Ann Coulter tells us that if liberals had any ideas or knew any facts they would stop being liberals. In fact, conservative ideas have been put to the test lately. They haven’t held up very well. Here is a short list of bogus conservative ideas. As I worked through these, I realized that they flow one into the other. It makes for a nice orderly destruction of the entire conservative ideology.
Bogus Conservative Idea #1.Cutting taxes stimulates the economy and leads to increased revenue. A corollary of this is that higher taxes strangle economic growth.
Of course, we now have two distinct examples of tax cuts that directly led to deficits. The conservatives say that those deficits were caused by a failure to reduce spending. But that contradicts the theory of "voodoo economics". Economic stimulation is supposed to drive up revenues and pay for the tax cuts. Hasn’t happened yet.
Then there is the experience following Clinton’s deficit reduction act. You will recall that act contained the "largest tax increase in history". The result was a dramatic increase in revenue – far more pronounced than the eventual increases in revenue under Reagan, that basically tracked increases in GDP. The conservatives say that economic growth drove up those revenues, but again this undercuts voodoo economics. Clinton raised tax rates on the top, and the economy boomed anyway.
"Voodoo economics" is dead as a hammer. Even conservatives are now reduced to arguing, "well, deficits aren’t so bad".
And of course, the "facts" that justify the liberal interpretation are found at a conservative web site. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s called the "[url=http://www.heritage.org]Heritage Foundation[/url."
Bogus Conservative Idea #2. Deficits "aren't so bad". There are several ways to debunk this nonsense.
First of all, tax cuts that lead to deficits aren't tax cuts at all. They're tax deferrments. They postpone the day when today's expenditure must be paid for. Sooner or later, the bill has to be paid – with interest. Whatever evil results from raising taxes, sooner or later you will have no choice. In fact, we can think of Clinton tax increases as Reagan's tax increases, since we had deferred paying them while Reagan was President. Unfortuneately that isn't really accurate, since the increase in debt under Reagan is still with us – Dubya having decided that paying down our debts wasn't a priority.
Second is the drain deficits place on finance capital. It's actually somewhat hard to fathom why deficit driven tax cuts would stimulate the economy. Government apending takes money out of the private economy one way or the other, either as taxes, or as money spent buying government bonds. Only the bonds have to be repaid with interest. Meanwhile, some economists believe that deficit spending drives up interest rates. This is supported by the fact that structural interest rates were much higher under Reagan and Bush. Clinton enjoyed the lowest interest rates in a generation, after he balanced the budget.
But if you doubt the eventual inflationary pressure of deficits, you need to wake up to an ominous fact of life. The dollar is weakening against foreign currencies. US bonds have been a traditional "safe haven" investment for years. A weakening dollar changes that. If the dollar weakens too much, the govenrment may be begging hat in hand for finance capital, raising its bond yields, with other interest rates following suit.
Can you say inflation? Can you say fiscal crisis from hell?
Bogus Conservative Idea #3. Liberalism is "destroying America". Other variants include, "liberals are "collectivists", "socialists", "communists" "Stalinists". Insert your totalitarian reference here. If this were just rhetorical hyperbole, I wouldn't pay any attention to it. But some of these conservatives appear to actually believe it. In fact, I have presented the facts – you know the things we liberals don''t have any of – and I still see this utter hogwash mouthed by conservatives.
First of all, as I have pointed out elsewhere, it helps to know what "communism" really is. A few of the highlights. Communist countries have no or very little private business. The Communist manifesto calls for the abolition of land ownership. Centrally planned "command economies" are a central feature of Communist governments. And of course, Communist governments all have a "gulag" like police state.
So where is America's gulag? How many political prisoners did FDR, Truman, LBJ or Bill Clinton have? What was the name of our central planning agency? And when have Democrats even advocated – much less passed – anything like abolition of land ownership. Our FHA has in fact broadened land ownership, not restricted it. And how many personal fortunes have been built since the beginning of the New Deal in 1933. Where are your "facts" conservatives, to support this "liberals are really communists" crapola?
