government", ignoring the fact that government spending is the lowest its been since Lyndon Johnson was in office.  We've heard this bullshit before:  Reagan, George H. Bush, George W. Bush... even John McCain and Mitt Romney.  Every single conservative running for office uses this same playbook.  "Let's get government out of the way, and everyone will prosper."


Once in power, they won't keep their word, and if they ever actually tried, the crushing weight of economic debt would be borne by the Middle Class and the poor, while the ultra-rich and the corporations -- who caused and then greatly benefited from that same debt -- would continue sucking up all the available wealth they could, and would do so with a smile on their face.

Consider, for just a moment, the absolute mean-spirited hate that drove the most recent (as I write this) Republican-created government shut-down.  Conservatives had absolutely no problem whatsoever with throwing millions of people out of work, cutting off Social Security benefits, shutting down desperately needed government survives, torpedoing the financial markets, and even risking defaulting on our national debt in a childish attempt to force the liberals to give them what they wanted.

Prosecutors call this sort of thing "extortion," and its usually considered a felony.

The conservatives who did this were thumbing their noses in contempt at the very concept of democracy.  They didn't like the fact that the other side of the political aisle won the election, so they threw a temper tantrum.  Problem is, this sort of action is nothing short of economic terrorism.  Never once have the liberals ever come close to doing this to their own nation!  Yet conservatives seem to be embracing such immoral and dangerous acts as a part of their standard economic strategy.  When you don't win, or if a law is passed that you don't like, just throw a temper tantrum and threaten to flush the country's economy down the toilet unless you're given your way.

Al-Queda couldn't have dreamed of a better ally than Congressional conservatives.

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