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Since the advent of Reaganomics, both Repubs and Dems have fully embraced supply-side, trickle-down economic policy as the course that would provide growth and prosperity for all Americans. Indeed, there was no greater advocate of this than Bill Clinton, who established NAFTA as the standard for our Free Trade policies.
In the beginning, Reagan and Clinton, et. al., insisted that the benefits of this economic policy would "trickle-down" to wage-earners. What we got instead were stagnant wages, downward "competitive" pressure on pension and health care (and other) benefits, an assault on government safety net programs and regulatory protections, along with the decimation of the Labor Movement. "Trickle-down" has, in reality, become more like a "golden shower," and it is Wall Street that is standing atop it all with its zipper down.
Whatever "benefits" received under this supply-side system were actually a chimera. The housing bubble offered an illusory increase in middle class wealth, and easy credit replaced actual wages as the growth in "income" to be spent by middle-class households. (This "credit-income" was spent, by the way, in support of keeping the consumer-driven economy afloat. That is perhaps the cruelest hoax of all!)
Meanwhile, government spending was increased - not on social programs - but rather on military adventures and corporate giveaways. In addition, we suffered ever greater increases in expenditures to cover the interest costs for the loans that supplanted tax receipts as we slashed tax rates for the wealthy and the corporations to some of the lowest levels in modern history.
At present, there's no longer even mention of any trickle-down benefit to be gained. Thirty years of Reaganomics has redefined the economy itself. It's no longer the objective of economic policy to improve the living standards of all Americans. Rather, our goal is to do whatever is necessary - make whatever sacrifices are asked of us - to grow the Dow Jones Industrial Average and increase shareholders' profits.
Nothing else matters. Cut taxes. Trash Social Security and Medicare. Universal Health Care? Fuggedaboutit! Labor and environmental standards? Yeah, right! We gotta be competitive with places like Myanmar and the Mariannas, and so anything that increases "the cost of doing business" must be avoided.
There's no longer any hope even offered that our children will experience improvement in their living standard or actually receive any benefit from growth in this economy. Indeed, listen to Obama's SOTU Address as he promises that we can become (h/t to obey) "a nation of innovative hobos" if we will just knuckle down and try. Wage earners and the middle class are simply collateral damage to be sacrificed on the path to a far greater good, which is defined quite exclusively as increased profits on Wall Street:
"...the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again."
President Obama - 2011 SOTU
THAT'S how the Dems and the Repubs both describe a successful economic policy. "If Wall Street is happy, we're all happy!" It must be noted that Obama does offer some bromides about "the success of our people" and even the "quality of our jobs," etc., but the words ring hollow in the absence of any change in policy direction from the status quo. The unemployed worker, after all, knows how futile such expressions of hope are in our present system. These wage-earners no longer believe there is any chance they will improve their circumstance in the choice of that next job. Indeed, he or she wonders if they will ever again gain employment that will pay a wage capable of sustaining them and their family. And Obama can't even begin to assuage their fears. Within the context of the SOTU Address, the best he offers to us and our children is the chance to be "a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise." Innovative hobos, indeed!
For thirty years, the Dems and Republicans have both been fully on board as advocates for this experiment in supply-side Reaganomics. It's failed. Just look around within all our stressed communities in this nation - from Sarasota-Bradenton to Bakersfield and to all points in between - and you will see that it has failed miserably. It's time to try something different, and I expect we will not know anything close to peace, hope, and prosperity among the electorate until we take some plausible steps toward charting a different course for our economy.