Part II: President’s going it alone

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 18, 2015

Perhaps the thing that is evolving as the most unusual element at this early stage of the 2016 presidential race has to do with the central or dominant theme that will be debated with the greatest vigor during the coming campaign. While such issues as which war do we leap into in the Middle East, the immigration debacle, same sex marriage and the future of health care in the United States are sure to soak up ample discussion time, many pundits spread across the liberal to conservative spectrum are increasingly mentioning one issue as having the potential to dominate the debate. That issue has come to be known simply as “income inequality.”

The case being made by these politicians is being bolstered by a rising tide of survey data clearly pointing to public concerns that can hardly be ignored. A couple of recent examples should suffice to illustrate this.

In a 2012 Pew Research survey 65 percent of respondents believe the gap between the rich and poor has gotten wider and of that number 57 percent stated that this was a bad thing for society.  In a separate 2014 study Pew Research revealed that only the top 10 percent of income groups are seeing an increase in income while the bottom 90 percent get less and less each year. Perhaps most telling of all, the Pew study found that currently the actual corporate CEO-to-worker earnings ratio is a record 354-to-one.

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The question naturally arises as to how we reached this point.  Ironically, we only have to reach back to insiders in conservative hero President Ronald Reagan’s administration to retrieve ample clues.

President Reagan’s youthful budgeting superstar David Stockman and Reagan’s labor secretary and renowned economist Barry Bluestone have both been quite forthcoming in admitting the mistaken assumptions of the once hallowed theory of “supply side economics” and the increasingly obvious unworkability of “trickle down” theory.

The idea behind “trickle down economics” held that if earnings at the highest corporate levels are maximized those dollars would naturally trickle down to the middle and lower classes.  Stockman himself opined that  Reagan trickle down is horribly flawed as a policy that would provide economic growth that will benefit all Americans.  There is no way, according to Stockman that trickle down can work to increase the incomes of working classes in America.

The Reagan years saw increased taxes on consumers and a new array of tax credits, loopholes, and subsidies for corporate interests. Thus, the formula for burgeoning income inequality was put in place.

Economist Bluestone pronounced “trickle down” a failure also. He cited Reagan era policies that in effect redistribute income from working families to rich corporate types as clearly reducing consumption.  In an interview with PBS Bluestone stated that, “the wealthiest people spend 30 percent of their incomes.  The poor spend 100 percent and working people spend 98 percent.”

According to these front liners in the Reagan administration the result has been a widening income gap.

Hence the parameters of the debate are set and they center on the question of who are the real “job creators?”

Are they the rich and ultra rich of corporate America or are they the legions of working men and women with a few extra dollars in their pockets who keep the cash registers ringing on main street?  The debate should be enlightening indeed.

Dr. Marty Wiseman