Monday, November 26, 2007


I’m reading Jonathan Chait’s new book “The Big Con: The true story of how Washington got hoodwinked and hijacked by crackpot economics” in which he lays out the sordid disaster that is “Supply-side economics” and details how such a loopy and discredited economic policy became the guiding principle of a major political party (i.e. Republicans). Chait begins his book this way:

"I have this problem. Whenever I try to explain what's happening in American politics - I mean, what's really happening - I wind up sounding a bit like an unhinged conspiracy theorist. But honestly, I'm not... so please give me a chance to explain myself when I tell you that American politics has been hijacked by a tiny coterie of right wing economic extremists, some of them ideological zealots, others merely greedy, a few of them possibly insane"

Insane is probably putting it mildly. Supply side economics - the idea that there is some inverse correlation between cutting taxes and increasing government revenue (i.e. the more you cut, the more revenue that will come in) - has been discredited more times than I can count. Starting with the Reagan tax cuts in the 1980s that brought us into the era of runaway deficits and repeated again by W. Bush whose tax cuts made the Clinton-era surplus vanish only to be replaced with record deficits once again.
And still, Republicans in power today insist that all we need to do is cut taxes more and that it will magicly solve all of our problems.

There is a scene in “The Bee Movie” in which Jerry Seinfeld’s bee character gets trapped in a house and trys to fly out through a closed window. He slams into the glass and is shocked that he can’t get through. He trys again with the same result, at which point he starts banging into the glass repeatedly over and over, each time saying “Maybe this time, maybe this time, maybe this time...”
It’s hilarious because that is exactly what bugs tend to do, but it is also a good description of your typical wingnuts who never let something like repeated failures dissuade them from pushing the same discredited theories over and over again.

What strikes me about all of this is how the same people who continue to buy into supply-side economics are typically the same ones who are going to deny that global warming is a problem, or who still believe that going into Iraq was a good idea, or who favor teaching “intelligent design” in the schools; etc.
Don’t try to confuse these people with the facts. They are immune to such arguments. They will just continue to smash themselves into that window over and over again, dragging us along with them if they can.

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