As for destroying the country, consider these unemployment numbers. This is the unemployment rate on the last day of the Truman, Johnson and Clinton administrations, respectively. 2.5%, 3.5% 4.5%. Under Clinton's presidency, unemployment dropped below 5 percent for the first time in 27 years. Yes, I kow about Jimmy Carter, he left with 7.5%, the same percentage he came in with. Now look at unemployment on the last day of the Hoover, Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan, and BushI adminstrations. 25%, 6.5%, 7.5%, 5.5%, 7.5%. For Hoover thats twenty five not two point five. Only Reagan left office with lower unemployment than he inherited, and his finishing unemployment rate pales beside that of Democratic administrations. Pitiful isn't it?
And of course, we know about the explosion in deficit spending under Reagan, BushI and now BushII. Under Clinton, he ended his presidency with a budget surplus, low interest rates, low inflation, and low unemployment – the same conditions that prevailed in every other Democratic administration except for one. Kennedy/Johnson sent men to the moon, in the age of the Detroit "muscle car". The modern suburban middle class was born after the war, when Democrats controlled Congress and occasionally the White House. New Deal and Great Society initiatives are so popular, even George W. Bush praises them.
All of which proves that we liberals sure are doing a lousy job of "destroying America". Patriotic conservatives on the other hand, what with high unemployment and huge deficits, seem to be doing a much better job – of "destroying America" that is.
Bogus Conservative Idea #4. "Trickle down" economics. This is the underlying philosophy behind those "voodoo" tax cuts. Its simple really. Put more money in the pockets of the rich, and they will invest in business, creating jobs. So why didn't it work in the wake of Dubya's tax cuts? And why didn't Clinton's tax increases shut down economic growth? [Those are facts, conservatives. Sorry, if you can't handle them.]
The reason it didn’t work is simple. It’s horseshit. Investors don’t invest in new businesses, expanding businesses, new equipment, research and development or anything else if there’s no demand. Demand drives the economy, not supply. Why would you invest in greater production capacity if no one is out there with money to spend? Besides, there are plenty of other investments that send no money into increasing production facilities or new businesses. You can invest in commodities, foreign exchange, and government bonds. Even the stock market is mostly an aftermarket, with people buying stock owned by other people. No money goes into business expansion there. And of course, you can "short sell", that is, bet on the market to decline.
If the economic history of the United States proves one thing it is that money in the pockets of little man stimulates the economy. Why do you think there was so much prosperity under Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and Clinton? Their policies put money in the pockets of the people on the bottom, creating demand and stimulating investment. Wealth doesn’t "trickle down", it flows up from the bottom.
Bogus Conservative Idea #5. The wage earner depends on the wealthy investor for his prosperity. There is nothing more personally entertaining to me than to listen to conservatives talk about "wealth". They seem to get almost misty eyed about the whole concept. They think that "wealth" is something real – and that the first responsibility of the government is to protect the "wealth" of the "haves".
But what is "wealth", really? What is the tangible value of that picture of Benjamin Franklin in your pocket? What is "stock", "equity", "debt". Hell, what are property rights? Here’s the answer conservatives. Refute it if you can. "Wealth" is nothing more than a set of abstract ideas that organize distribution of what labor produces. Labor is the thing that is real.
Everything used by the person with symbols of wealth is produced by a wage earner The tools and equipment he uses are produced by a wage earner. The buildings are produced by wage earners. The roads that lead to your house, your office, or your factory are produced by "wage earners". Wealthy investors who call themselves "producers" make me laugh.
That’s why Adam Smith said, "the annual labor of a nation is the fund which supplies the necessaries and conveniences of life that a nation annually consumes." It is also why Abraham Lincoln said, "Labor is the superior of capital and ought to be given much the greater consideration." Labor – and not those symbols and social conventions called "wealth" – is the engine of the economy. Leave it to the conservatives to figure out why the man who owns pieces of paper gets whatever he wants, while the man who actually produces has take what he can get.
Bogus Conservative Idea #6. Government is "bad" and has no role in creating wealth or prosperity. Of course, the conservative, who fails to see the all-important role of labor in the creation of "wealth", likewise fails to perceive the central role of government in its creation. It is certainly true – as conservatives point out – that government doesn’t do the work of production. But government does create the "rights" the property owner relies on the take "ownership" of what somebody else produces. Government creates, enforces and regulates the symbols and concepts of "wealth". It creates property rights, a court system to enforce those rights, the currency, the banking system, unique forms of business organization called "corporations", securities, contract rights, and indeed the entire legal infrastructure of capitalism.
