We celebrate the hundredth Sharper Focus with extracts from earlier articles.
Imagine a Forest Service campground right by a lake. It has no water supply. How so? A washed-up movie actor told jokes about the government and became president. Ronald Reagan promised the economy would grow because tax cuts and deregulation (“Reaganomics”) would unleash America’s economic tigers.
But it caused inflation, cut infrastructure spending and tripled national debt. Reagan’s vaunted “economic miracle” came from useless military spending funded by borrowed money. Nobody cared. Communications experts in Republican “think tanks” knew that Republicans cannot think.
George Bush Senior called this scheme “voodoo economics.” He was right. Around 88 percent of America’s national debt by 2019 will have come from Republicans taking care of America’s aristocratic 1 percent. Aristocrats do not go to public campgrounds, only their servants, so public campgrounds have fallen into disrepair due to tax breaks given to aristocrats.
Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, said America has become like Downton Abbey, a British soap opera about an aristocratic family. They live in luxury. Their servants are trapped in poverty and work like slaves. This is the right wing’s vision for America. They will be the aristocracy. You will work like a slave.
Germans are not slaves trapped in poverty. They have free university education, free health care, paid maternity leave, six weeks’ paid vacation, paid sick leave, job security, unions on company boards and real pensions. They are not moochers and understand that paying the necessary taxes is more efficient than private systems such as America’s health care.
Germany’s industrial policy produces high wages, high profits and high exports. It is now the world’s third-largest exporter, just behind America, yet it has only a quarter of our population. Pope Francis likes it. He has condemned Reagan’s “trickle-down theories” as immoral.
America once had a similar era of prosperity. Our Golden Age came from Henry Ford’s idea: “There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.”
Americans are now paid the lowest wages possible. Up to 1975, productivity gains flowed into workers’ wage packets. After that, the top 1 percent absconded with the extra wealth created. Wages fell. Reagan’s “trickle down” economics is the biggest rip-off in economic history.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich once estimated that the median household income today should be $92,000, not $52,000, to have kept up with productivity growth. Wages and salaries have sunk to the lowest level since 1929, yet corporate profits are higher than 1942. But America’s economy is not driven by corporate profits.
It is driven by consumer spending. If consumers have no money, they cannot spend. If consumers cannot spend, companies will not hire. Workers will not get hired and spend wages. It really is that simple. All the money grabbed by the top 1 percent simply cannot be spent fast enough to trickle down to the plebs. Even the chairman of Goldman Sachs thinks this a bad idea. The International Monetary Fund agrees that it shrinks an economy’s size.
And do “job creators” (corporate CEOs) really create jobs? No; they are profit-creators. So how do they create profits? They ship jobs abroad to low-wage countries. They create them there in the first place. They are job destroyers. The U.S. Department of Commerce found that from 2000 to 2009, U.S. multinational corporations cut their American employment by 2.9 million. But they increased their employment abroad by 2.4 million.
Hence, inequality in America today is worse than it was during the Gilded Age. “Reaganomics” is a failed experiment, yet Americans are addicted to it due to the political incompetence of the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders fought vocally against inequality. He was drowned out but showed Democrats the way forward:
- Stop sucking up to Wall Street to get money,
- Money that is squandered on TV ads everyone hates
- And mailers that everyone junks
- Get donations from real people, $27 each, using the Internet.
- Promote economic policies to benefit the 99 percent.
- They will run to vote for them without being begged.
Because, as they say on Madison Avenue, it doesn’t matter how great the marketing campaign is if the dogs won’t eat the dog food.
If you vote for robbers, do not be surprised if you get robbed. If you do not demand integrity, you will not get it. And do not believe Republicans’ fairy tales. Their priority is making their rich pals richer, not you. The new occupant of the Oval Office proves it every day.