It’s never not the economy, stupid

Something we never seem to remember, while the good to the economy done by responsible and sensible federal policies may be quickly squandered (see “Clinton Legacy, the”), particularly the case when no lasting narrative is put behind those policies to keep them going, economic damage by insane policies can last generations. This is the conclusion of Joseph Stiglitz, one of my alma mater’s Nobel Laureates in Economics, writing in this lengthy Vanity Fair piece.
Stiglitz, who long ago evaluated the real costs of the Iraq war and noted that counting things like losses caused by increasing the price of oil, long-term health care costs of crippled soldiers and the like, the Iraq bill would be an absolute minimum of $2-3 trillion, notes that the Iraq war is only a small part of “the Bush economic legacy” to us all.
The costs of the beloved Bush tax cuts resulted in the most rapid shift from surplus to massive deficit since the Second World War, and the piled on deficit caused by tax cuts that stimulated the investment portfolios and luxury goods markets for the super-duper rich, but for everyone else… not so much, if anything… will be borne by the rest of us for at least decades… indeed, just paying interest on the piled on debt since Bush took office, and nothing else will result in adding the current annual cost of the Iraq war to the federal budget… indefinitely. While our relatively low unemployment of around 4.6% can be pointed to as a “positive”… Stiglitz piece notes that in terms of wages for the average male worker in their 30’s… in real terms, such a worker is significantly less well-off than his father was by this stage in their career. Now THAT’S an economic legacy!
Yes, the events of 9-11 and our sudden national paranoia had a bit to do with it, but the Iraq war had a huge amount, and of course… those wonderful non-stimulative tax cuts! The thing is, Republicans just will not be deterred: as Steve Benen notes in this great TPM piece, pretty much every Republican must spout the party line of “make Bush’s tax cuts permanent”… damn the $2-3 trillion in even bigger deficits such a move would engender. Steve gives us a phrase that I think we need to play with… the Republicans believe in “The Tax Fairy” (h/t Bruce… what else is new?).
I personally would add a word to the phrase, and make it “The Tax Cut Fairy”. Not that it would have made any difference in our media environment, but imagine if Al Gore had suggested in 2000 or Kerry in 2004 that “I see George W. Bush believes in ‘The Tax Cut Fairy’… who’ll come under your pillow on April 15th and pretend that because it looks like you might be saving money this year, somehow next year or the year after you or your kids won’t have to pay for it… How cool! I want my own Tax Cut Fairy! Can I get one, please.” Obviously, the theme would have to be developed, and repeated millions of times… in our blogospheric echo chamber, in public, and hell… by some Democratic elected officials?
Still and all, the premise that cutting taxes could lead to increased revenues has been discredited for some time… and in any event, the last seven years have demonstrated that at least the Bush tax cuts serve only to drive up deficit, whether or not some tax cuts might be salutory in some contexts, somewhere.
Of course, note the possibilities of the term “The Tax Cut Fairy”… every time Grover Norquist is seen in public, he could be asked “How’s the Tax Cut Fairy doing?” (This could be doubly troubling for Grover among his Neanderthal friends, especially given rumors of his own sexual orientation ). The beauty of the phrase “The Tax Cut Fairy” over “Santa Claus” should be obvious… this is America, where far more people believe in Santa (and his anagram, Satan) than in Darwin’s theory of evolution… that sort of thing. “The Tax Cut Fairy” is most definitely not Santa… heavens… I don’t want to be accused of being part of the War on ChristmasTM! So… Tax Cut Fairy. Tax Cut Fairy.
Next time, we’ll talk about the ongoing Republican obsession with fairies in the context of “the Tinkerbell problem” with the Iraq war… to wit, the Iraq war didn’t go well because too many Americans didn’t believe that the war is going well.
This has been “It’s never not the economy, stupid.”