The Fear-Mongering Economic Lies of the GOP

by HumanOfEarth –

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When I was a little kid, I was shocked that politicians could speak untruths. These are the people who decide how our world is ruled and they’re getting away with lying? I couldn’t believe it. These people have enormous power over our lives — how our kids get taught, how our poor, sick, and hungry get taken care of, how much the rich have to pay, how much money we make, how our employers have to treat us, what happens to people who break their laws — but they each put forth a completely different picture of the truth, sneakily sliding half-truths in to confuse us, and Americans are left trying to figure out who’s right after the fact.

I used to wonder why we didn’t have a law to stop politicians stringing people along, and I’m still wondering why today.

The Republican presidential field is rife with mistruths — That other guy’s going to raise your taxes to 90%; All those points about my corrupt finances are Democratic lies; Women’s wages have dropped under Obama; My tax plan won’t explode our debt or cripple the government; I didn’t have a relationship with that company; I wasn’t critical of Mark Zuckerberg; The numbers will add up. You say I’m wrong? Nope, you’re wrong. It’s impossible for the American people to choose the best candidate with fact-based ideas and a consistent record if the candidates can just say, “Nuh uh!” to the people questioning them.

How on earth are we supposed to know who’s right? There’s no point in even having debates if they are filled with inaccuracies.

We need experts correcting candidates down to the last in these discussions, not journalists respectfully saying, “Thank you, Doctor/Senator/Governor,” at the end of a sixty second back and forth. We need a participating electorate that pays attention, cannot be successfully lied to, and is able to control their own government. We need to make our weaselly leaders pay fines, kick them out of office, eliminate deceitful candidates from our races —something, anything. We’ve got to force our leaders and prospective leaders to tell the truth, because they’re nevergoing to stop this train wreck of deceptiveness on their own. We’re not going to make this country a fair and just place if the people in charge of the fairness and justness keep getting away with abject dishonesty.

But that, I suppose, is exactly the point.

The people in power don’t want equality. Like Paul Ryan pushing for his own family leave, yet voting against family leave for all Americans, an overwhelming number of our elected officials do not actually fight for us. They fight for themselves. As they sit in those Senate and House chambers, they are not noble, blind-to-all-else-but-justice, wise people who reach for the deepest, kindest, best-for-the-citizens solutions, no matter the personal gain or cost. They are politicians in the worst sense — partisan, fighting, bickering, interested in reaching for personal power and furthering their own careers. As Matt Taibbi puts it in his recent Rolling Stone piece,

“Successful politicians today on both sides of the aisle are sprawling celebrity franchises. They seem always to be making piles of money and hobnobbing with Beautiful People when they’re finished moving the status quo in some incremental direction, which some hack somewhere will always be willing to call change. [Like] …the Bush/Cheney axis of hereditary politics and energy commerce, we expect the politicians who make it to the big time to cash in somewhere along the line because, hey, this is America. Donald Trump, if elected, would find a way to turn being the president into a moneymaking operation.”

We don’t have a country of selfless leaders. We have a system of oligarchic money-makers. They shade the truth, or outright lie, to keep that money-making status quo in place. Confuse the electorate, divide them with splintered portraits of reality, and they will not know where to turn or who to support. You will cause the citizens to continue voting against their own interests and propelling people into office who, as New York Magazine writes,

“…are so closely intermingled with a lucrative entertainment complex that it is frequently impossible to distinguish between a political project (that is, something designed to result in policy change) and a money-making venture.”

It’s all about money, money, money.

Keeping hoards of green for themselves, and fooling the rest of us into thinking that there’s any confusion over how to grow the middle class. Economics is where the G.O.P. gets us. It’s the biggest, most important way they lie — claiming they’ve got the answer to really spread economic prosperity to the deeply poor, poor, lower-, and middle-class people of this country because, don’t you know, the Democrats and their progressive tax rates are full of it.

Cut taxes, the G.O.P. says, cut spending, shrink the government, let corporations out from under the stifling chains of regulation, and you will spur unprecedented growth, causing prosperity to mushroom like you’ve never before seen. From the 3rd Republican Debate at CNBC,

Ben Carson: “…We can stimulate the economy. That’s gonna be the real growth engine. Stimulating the economy — because it’s tethered down right now with so many regulations.”

