The Right’s Lamest Defense of Trickle Down Economics? Misunderstanding How Metaphors Work.

While defending their economic policies, right-wingers have begun to push back on the idea that Trickle Down Economics even exists.

Right-wingers in America have a new line of defense against attacks on their economic theories — ignore what a metaphor is.

A metaphor, by definition, is “a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance.” This is what “Trickle Down Economics” is — a turn of phrase. It’s meant to be emblematic of what supply side economists promise everyone will happen if we just tilt the scale enough in the upper crust’s direction, or if we put the tax rates as far over to the left on the Laffer Curve as possible.

But don’t try to tell that to right-wingers.

I cannot tell you how many people I’ve seen on the right end of the spectrum defending Trickle Down on the basis that it’s not a “real thing.” That’s right, they are arguing that since Trickle-Down Economics was a term coined and popularized by Reagan’s adversaries to mock his economic policy ideas (it actually has roots going back into the late 19th century, but that won’t stop them from claiming it was all made up to attack Reagan), that means criticisms of the actual policies entailed in it are invalid.

What an absolute and positive crock of shit, and here’s why.

Take a look at this Facebook post from late in 2013 from “Being Classically Liberal.”

The thing is, that Trickle Down is a theory. It has roots as I said earlier that go back to the late 1800’s, and President Lyndon B. Johnson famously said back in 1971 that Republicans “simply don’t know how to manage the economy. They’re so busy operating the trickle-down theory, giving the richest corporations the biggest break, that the whole thing goes to hell in a hand basket.” So clearly the idea that Republicans were the most concerned with protecting the One Percent and Corporate America by way of giving tax breaks to the super-wealthy is nothing remotely new, nor did it just magically appear as a response to Ronald Reagan’s proposals.

Essentially what fiscal conservatives are trying to argue is that since Supply Side Economics was given a pejorative moniker that sticks, that means Trickle Down isn’t really a thing. Is a home run in baseball not a home run because we call it a “long ball,” “tater,” or “grand salami?” You can’t claim that something doesn’t exist just because it’s a nickname, even a pejorative one. But I guess since these are the same people that by and large ignore actual recorded history and claim that slavery was almost incidental to the Civil War, or that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are secret communists, their grasp on reality shouldn’t be taken too, too seriously.

This line of defense of Trickle Down is a microcosm of all that is so backwards about conservatism. They’d rather hang onto a silly semantics argument then debate the nuts and bolts truth that there is no evidence that tilting the tax code heavily toward the rich actually spreads wealth downward, which is all that Trickle Down really is. Supply Side Economics states that you weigh your economic policies much more heavily toward the suppliers — the rich — because the idea is that when the rich are richer, they spend the money by investing and giving their employees raises, and that all…wait for it…trickles down to the lower ends of the economic scale.

“Trickle Down Economics” is just a way to describe to the average person what the theory is designed to give as a result. Maybe right-wingers don’t like that anymore and that’s why they’re getting so peevish about a metaphor. Undeniably, for the last 30 or so years people on the left have unabashedly used the term to describe Supply Side.

The question we all have to ask these fiscal conservatives is very simple. “Do you believe in an economic model that taxes the rich at as a low a rate as possible so that the overages work their way back into the economy by way of investment, consumer spending, and raises for the labor force?” Okay, so that question isn’t simple, but if they answer in the affirmative, congratulate them for confirming that Trickle Down not only exists, they are firm believers in it.

Kansas’ Governor Sam Brownback (R) put Supply Side/Reaganomics/Trickle Down/Whatever the Hell You Choose to Call It on full display in his state.  The results were absolutely horrendous. The state’s budget has more holes in it than a truck stop locker room wall. Those budgetary holes are wreaking havoc on the services that Kansans depend on.

The fact is that Brownback did everything that Ronald Reagan would have dreamed of doing to the economy on a mass scale. He gutted the tax coffers but he failed to cut spending and/or offset the cuts from income and corporate taxes somewhere else. Tax revenues in the state are down when all over the country they’re up. Brownback’s experiment with full-blown Trickle Down has been an abysmal failure; albeit one the good people of Kansas still wanted to live in. But that’s Kansas for you, trailing the nation in most indicators except stubborn recalcitrance to modernity and basic math.

So no, fiscal conservatives, Emperor/Saint Ronald Reagan did not in fact use the term “Trickle Down Economics” to describe his supply side policies. And yes, it was Democrats and his opponents within the GOP who started referring to his policies as such. But no, it wasn’t a term just made up out of thin air to insult Reagan or his acolytes, and yes it is still very much so a perfect metaphor for the result that Supply Side is supposed to get you. You don’t just get to make up your own history, and you don’t get to ignore reality.

Call it Trickle Down. Call it Supply Side. Call it Mary and buy it a goddamned sandwich. I don’t care what name you fly the flag of oligarchy and corporatism under. I call it something completely different myself anyway.

Bullshit.

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