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Travis Rowley: Let it Trickle Down

Saturday, September 08, 2012


Anyone who forced himself to watch the Democratic National Convention this week should now be well acquainted with the notion of growing an economy “from the middle out” – the Left’s new favorite pretext.

Taking a cue from an Obama campaign ad, in which Obama claims that “the way you grow the economy is from the middle out,” candidate for US Senate Elizabeth Warren took to the convention stage to say, “We know that the economy doesn't grow from the top down, but from the middle class out and the bottom up. That's how we create jobs and reduce the debt.” Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Democrats believe we must create jobs, not protect the special interests; build the economy from the middle out, not the top down.” Congressman Chris Van Hollen was emphatic: “It's about growing the economy – not from the top down, but from the middle out and bottom up.” Hollywood starlet Eva Longoria said, “President Obama is fighting for changes that grow the economy from the middle out and help all Americans succeed.” And Senator Barbara Mikulski spoke eloquently, declaring that women especially “understand that America grows the economy and opportunity from the middle out, not the top down.”

At the close of the convention, it was pretty safe to assume that Democrats believe the economy should be grown from the “middle out.”

Vice President Joe Biden might have been the only speaker to decide not to utilize the phrase (which was ironic, because Biden was the only one who had actual life experience with plagiarism).

Double-Down On Trickle-Down

No doubt about it, the new “fair share” is “middle out, bottom up.” So be prepared to start seeing this Democratic slogan etched into Starbucks stalls and onto the pages of the Providence Phoenix.

But what does this new motto really mean? Of what policies is it an indicator?

Certainly, this term is an expansion of the language of class warfare and the Left’s desire to increase taxes on the relatively well-off. But it’s also a rhetorical response to an economic expression that most conservatives, following steady and immense media ridicule, decided to abandon long ago – “trickle-down economics.” The guiding notion behind “trickle-down” philosophy is that leaving wealth in the hands of the wealthy – those at the “top” – benefits the economy as a whole.

Democrats hate it.

Michael McDonald, the union president for Local 528 of Council 94 (AFSCME), recently contended in the Warwick Beacon that “the old trickle down economics theory, which in the history of our country has never proved successful, is being recycled here in Rhode Island.” He added that “all the tax breaks in the world for our wealthy citizens will not solve our problems.” Obama recently mocked Mitt Romney’s economic plan as “trickle-down fairy dust" that won’t work. And former President Bill Clinton boomed during his convention speech that the Republicans foolishly wanted to “double-down on trickle-down!”

Democrats can continue to deride the phrase “trickle-down” all they want, but it’s simply an expression of employment and job creation – the very thing Democrats claim to desire.

Consider this: Didn’t the money in your pocket once belong to your boss? Well, that’s called “trickle-down.” It’s called “work.” This is the system that Democrats have decided to ridicule and replace.

Michael McDonald – like most leaders of organized labor – desperately needs this explained to him. Or perhaps McDonald should just Google “the Reagan years.” Or maybe someone should inform him that, until a housing crisis plunged the nation into a fast and deep recession, the Bush tax cuts had resulted in what many have referred to as “virtual full employment.”

Virtual full employment? Boy, that’s a lot of fairy dust!

Disingenuous Democrats

Democrats are so sweet. The government should cater to the poor and middle class before it bothers with the wealthy, they tell us.

But aren’t the 2012 elections “all about jobs and the economy?” And isn’t the fostering of a robust job market the optimal way to assist the average citizen?

Furthermore, haven’t Democrats clearly demonstrated an awareness of the danger involved with taxing upper-income earners, especially during economic downturns? In January of 2010, Obama said that from “listening to the consensus among people who know the economy best,” he had decided that “if you…increase taxes…when the economy remains somewhat fragile that that would have a destimulative effect. And potentially you’d see a lot of folks losing business, more folks potentially losing jobs. That would be a mistake when the economy has not fully taken off.” “The last thing you want to do is raise taxes in the middle of a recession,” Obama once told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “Because that would just suck up, take more demand out of the economy. And put businesses in a further hole.” Obama supporter John Talbott, the author of Obamanomics and a believer in “bottom-up economics,” has admitted that raising taxes “would not be the right solution in a recession.”

This all amounts to – at the very least – a slight tip of the cap to “trickle-down economics” – leaving wealth in the hands of the wealthy for the good of the poor.

Nevertheless, Obama and his progressive allies have continuously and curiously advocated for tax-the-rich measures during every stage of this weak economy, culminating with Senate Democrats (including Sheldon Whitehouse) recently approving a tax hike on Americans earning over $200,000 per year – a move that Ernst & Young calculated would have potentially “kill[ed] more than 700,000 jobs” if House Republicans had not stood in the way.

The Left’s Pickle

Behind the language of “middle out, bottom up” economics is the Democrats’ inability to abandon their seductive and disingenuous politics of envy. This election isn’t about jobs. For Democrats, this election is about winning this election.

And while many Democrats understand perfectly well the power of unfettered capitalism, their socialist base will have nothing of it. At the heart of the modern Democratic Party is a deep disdain for the economic inequality that results from national prosperity. The Left’s reverence is therefore reserved only for “economic justice” – the redistribution of wealth.

If it was possible for people to acquire jobs that somehow managed to provide them with paychecks, but failed to also enrich “CEOs” and “corporations” – you know, their bosses – then progressives might be all for it. Until then, progressives prefer to artificially place “demand” back into the economy by redistributing wealth into the “middle” and down to the “bottom.”

But in order to do so, Democrats first have to “tax the rich” – the very thing many of them have admitted would decelerate economic growth.

Democrats have politically cornered themselves into having to argue that socialism is as powerful as capitalism; that the discarded economic theories of the 20th century are what would help stimulate the American economy; that, somehow, those at the “bottom” and in the “middle” will be able to push “up” and “out” without jobs.

Democrats need to make a decision: Do they want a thriving economy, or do they want to continue to placate to their anti-capitalist base?

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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