How Economic Outrage Trumps Most Other Issues
Democrats are hoping that national social issues like abortion & gay marriage will help this November but most voters — particularly independents & Latinos — put the economy as their #1 issue
Nothing is more powerful than economics.
Economics seems like an erudite science, or a boring classroom topic, but it is the most powerful force in all of politics.
Every single one of us, every single day is affected in one way or another by economics. It determines our ability to feed and house and clothe ourselves, to live with dignity, to support and help those around us and those dependent upon us.
It’s so powerful that it blinds us to everything else. When economics are out of whack, we cease to care about pretty much anything else that doesn’t impinge on our survival.
Last Saturday, for example, was a national day of action across the United Kingdom known as “Enough is Enough”; millions turned out in the streets to protest the combination of economic stagnation, inflation, and the elimination of the top tax bracket on the morbidly rich by the conservative Tories.
As a result, Britain’s new conservative Prime Minister, Liz Truss, announced she was not going forward with her plan to eliminate the top tax rate on the morbidly rich.
It shows how the power of economic outrage will beat almost every other issue; a lesson Republicans have been falsely trading on since the 1980s.
Monday’s “Daily” podcast from The New York Times was titled “The Latino Voters Who Could Decide the Midterms” and, repeatedly, their interviews and focus groups found members of this largest single minority group in America — who generally agree with Democrats on most social issues — will vote Republican because, they said, “Republicans are better on the economy.”
It’s an especially big deal in swing states like Nevada where 20% of the electorate is Latino and NBC News recently headlined: “Democrats and Republicans are courting Latinos on the economy in Nevada's tight Senate race.”
The simple reality is that Republicans suck when it comes to the economy and have for over a century.
Ten out of eleven of the past recessions, for example, have begun under Republican presidents since Eisenhower.
(1953–Eisenhower; 1958–Eisenhower; 1960–Eisenhower; 1969–Nixon; 1975–Ford; 1980–Carter; 1982–Reagan; 1991—GHW Bush; 2001–GW Bush; 2007–GW Bush; 2020-Trump.)
In total, there have been 17 recessions in the past 100 years, 13 of them on Republicans’ watch, and the last to happen while a Democrat was in office was during the presidential campaign year 1980 with Jimmy Carter because Reagan’s campaign conspired with the Iranians to hold our hostages (according to Iran’s then-president) and the Iranians pulled their oil off the market.
And now, arguably, we’re on the verge of another recession, this time produced by Jerome Powell, a lifelong Republican who Trump first appointed to head the Fed.
For the past century economic growth in the US has averaged 4.4% when Democrats were in the White House but an anemic 2.5% when a Republican occupied that office. As David Leonhardt noted last year for The New York Times:
“The average income of Americans would be more than double its current level if the economy had somehow grown at the Democratic rate for all of the past nine decades.”
Unemployment, a measure of the number of people who have lost their jobs, rose by an average of 1.1% every time a Republican took the presidency, but fell by an average of .8% when a Democrat was in charge.
Roosevelt, Johnson, Carter, Truman, Kennedy, and Clinton (all Democrats) had the fastest job-growth rate of all presidents (although it looks like Biden may have beaten all but Roosevelt); the very worst presidents for job growth were Trump, Bush Jr., Bush Sr., and Eisenhower (all Republicans).
Even the stock market does better under Democrats. At the end of each’s presidency, the market was:
Reagan - up 118 percent
GHW Bush – up 45.7 percent
Clinton – up 226 percent
GW Bush – down (23.7 percent)
Obama – up 145.4 percent
Trump – up 36.7 percent
If you’re concerned about the national debt, the entire $30+ trillion of it can be attributed to four simple events: massive, multi-trillion-dollar tax cuts by Reagan, Bush, and Trump along with two unnecessary multi-trillion-dollar wars that George W. Bush lied us into.
The Reagan tax cut reduced federal income tax revenues from both morbidly rich individuals and corporations by 2.9% of GDP, an impact that has lasted from the 1980s to today. Last year’s GDP was $22.9 trillion, meaning the lasting impact of just Reagan’s tax cut was $664 billion just last year. And it’s been in place 40+ years!
Add to that George W. Bush’s massive tax cut and the 2017 $2 trillion cut Trump put into place — both of which are still with us, at least in large part — and you have a huge national debt.
Had the 74% top individual tax rate and the north-of-50% corporate rate in place at the end of Carter’s presidency remained, we may never have seen our federal deficit balloon beyond a trillion or two dollars.
In fact, here are the year-end budget deficits or surpluses left to the next president by:
Carter - $78.9 billion deficit
Reagan - $152.6 billion deficit
GHW Bush - $255 billion deficit
Clinton – ($236 billion) surplus
GW Bush - $1.14 trillion deficit
Obama - $584.6 billion deficit
Trump - $3.1 trillion deficit
If you’re noticing a trend, it’s pretty obvious: Republicans run up huge debts that Democrats then do their best to fix.
This also explains why low information voters — apparently including a majority of Latinos (although they don’t corner the market on “low information”: it’s a problem across all demographics) — believe that Republicans are better with the economy.
Here’s the scam Republicans have been running ever since 1977 when Jude Wanniski proposed it in The Wall Street Journal and Reagan made it policy in 1981:
*When a Republican is in the White House, run up the national debt as fast and as hard as possible through both cutting taxes and raising spending to irresponsible levels.
*This produces a “sugar high” for the economy, causing people to think the Republican president created a “really good” economy.
*But this “let the good times roll” economy was put entirely on America’s credit card, so, when a Democrat takes office, Republicans yell and scream about the national debt and how, “No family could ever be so irresponsible as to run up all that indebtedness!” while demanding cuts in social programs.
*Democrats raise taxes slightly and cut back spending or “end welfare as we know it,” so Republicans then blame the plight of low-income people on Democratic policies: the GOP has succeeded, in Wanniski’s words, in forcing Democrats to “shoot Santa Claus.”
*Next time a Republican takes the White House, run up the debt again with more irresponsible tax cuts and spending. Rinse, repeat.
Democrats are hoping that national social issues like abortion and the threat to gay marriage and birth control will provoke a big win against Republicans this November. But most voters — particularly independents and Latinos — put the economy as their number-one issue.
Brits have figured out the scam neoliberalism has run since the days of Thatcher and Reagan and appear unwilling to double down on that failed experiment. Americans, however, under assault from a daily barrage of right-wing messaging paid for by billionaires protecting their tax cuts, don’t seem to have a clue.
Democrats have spent years failing to clearly message their own economic successes. That needs to change now.