Same as it ever was.

There’s a great  article by Tim Dickinson in Rolling Stone about “how the G.O.P. Became the Party of the Rich”. Overall, it’s a great read, though I do have some criticisms of it. The first is that, although the article tries to portray President Reagan as a tax-raising, pragmatic individual from whose wise leadership the party has sadly deviated, the truth is that they have were “the Party of the Rich” in his time as well, and indeed were such before him.

This isn’t, so far as it goes, an inherently bad thing. After all, political parties are made of interest groups, and “the Rich” are certainly a sort of interest group. Admittedly, not one that can win a fair democratic election, but then the Republicans of today are not just the “Party of the Rich”. They also are the party of nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and many other things.

(It should also be remembered that they won many fewer elections when they were simply “the Party of the Rich”, from the 1930s through the 1960s, than they did when they became “the Party of the Rich and of other things” in the 1980s.)

The point is, it’s not like representing the rich is a new thing to the party. In fact, I think the Republicans have always been that way, or at least it has since the 1870s. Having said that, it is probably true that they are now more fanatical in their pursuit of low taxes. this is largely because whereas the Republicans of decades past were motivated by an (understandable, if not laudable) antipathy to paying taxes, the current version of the party has a Nationalistic wing which opposes the supposedly non-Nationalist liberal government, and wishes to deprive it of resources. This gives a visceral passion to their rhetoric and policy that was lacking before.

The second issue is the author’s claim that the idea of President Bush’s tax cuts providing an economic stimulus:

“…was lousy economics. The previous two decades, after all, had demonstrated that “trickle-down” tax cuts don’t juice the economy – they create bubbles and balloon deficits.”

This is sort of true, but it obscures one thing: “juicing the economy” and “creating bubbles” are almost the same thing. Bubbles almost always result from a booming economy; indeed, I do not believe it is possible for a bubble to arise without a booming economy.

This means that, in fact, the tax cuts were “good” economics, in the sense that they probably did help achieve their proponents’ promise of aiding a short-term stimulus to the economy. Of course, they did have a dramatic downside, as we can see, but this is often the way with such booms.

In my opinion, the Bush administration was right to cut taxes in 2001-2, but they should have (a) made them more favorable to working class people and even more importantly (b) raised taxes in about 2005, during the relatively good economy.

These issues aside, it’s a very good article.

What's your stake in this, cowboy?