Mike Hughes: Just say ‘no’ to trickle-down ruse
Have you ever noticed that just about the only people who ever talk about trickle-down economics are liberal Democrats? This so-called theory is widely associated with the policies of President Ronald Reagan, but in a 1992 Senate speech, Republican Sen. Hank Brown said, “the trickle-down theory attributed to the Republican Party has never been articulated by President Reagan, and has never been articulated by President Bush, and has never been advocated by either one of them.”
Thomas Sowell has said that this so-called theory has never been proposed by any economist. Sowell wrote, “this non-existent theory has become the object of denunciations from the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post to the political arena. … It is a classic example of arguing against a caricature instead of confronting the argument actually made.”
George Leef, the Director of Research for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy wrote that the phrase trickle-down economics “was devised by Democrats in the 1980s as a way to attack President Reagan’s economic policy combination of tax rate cuts and some relaxation of federal regulations. They needed a catchy, easy-to-remember zinger to fire at Reagan; a line that would keep their voting base angry.” Leef called it the “worst and most destructive [phrase] of all,” and that’s exactly why liberals continue to use it to this day. The left will always need things to keep their voting base angry because well-informed voters typically don’t support progressive policies.
Wikipedia lists various sources as the originators of the trickle-down theory. The earliest was in 1896 when Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan said, “There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.”
Bryan’s words remain true to this day. These two ideas of government are apparent in today’s Democrat and Republican parties, but you have to be politically and economically astute to know which side supports which idea. Liberals would obviously like to believe that they support what Bryan called the Democratic idea, but in reality they do not. Leef wrote, “the epithet ‘trickle-down’ applies to the government method of taxing those who earn money so that officials can then do with that money as they please. A little of the money will be given to the poor through giveaway programs such as Food Stamps and Obamaphones, but most of it will wind up in the pockets of much wealthier, politically-connected people who know how to play the system.”
Contrary to the simple-minded catch phrases that liberals use to agitate their base, it’s conservatives in the Republican Party and elsewhere who support legislation that will make the masses prosperous. Leef also wrote, “In a free society, wealth doesn’t trickle down, or up, or sideways. It is earned.” Earned wealth is usually more than a trickle. That’s why America has so many millionaires and billionaires.
Freedom is key. The entitlement society built by big government is not a free society. Wealth is not earned in an entitlement society. Prosperity is reserved for the politically connected. Subsistence is bestowed to the masses in a manner that’s most beneficial to the ruling parties.
When liberals talk about trickle-down economics, don’t counter their argument with “trickle-anything.” Talk about freedom and limited government instead. Big government redistribution policies will never generate the level of prosperity that free people can generate on their own.
Mike Hughes is a Navy veteran who lives in High Point. His column appears here every other Sunday. To comment, visit www.hpe.com and click on opinion. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.