The moderator Becky Quick correcting him with,

“You’d have to cut — you’d have to cut government about 40 percent to make it work with a $1.1 trillion hole,”

had absolutely no effect. He merely replied, “That’s not true,” and when she pushed him again, he said,

“Well, when we put all the facts down, you’ll be able to see that it’s not true, it works out very well.”

She then thanked him, respectfully, for lying his pants off. Donald Trump claims the same thing:

“[My tax plan] will be a rocket ship for the economy.”

When questioned, Trump pointed to a single guy he managed to get behind his plan, the laughably poor prognosticator Larry Kudlow, as proof it wouldn’t explode the deficit.

It’s the same with Marco Rubio. Cut taxes, increase growth, and bam — the non-wealthy will suddenly, wondrously prosper. When pushed about it by the moderators —

“The Tax Foundation, which was alluded to earlier, scored your tax plan and concluded that you give nearly twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top 1 percent as to people in the middle of the income scale. Since you’re the champion of Americans living paycheck-to- paycheck, don’t you have that backward?”

— Rubio just says,

“No, that’s — you’re wrong.”

Oh, you’re actually coming at me with facts? No, no, no, you’re just… you’re just wrong. Leave me alone with your logic, Becky!

Marco goes on to rail about how “big government” is the problem, not his huge tax breaks for the rich —

“Imagine how hard it is for these people out there that are making 40, 50, $60,000 a year, and they’re trying to provide for their families at a time when this economy is not growing. We can’t afford another four years of that. Which is what we’re gonna get if we elect a big government liberal like Hillary Clinton to the White House.”

And Ted Cruz is exactly like the others:

“…Under Barack Obama and the big government economy, the median wage for women has dropped $733. The the truth of the matter is, big government benefits the wealthy, it benefits the lobbyists, it benefits the giant corporations…”

A lie within a lie within a lie. Income has not dropped for women under Obama. From PolitiFact,

“Wages actually have risen for women since Obama took office.”

And big government most certainly does not benefit the rich. But Cruz, like all the rest, lies to turn the American people against the Democrats. He believes, or professes to believe, the outrageous idea that it’s the “big government economy” getting in the way of American prosperity, that slashing taxes for everyone, especially the rich, is the way to create wealth and happiness for us all —

“Growth is the answer. And as Reagan demonstrated, if we cut taxes, we can bring back growth.”

But we’ve been here before. I recognize that tree.

Throughout the 1920s, taxes were drastically cut. From Henry Blodget of Business Insider,

“The next year–1925–the tax cuts continued. The top rate was slashed to 25%, down from 73% just two years earlier. The highest wage earners–those who made $100,000 and up–got to keep a vastly larger share of their income than they had only a few years previously. And what happened to the economy? For a few years, from 1925-1929, the economy and stock market boomed. The decade became known as the ‘roaring 20s.’ Inequality–the difference in wealth between the top earners and everyone else–also soared to unprecedented levels. Then the bottom fell out.”

Cutting taxes spurs growth, but that growth goes largely to the rich. And the rich do not spend their money on working class people’s paychecks. They’re going on fancy vacations and to private social clubs, not local restaurants or fast food places or groceries. They’re not going to small, family-owned businesses.

And they certainly aren’t paying teachers, social workers, or personal and home care aids who take care of the elderly and sick. If we don’t get it through their taxes, we don’t get it. It doesn’t trickle down, it pools at the top.

And low taxes on the rich is also highly unsustainable. The gush of wealth going to the top doesn’t only not cause prosperity for everyone, it causes a huge collapse, which harms the middle-class, the lower-class, the poor and deeply poor people of this country. Cutting taxes on the corporations and richest Americans creates income inequality, and then an inevitable bust which cascades to affect not the rich who are responsible, but the poor and middle-class. In other words, it does exactly the opposite thing that the candidates say it will.

“When you have super-low tax rates on rich people,” Blodget continues, you get “unsustainable sugar highs in the economy–brief, enjoyable booms followed by protracted busts. They also appear to be correlated with very high inequality. (For example, see the 1920s and now).”