You don’t hear conservatives complaint about those functions of government. They just claim that those are the only functions of government. Government can do nothing, to hear the conservatives tell it, to benefit the people who do all the actual work of production.
And of course, the conservatives completely overlook all of the other infrastructure created by government. They don’t perceive the value of something as simple as a system of roads and highways in creating business opportunities. Every single day, conservatives – like all of the rest of us – make use of technology created by or with the assistance of government. Their computers, TV sets, telephones all make use of microchips first developed by engineers working for government contractors. They make use of communication satellites, placed in orbit by government engineers and techniicians. They use materials and technology developed at public universities with government funding.
And they are completely oblivious to all of it. They don’t even appreciate all of the commerce and economic stimulation made possible by government assistance and infrastructure for the benefit of wage earners. What sort of economy would we have without the minimum wage and unions creating vast markets for goods produced in capitalist business enterprises. What would our construction industry look like without FHA guaranteed mortgages?
But if they’re still not convinced, here is the question they never answer. Show me one "minimalist government" paradise. Just one. We have them. There are places with no social security, no welfare, no unions, no minimum wage, no OSHA, no environmental protection. There are places where the only thing the laws and the government do is protect the interests of the wealthy. They have names like "Guatemala", "Bolivia" and "Chad". Every first world economy, without exception, has a substantial public sector. Every one. Show me one that doesn’t conservatives, or the shut the fuck up.
Bogus Conservative Idea #7. Conservative believe in "less government". As you should be able to see, conservatives believe in "less government" for them, more government for you. They believe in less government for the already prosperous. They also believe in more prison, more executions, more power for the police, more spending for the pentagon, more "discretion" for the FBI and CIA. They believe in "harsh" sentencing. They never saw a military intervention they didn’t like.
But just let the government tell them to put scrubbers on their smokestacks, or pay their help a living wage. "It’s tyranny, I tell you. ENOUGH’S ENOUGH!"
Bogus Conservative Idea #8. Conservatives are "patriotic" whereas liberals are "traitors". Of all of the conservative posturing, this is the most obnoxious. As we have seen, conservatives utterly fail to appreciate the role of labor in the creation of fortunes. They fail to see the role of government. They fail to acknowledge that the government that creates and enforces their rights, can also create and enforce rights for other people as well.
No, the conservative has it all figured out that you, the wage earner, are "on your own". Ask them what will happen when there are no unions, no minimum wage, no OSHA requirements, no safety net, and in general no government infrastructure that favors anybody but them. What will happen to living standards for American wage earners.
Most conservatives I have confronted with this question are pretty straight up. Your living standard will decline. It seems the conservative thinks that you are "overpaid" and "pampered". So they don’t have any problem with American corporations moving overseas to avoid taxes, enviornmental regulations, and paying a living wage. They also don’t any problem with free trade agreements like GATT that can only be described as a surrender of American sovereignty. They also support those deficits, funded by bonds, that represent a transfer of wealth from American taxpayers to wealthy bond holders to the tune 300 billion dollars a year.
But conservatives don’t believe in a system of government that works to benefit the vast majority of Americans who work for a living. They believe in a system of government that benefits and handful of people who are independently wealthy. So while they pursue policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many, they wrap themselves in the flag, spout selective clauses from the Constitution, put their hands over their hearts and pledge allegiance to "the flag".
They say they love America. But what do they love? The Constitution? Not the one we live under. They love a wooden constitution as it applied to the country before the invention of the telegraph. Do they love the United States Government? Only the agencies of it that kill people. The agencies that do anybody any good are "communist". And as for the people of this country, well they don’t have very much use for a good three quarters of them – starting with the half of the country who are Democrats. And we know what they think about our "pampered" wage earners?
Some patriots, these conservatives. Ship American jobs to third world dictatorships, finance the government with massive debt, saddle future generations with the obligation to pay interest to tomorrows millionaires, drive down wages and living standards for ordinary working Americans – and then call the liberals "traitors". But don’t worry. People are waking up.
They are starting to catch on that conservative ideas are bogus.