The Late Show with Stephen Colbert recently featured Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. She tore into the Republicans’ tax plan for its hypocrisy and deceit.
At first, it will indeed give tax cuts — tiny ones — for the working classes, along with huge cuts for the wealthy and massive cuts for corporations. It will slash Medicare and add at least $1.5 trillion to the national debt (which Republicans used to scream about). But later, workers’ tax cuts will vanish. Warren said that everyone earning under $75,000 a year will then see a tax INCREASE. This is a redistribution of wealth (which Republicans used to scream about) — upwards, of course.
Here is the real killer. Corporations are now giving their quarterly “call reports” where they take calls from shareholders. Corporate officers are wetting themselves laughing. They will give their extra after-tax revenue to shareholders as stock buybacks to jack up share prices and boost executive compensation!
President Ronald Reagan’s “trickle-down economics” was described as “voodoo economics” by George Bush Senior. It is a zombie theory that refuses to die. Giving extra money to the wealthy supposedly causes them to invest it and boost the economy. There is absolutely no evidence that this ever happened. The economic facts of life are the exact opposite. Republicans do not even try to prove otherwise. They do not need to. Polls show that Reagan’s vision is still America’s prevailing economics belief.
This travesty happened because Democratic strategists are ineffective. They have not driven a wooden stake through the heart of Reaganomics and replaced it with a better vision. Neither have the media. As John Stewart routinely showed, they simply parrot Republican talking points.
Republicans make so much noise about “fiscal responsibility” that credulous, ill-informed voters believe they do a better job of managing the economy. Note especially that Republicans have invested heavily in shaping America’s ideology. Democrats have not.
If Democratic candidates do manage to win elections, they think, “Phew, thank God, nobody brought up that stupid economics stuff!” Harking back to Econ 101, they dismiss economics as “just theory.” Well, what about Econ 901, then? This is the economic facts of life from the real world. Trump tapped right into the kitchen-table issues from Econ 901.
Attention, Democrats! Trump won because he deserved to.
Economic issues decide elections. But Democratic strategists and politicians never discuss the economic facts of life. They would rather drink a can of paint. Republicans therefore win by default. Why? Democrats beat Republicans hands-down at managing the economy. But how often have you heard, “Vote Democrat and Get Richer?” Never. Why not, for crying out loud? Voters think they will get richer by voting Republican, despite all the economic facts of life proving the exact opposite.
As a result of Reaganomics, profits are at record levels, but labor’s share of national income is at a record low. The pie is getting bigger, but workers are getting smaller slices. The Canadians engaged in the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations regard America as a low-wage country (you read that right). Low wages, not high taxes, are America’s No. 1 economic problem. Ironically, Trump tapped into this economic fact of life to lie his way into the White House, promising more jobs for the Rust Belt devastated by … Reaganomics.
Yet Democrats are terrified to point out that their policies are better for everyone. Why? Americans are sick of lies and want the truth. But, perversely, Americans are now so cynical that they tune out the truth. At this point, Democrats realize thattheir usual wonky approach will not cut it, and quit saying voters are “stupid” for falling for Republican lies. That is like quitting a race on the last lap when you are winning. But the solution is simple.
Dale Carnegie said that you will not become someone’s friend by telling them how stupid they are. They must like you, trust you and believe that you will advance their interests. It is an emotional process. It is the same for voters. They are persuaded with integrity, clarity, boldness, persistence and, crucially, with stories and vision.
The responsibility for doing all this is left to individual Democratic candidates. They often have little understanding of the economic facts of life. Democrats must fight back. We need a think tank to create a vision. There should be economic policy wonks, certainly, but also qualitative types from creative areas such as advertising, public relations, movies, etc. The goal would be to create a clear economic vision served up with modern emotionally driven communication techniques.
Let us hope that Democrats can figure out a way to get the economic facts of life across because time is running out for the survival of the planet. This depends on Democrats winning elections, which depends on Democrats waking up and then deploying their secret weapon: “It’s the economy, stupid!”