The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Voodoo Economics: Perfect for a boom, perfect for a bust.

Yeesh. One of the creepiest things about conservatives I know is their remarkable ability to shrug off a simple test: "Were the situation reversed, would I still hold the same position?" Bush v Gore was one of the most egregious (and costly) examples, but the serial adultery to be found among the ranks of GOP presidential hopefuls makes the dreaded Bill Clinton look like a choirboy. One Republican family member of mine in particular felt that Clinton should have been removed from office, tossed in the slammer, and preferably given regular treatments of paper cuts and sea-salt massages. She's a Giuliani supporter. Another of her firm beliefs involves the economic pain of the 80s, the upswing of the 90s, and the largely unpleasant 00s. You see, it's all about time lag. Democrats plant economic time bombs that mysteriously blow up after six or seven years of Republican policies. Republican presidents, by contrast, plant supply-side seeds of gold that mature years after their policies have been replaced by Dems. Had the sequence been different, I'm quite confident that she'd be of the opinion that only a drooling idiot could maintain that it took so many years for policies to have an effect.

Jonathon Chait takes a look at the many, many ways in which the foundation of Republican economic policy (until the 1980s seen as the domain of reactionary crackpots) follows this sort of non-reasoning. And how 2008 is going to see another round of fools claiming that anything less than expanded tax cuts-- you know, to fight the deficit and pay for their trillion-dollar war-- is the equivalent of wearing a beret, brandishing a hammer and sickle, and probably feasting on toddler pot pie to boot.

The original reason we needed a tax cut was that a surplus meant taxpayers were overcharged. Then the overcharge disappeared, but we needed a tax cut on account of the recession. Currently, we need tax cuts because the fact that the recession ended means the old tax cuts are working. If the economy tanks, I assume we'll just be told again we can't raise taxes during a recession.

This Orwellian spectacle has grown so familiar that it has simply become an accepted fact of life in Washington. A New York Times article earlier this month called the economic expansion "one of the few positive developments President Bush and the Republican candidates have been able to cite." But, the same article proceeded to explain, "the threat of a recession would make it harder to advocate allowing President Bush's tax cuts to expire, as the lower rates are scheduled to do in 2010, and easier for Republicans to argue that Democratic proposals to raise taxes on the rich risk making the economy worse." So, if the economy keeps growing, it helps the GOP. But, if it stops growing, it hurts the Democrats. Sadly, this is probably an accurate summation of the debate.

I know that sounds like the start of countless articles written over the last five years, but it gets better. Plus, it's nice to see Chait take a swipe at the MSM's laziness on economic matters.