Eventually the bubble created by the rich and their gobs of cash will pop. It happened in 1929 (as it did in 2007-08 after the Bush tax cuts and long years of de-regulation). The bubble popped and this country was plunged into the worst depression it has ever known. In response, a wave of populism swept the nation, as is wont to happen after a recession/depression (see the Occupy Wall Street Movement). And, in 1932, the first presidential election after the ’29 Crash, FDR and his socially democratic policies soared into office in a landslide election. For the next thirty-six years, from 1932-1968 (FDR to Nixon), Democrats stayed in control of this nation’s government. There were no economic bubbles, no towering sugar highs in the economy. We’d learned our lesson after the 1929 Crash. The American people wanted higher taxes on the rich. In the 1950s (the reason for the “again” in Trump’s slogan), the income tax rate on the top bracket was over 90%. Ninety percent. Those “good old days” of the 50s and 60s were accompanied by very high taxes on the wealthy and the strong regulation of our economy. We were voting politicians into office who would continue the FDR-era policies of a government for the people, by the people. Not for corporations, by corporations. Not giving “twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top 1 percent as to people in the middle of the income scale.” The G.O.P. claims it will do the opposite, because they know the reality of their policies are political suicide. So, they lie. As Blodget reports,

“Contrary to what Republicans would have you believe, super-high tax rates on rich people do not appear to hurt the economy or make people lazy: During the 1950s and early 1960s, the top bracket income tax rate was over 90%–and the economy, middle-class, and stock market boomed. Some of the most prosperous periods in US history (1950s and 1960s) have come during periods of super-high marginal income tax rates. And some of the most disastrous periods in US history (1930s, 2010s) have come after periods of super-low income tax rates. In the good periods, moreover, the middle-class boomed and inequality between the country’s highest earners and everyone else shrank. In the bad periods, meanwhile, inequality soared, and the richest 1% of the population came to earn a staggering amount of the country’s income.”

These low tax rates on the rich = less revenue for the equality organization (government) = less support for the poor and middle-class = fabulous gains for the wealthy. As the conservatives took back control of the Senate and the White House (a fascinating NYT article on how religion played a part in this re-taking of power here) in the 70s and 80s, and instituted the deep tax cuts for the rich and de-regulation of the economy central to Republican/conservative economic theory (Reaganomics), bubble after bubble popped up, as outlined by Paul Krugman (Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York) in theNew York Times.

“The whole era since around 1985 has been one of successive bubbles. There was a huge commercial real estate bubble in the 80s, closely tied up with the S&L crisis; a bubble in capital flows to Asia in the mid 90s; the dotcom bubble; the housing bubble; and now, it seems, the BRIC bubble. There was nothing comparable in the 50s and 60s… So what was different? The answer seems obvious: financial deregulation, including capital account liberalization. Banks were set free — and went wild, again and again.”

This laissez-faire, hands off, freeing the economy from being “tethered down with so many regulations” is a terrible, terrible idea. It causes “sugar highs” in the economy and then, just like your kid after Halloween, the inevitable sugar crash. There’s simply no question about it. But still, as the New York Times writes, the conservative presidential candidates declare the opposite.

“Yet the candidates assert, against historical evidence, that revenue losses from tax cuts will be offset by economic growth.”

It’s not like cutting taxes and spending is this magic formula that the left is evilly stopping from being made law. Those policies are not going to wondrously spur the insane amount of growth that Republicans say it will. It’s quite the opposite, yet the Republicans continue to put forth tax policies that will quite literally cause income inequality to soar. As economist Thomas Piketty explains,

“The evidence suggests that progressive taxation of very high incomes and very large estates partly explains why the concentration of wealth never regained its astronomic Belle Époque levels after the shocks of 1914-1945.”

With progressive taxation and pressure on the rich to contribute their fair share, comes prosperity and equality. With regressive taxation and no pressure on the rich, comes incredible concentrations of wealth. The super rich and the super poor can exist only when the rich don’t pay.

“And conversely,” writes Forbes’ Joseph Thorndike, “the decline in high bracket rates since the 1980s — a phenomenon particularly evident in the United States and Great Britain — has helped boost incomes for the very rich in both countries.

Now that we have such low taxes on the rich, we are experiencing astronomical levels of income inequality. The rich have become super rich, yet again, and, after the bust that they caused, some 95% of 2009-2012 income gains went to [the] wealthiest 1%. This is old. We’ve been here before. We know how this works. Lower taxes on the rich will not spur beautiful growth and create prosperity for everyone. It’s the old trickle down economics repackaged, but we’re onto your tricks, G.O.P. You’re not going to fool us again with your, as the New York Times puts it,

“[denial of] fiscal reality.”

