For the last 30 years Americans have been in a rigged economic lab experiment. At the same time most of us have been under a class warfare assault. The origin of both is conservative economic theory, aka supply-side economics. It has failed us miserably. Failed, that is, if you’re one of the “bottom 99%.”
We all remember the promise of supply-side Reaganomics: Income will increase among all if we reduce the taxes on the richest. The wealth and prosperity at the top will “trickle down” to the rest of us. Well, it’s been a resounding failure. Inflation-adjusted income has been stagnant over the last 10 and 30 year periods. Over the last 30 years 80% of income growth has gone to the top 1%. Income inequality between the richest and the poorest is at pre-Depression era levels. America’s creating more millionaires and billionaires but everyone else is getting squeezed–if they’re lucky enough to have a job at all!
Under George W. Bush there were two rounds of massive tax cuts, most going to the richest. President Obama reluctantly extended the Bush tax cuts to the richest and we’re still living with them–supply-side economics in action. So where’s the trickle down? Why would middle class wages be appallingly flat over the last decade if Reaganomics really worked?
Conservative economic policies have been a recipe for disaster for us, the 99%. Not only have we been dining on Reaganomics for 30 years and eating stale wages, but conservatives decided to add some laissez faire relish to boot. Laissez faire sounds foreign but the doctrine rings all too familiar–don’t let government regulate or interfere in commerce. Well, what a train wreck. Lack of reasonable regulations and oversight of our financial institutions led us into the Great Recession of 2008. At every opportunity conservative faithful block or gut fair government regulations that would protect us 99%. At this moment Republicans are trying to roll back or de-fund the newly created consumer financial protection agency whose job it is to prevent another debacle. Why are they doing this? It is because, at their core, today’s conservatives believe in an almost divine perfection of free market capitalism, free of any encumbrances or oversight. They certainly don’t believe in a “fair market” economy.
It’s notable that our former iconic Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, and his idol Ayn Rand (of “Atlas Shrugged” fame), both believed that economic fraud should be allowed in a free market system. They felt “market forces” are enough to regulate fraud. For nearly two decades Greenspan’s laissez faire philosophy colored his tenure as reserve chairman. This led to rampant financial fraud and corruption on Wall Street which went unpunished. The corruption persists and Republicans have the audacity to not only continue turning a blind eye, but to actively undermine financial regulations with the teeth necessary to prevent another meltdown.
So how do conservative politicians stay in business when their economic theory doesn’t serve 99% of us? Well, there are plenty of smart, ultra rich conservatives who figured out a solution–use social and cultural wedge issues (e.g. guns, God, gays, and abortion rights) to distract the masses from their failed economic policies. Throw in some false and fading hopes of upward mobility and voila, Republicans continue to vote against their economic self-interests. They’ve been duped by their political leaders. It’s a brilliant strategy.
In the meantime the richest are amassing unimaginable wealth in a rigged system and are consolidating political power to the point where it feels like we don’t have a government running our country, but a wealthy elite and mega corporations. Oh yea, that’s called a plutocracy. Not a good thing.
We, the 99%, are not against capitalism. However, capitalism isn’t perfect. We need reasonable and effective oversight of our imperfect system. We need to shelve laissez faire doctrine (sorry, Ms. Rand). We need to ditch, once and for all, supply-side economic policies of Republican leaders and corporatists. But folks, here’s a heads up: The current Republican economic solution is more supply-side and more laissez faire! They want to further lower billionaire and corporate taxes, and gut every regulation on the books.
What we need is a fair playing field. Let’s call it fair market capitalism. This will unleash our economy and allow it to soar. But right now the game is rigged. And the jig is up. The richest are not paying their fair share. And Americans are angry. We don’t like being guinea pigs in an ongoing, failed economic experiment. We’ve given it 30 years. Enough is enough. We don’t like being manipulated by billionaires, think tankers and special interests. And we don’t like being under assault, because undoubtedly class warfare is alive and well. On a massive scale. And it’s raining down on us, the 99%.
Van P. Keele