Such simplicity, such elegance…such nonsense.

That quote from Jared Bernstein (Watching History Unfold) sums up my feelings about “supply side” economics (aka, “voodoo economics” as George H.W. Bush more honestly put it before he stuffed his integrity up his ass in order to get to be Reagan’s VP).

The thing is, it’s not exactly earth-shattering news to most sane people that the idea of giving tax breaks to the rich and removing as much regulation as possible would eventually put us back on the road to yet another boom and bust event.

After the Civil War, we went through this crap every 20 years.

We had them in 1873 after years of Republican rule and government-promoted speculative credit led to a series of bank failures.1

We had them in 1892 after Republicans cheated and stole the election of 1888. Their policies led to rampant speculation in the railroad industry and corporate takeovers, then bankruptcy and a massive credit crunch, more bank failures, unemployment, and a housing crisis.2

Sound familiar, yet?

The only exception was when Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House. A Republican in name only (he was the first President to call for universal health care), Roosevelt broke the cycle, but Republicans went right back to it with Harding, Coolidge and Hoover.

Then, of course, there was the Great Depression. Yet, another Republican-engineered failure of the economy thanks to their philosophy that giving money to the wealthy and propping up their buddies in huge corporations will somehow make us all rich. It works for a little while, but it always leads to a huge crash.

Now, maybe it’s simplistic to credit Franklin Roosevelt and the continuation of his policies and safeguards for working folks under Truman, Eisenhower3, Kennedy and Johnson with the avoidance of another one of these cycles, but isn’t it interesting how it’s all started back up again since we’ve had 25+ years of Reagan, Bush, Clinton4 and Bush?

The problem with history, though, is that only geeks like me pay any attention to it. 1873, 1893, 1929…pffft…we weren’t alive back then, man. How do we know what happened? Still, you would think that at least those who have never known a world without FDR’s Social Security, the FDIC, and the SEC might stop for a second when Bush appoints a do-nothing SEC chairman (one thing John McCain got right this past week, even if he fumbled the execution) and scores of Republicans (including McCain) call for putting Social Security into the stock market.

And now McCain wants to open up the health care system to free market forces.

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.5

Yes, we all know how well that’s turned out.

Now, after years of listening to this crap, how free markets will save the world (if not the cheerleader), we have the fricking Secretary of the Treasury asking for $700 billion to give to his Wall Street buddies, no questions asked.

No. Seriously. No questions asked. That’s what the proposal says:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.6

And yet, Barack Obama is only a few percentage points ahead in the polls.

I keep remembering a line from Jon Lovitz as Michael Dukakis in a Saturday Night Live mock Presidential debate in 1988: “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy!”

It’s a pet peeve of mine to get pissed off when Republicans, lacking their own good examples and tiring of saying “Reagan, Reagan, Reagan” all day, turn to Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy. Sarah Palin did it in her speech at the GOP convention by calling on the ghost of Harry Truman. Like they’d be soooo Republican today.


60 years ago Harry Truman told us the unvarnished truth about the Republican philosophy. He might just as well have been stumping for Obama today:

“Today the forces of liberalism face a crisis. The people of the United States must make a choice between two ways of living–a decision, which will affect us the rest of our lives and our children and our grandchildren after us.

On the other side, there is the Wall Street way of life and politics. Trust the leader! Let big business take care of prices and profits! Measure all things by money! That is the philosophy of the masters of the Republican Party.

Well, I have been studying the Republican Party for over 12 years at close hand in the Capital of the United States. And by this time, I have discovered where the Republicans stand on most of the major issues.

Since they won’t tell you themselves, I am going to tell you.

They approve of the American farmer-but they are willing to help him go broke.

They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing.

They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights.

They favor a minimum wage–the smaller the minimum the better.

They endorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools.

They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them.

They approve of social security benefits-so much so that they took them away from almost a million people.

They favor the admission of displaced persons–but only within shameful racial and religious limitations.

They consider electric power a great blessing-but only when the private power companies get their rake-off.

They say TVA is wonderful–but we ought never to try it again.

They think the American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people.

And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.

Now, my friends, that is the Wall Street Republican way of life. But there is another way–there is another way–the Democratic way, the way of the Democratic Party.

Of course, the Democratic Party is not perfect. Nobody ever said it was. But the Democratic Party believes in the people. It believes in freedom and progress, and it is fighting for its beliefs right now.

In the Democratic Party, you won’t find the kind of unity where everybody thinks what the boss tells him to think, and nothing else.

But you will find an overriding purpose to work for the good of mankind. And you will find a program–a concrete, realistic, and practical program that is worth believing in and fighting for.

Now, I call on all liberals and progressives to stand up and be counted for democracy in this great battle. I call on the old Farmer-Labor Party, the old Wisconsin Progressives, the Non-Partisan Leaguers, and the New Dealers to stand up and be counted in this fight.

This is one fight you must get in, and get in with every ounce of strength you have. After November 2d, it will be too late. It will do no good to change your mind on November 3d. The decision is right here and now.

Against us we have the best propaganda campaign that money can buy.

But we are bound to win–and we are going to win, because we are right! I am here to tell you that in this fight, the people are with us.

With a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, you will have the right kind of unity in this country.

We will be unified once more on the great program of social advance, which the Democratic Party pioneered in 1933.

We will be unified behind a housing program.

We will be unified on the question of the rights of labor and collective bargaining.

We will be unified for the expansion of social security, the improvement of our educational system, and the expansion of medical aid.

Moreover, we will be unified in our efforts to preserve our prosperity and to spread its benefits equally to all groups in the Nation.

Now, my friends, with such unity as this, we can secure the blessings of freedom for ourselves and our children.

With such unity as this, we can fulfill our God-given responsibility in leading the world to a lasting peace.”7

Or more succinctly: “I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head before you find out who’s hitting you? It’s about time that the people of America realized what the Republicans have been doing to them.”8

1Wikipedia, Panic of 1873

2Wikipedia, Panic of 1893

3Eisenhower was the least “Republican” of the Republicans we’ve had as President since Teddy Roosevelt. He pretty much kept to FDR’s course and added his own Federal interstate highway project to the pot.

4Clinton pretty much just rode the upward side of the wave and didn’t do a lot to reverse Reagan’s damage, although he at least tried to balance the budget while things were going well.

5New York Times, McCain on Banking and Health

6Text of Draft Proposal for Bailout Plan And while we’re on the subject, how the hell is it that we can “magically” come up with $700 billion at the snap of a finger to bail out Wall Street, but hell would freeze over and God would rain down his fury if someone asked for half of that amount to pay for medical insurance for all Americans?

7Harry S. Truman Library, Address in St. Paul, October 13, 1948

8Harry S. Truman Library, Address at Dexter, Iowa, on the Occasion of the National Plowing Match

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5 Responses to Such simplicity, such elegance…such nonsense.

  1. Brian says:

    Well done. It needs to be pointed out, though, that the modern-day Democratic Party is barely a half-step behind the Republicans on 99% of this stuff. The days of Democrats like Robert LaFollette, Henry Wallace and Harry Truman are long gone. Bill Clinton did nothing to stem this process in office, he merely took the credit (pun intended) for the good times.

  2. Ric The Schmuck says:

    Beautifully stated.

  3. Kim says:

    Can I vote for Truman as a write-in, please?

  4. mig says:

    As you say, it’s hard to believe Obama is only a couple points ahead.

  5. Kris says:

    True, man!

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