They’ve been trying to sell this to the American people for decades — as Bloomberg View reports,

“The Republican playbook on taxes… has been fairly consistent since the early 1980s.”

— and it’s been working. We are confused, unsure of the economic logic, and with no ability to get clear, truthful answers out of our candidates. But also consistent in these past few decades has been income inequality. And the stock market crashing, again and again. The only reason the economy didn’t crash with it in 1987 and 2000-01 is because, as Robert Kuttner, journalist and economist, testified to Congress, the Federal Reserve

“races to the rescue…[It] bails out the speculative system, so that the next round of excess can proceed. And somehow,” he continues, “this is scored as trusting free markets, overlooking the plain fact that the Fed is part of the U.S. government.

Conservatives tout this idea of the “perfect free market,” the concept that, if free from government oversight, the economic market will be perfectly self-regulating. If only the big, bad government would get its paws off our economy and stop taxing people so much, free us from the “so many regulations,” economic prosperity will spread and the American people will be awash in wealth. It’s just not true. The taxpayers will have to keep bailing out the banks, the government spending our money to bail out these irresponsible rich people, and the middle class, the lower class, the poor, and the deeply poor, will continue to suffer. Regulation and high taxes on the rich are good. For you, for me. For the middle-class and the poor. For the vast majority of this country. As the New York Times reports,

“‘Most economists today would agree that raising taxes modestly would bring in more revenue’ without doing any serious damage to the economy, said Roberton Williams, a fellow at the Tax Policy Center.”

Yet still, still, the conservatives deny the undeniable. They love Reagan, since he cut taxes, and often talk about him to support their policy proposals. Especially Ted Cruz, who had that bit about Reagan’s tax cuts spurring growth in the debate. As New York Times writes,

“Ted Cruz invoked the Reagan-era tax cuts as a model for success for his 10 percent flat-tax proposal. In fact, President Reagan raised taxes to close the budget deficit that opened up after he cut them in 1981.”

When the Texas Senator went on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and said the exact same thing, the host corrected him that, actually,

“When conditions changed in the country, [Reagan] reversed his world’s ‘largest tax cut’ and raised taxes when revenues did not match the expectations.”

In fact, as PolitiFact reports,

“The 1982 tax increase was ‘probably the largest peacetime tax increase in American history,’ said economist Bruce Bartlett.”

Reagan ideologically wanted to cut taxes, but, in reality, he broadened the base and closed a bunch of loopholes because, in reality, slashing government revenue so much is a terrible thing. He quickly realized that reality once his deficit began to grow, and readjusted. Also in reality (which I know is not a place he lives), Cruz’s plan, and the other candidates’, would be disastrous. As the Washington Post writes,

“Mr. Cruz’s plan would reduce federal revenue in order to give huge tax cuts to the wealthyat a time when the government has to retire the baby boomers — and do much more….According to a dynamic analysis from the Tax Foundation, Mr. Cruz’s plan would cost the government $768 billion over 10 years. That’s not quite as expensive as Jeb Bush’s plan, which would cost about $1.6 trillion, according to another dynamic estimate. But both would nevertheless blow huge holes in the federal budget.”

These tax proposals benefit the wealthy, not the middle class as the candidates claim — the fact is indisputable, through every current economic analysis. And, as history tells us, tax plans that benefit the wealthy are disastrous for the American people. From the New York Times,

The tax proposals from Jeb Bush, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, while not as fantastical as those of Mr. Cruz and Mr. Carson, all make big and broad cuts, mostly to benefit the wealthiest Americans, including an end to the estate tax, cuts in tax rates and enhanced tax breaks for investments. The only way the Republican candidates could ever pay for such large tax cuts would be by slashing big spending programs, namely, Medicare and Social Security. The Republican candidate’s policies cut taxes for the rich. They’re good for the wealthy.”

From the Bloomberg View,

All of [the tax plans] would also ensure that the top 1 percent comes out way ahead…A rich person whose income comes mostly from investment would pay almost nothing in taxes under Rubio’s plan. The Tax Foundation estimates that Bush’s plan…would raise income… for taxpayers in the top 1 percent… by 11.6 percent.”

But it’s not very surprising, when you understand that the people funding all these campaigns are fabulously wealthy. Of course the candidates are going to further legislation that gives tax cuts to the wealthy — that’s who’s putting them in office. And it’s why we’ve got to get big money out of politics, or else face massive spending cuts that will even further undermine the programs designed to help our sick, elderly, children, and poor. “Barack Obama and the big government economy” does not benefit the wealthy, the lobbyists, or the giant corporations.Congress stopping him from getting the progressive tax system he wants benefits the wealthy, the lobbyists, and the giant corporations. We still have the loopholes, we still have the low taxes, and income inequality is still rising, but the Republicans continue to say that these modest adjustments to help the middle-class and make the rich pay will destroy the government. As Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R) said,

“The president needs to stop listening to his liberal allies who want to raise taxes at all costs and start working with Congress to fix our broken tax code.”

It’s a damnable lie, a fabrication to divide the country and confuse the American people into thinking that economists are unsure if cutting taxes would be good for the poor and middle-class or not, when they absolutely are not. We need higher taxes on the wealthy, we need regulations on the irresponsible corporations and businesses that destroyed this economy, we need the wealth to get chopped up a bit and spread around, we need funding for the social programs that take care of the at-risk people in this country. Sure we can have people making $20,000,000 a year, while this person makes $75,000. But we can’t have people making hundreds of millions and billions while this person has less than $3,000 or $18,000, or $25,000 a year. I know that amount of income is impossible for conservatives to understand, with Rubio lamenting the struggles of people making $40, 50, 60 grand, when there are people living in deep, crushing poverty today, here, in the richest country in the world. We need the rich to give up some of their heaps of gold to allow justice and equality to take hold in a country that already promises these ideals to its citizens, but is so lacking. If we do nothing, so will they. And it makes logical, greedy sense, because we can’t all be super rich. For politicians and their donors to be millionaires and billionaires, you’ve got to have some people living in poverty. There simply isn’t enough here for us all to have so much. The world is finite, and so are our resources. For the few to prosper a thousand times over, the many have to have that much less. The super rich would have to give up some of their millions and billions in order to level the chance at life in America, and that’s not at all what they want to do. The powerful will cling to their power, as they always have. It’s happened again and again — towering empires rising to rule over the people, societies of nobles and peasants, stark wealth against stark poverty: the Aztecs, the Romans, the British, the Qing, the Umayyad, the Spanish, the Han, the Russians, the French. The masses have long been oppressed because of the greed of the few. You can’t have the super rich without the super poor, and blatant lying is a very effective way to keep people down. Stop them from organizing in opposition to the system that’s set against them through planting deceit and confusion. If you claim to be for them, if you spread wrong ideas and sow division, you will reap political victory. You will come to power. And the Americans are no different. In this particular society, in this little time period of some two hundred fifty years in the long history of the world’s abusive power structures, the U.S. is organized through a government against the people, by the aristocracy. Founded on liberty and justice for all, the men who created this system killed, attacked, and drove people off a land, enslaved other humans, kept women in submissive roles, and set up a voting system that favored the wealthy and elite. If you were a poor white man, any woman, any person who was native, black, then later as more people flowed in Asian, Hispanic, Italian, Irish, Jewish, Middle Eastern, basically just not from England, you were deemed less than human. They lied, again and again. Every single push for fairness in this country was met with a huge backlash. The claims are old — the 40-hour work week will destroy labor, as will a minimum wage and getting rid of child labor. You’re going to drive the job creators away! They’ve controlled and manipulated the working people for far too long, but we’re so jaded by what the government has become, what politicians have become, that we’re used to it. It’s “just politics.” But it’s not. Politicians lying isn’t “just the way it goes.” It’s not the inherent way we have to run our country. The concept of “government” and “politics” is a human creation, the words we use to describe the concept of the organization of humans, of us. Liberty, justice, fairness for all. Why do we let these beautiful ideas get corrupted with this string of sounds, pah – li – ticks? Why do we let our politicians lie? Let’s make this system meaningful. Let’s have debates where the candidates are pinned down on their lies, not a boxing match where we champion whoever throws the sharpest jab, including an attack on the moderators. We must demand our politicians tell us the truth, we must stop these abominable lies about economics and low taxes spurring tremendous growth, because it’s atrocious that they are getting away with it. And it’s never going to stop unless we stand up, speak up, and fight.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos