Stanford: Rumpelstiltskin economics
November 29, 2012
Republicans are having a hard time coming to Jesus on reality. Pundits are still calling the War on Women a media fantasy even as the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature considers giving tax breaks to fetuses. Congress is trying to pass an immigration bill that ignores the 11 million unauthorized immigrants. And Sen. Marco Rubio dodged a question about our planet’s age with a flippant, “I’m not a scientist, man,” demonstrating even if he couldn’t pass high school science that he could at least converse with the other flunkies in study hall.
It’s almost as if they think they lost because they have a branding problem. But their problem is that America sees Republicans for who they are. Every major event in the last decade – Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War, the Great Recession, Superstorm Sandy – has exposed Pax Republicana as a crumbling empire based on false ideologies, none more dangerous than believing in the Tax Fairy that magically grows the economy and fills the treasury when Congress cuts taxes on the wealthy.
This cultish belief is fueling the Republicans’ ill-advised defense of tax cuts for the rich against an onslaught from voters and economists. Shortly before the election, Senate Republicans suppressed a report by the Congressional Research Service that found no correlation between tax rates for the rich and economic growth. In other words, the guys with green eye shades and really fancy calculators debunked the core belief of the Republican Party, and Sen. Mitch McConnell and his band of lost boys jammed their fingers into their ears while loudly protesting their belief in fairies.
Barack Obama was re-elected on an economic platform of growing the economy from the middle out and asking the wealthy to pay higher taxes. Bill Clinton’s economic agenda (focusing on the middle class while socking away surpluses in the Social Security Trust Fund) was a brother by another mother. It’s too bad we don’t have a catchy name for it like Reaganomics, because it works a lot better than Reaganomics.
As we approach the fiscal cliff, Obama has reaffirmed his support for raising taxes on the rich. Speaker John Boehner has responded with “dynamic scoring,” or a discredited economic forecasting model that predicts robust economic growth when you cut taxes. This is based on a study emanating from the Economic Institute of Their Rear End, because it just doesn’t work.
“Part of his speech he talked about dynamic scoring, this idea if you cut taxes you increase revenues,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said. “It’s about time we debunked that myth, it’s a Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, dynamic scoring. You may remember Rumpelstiltskin was the fairy tale figure who turned straw into gold.”
Obama, God bless him, has told Republicans that he’d rather they strike a deal that relies upon math and not magic. The polls are on Obama’s side, but the election is over. Economists are on Obama’s side, but science doesn’t win many arguments with Republicans these days. This is a rare case in which we actually need Republicans to agree to disagree. Before the clock ticks to zero, we’re going to need to stop having this fight. If reason and evidence don’t win, the majority should.
Going over the fiscal cliff will raise taxes on everyone and dramatically cut federal spending. The Congressional Budget Office – those pesky economists again – predict a 4 percent decline in our GDP if that happens. That means another recession, which Republicans would use as proof that lower taxes equals economic growth. Like any zealot, they’ll say we’re being punished for our lack of faith while ignoring that the downturn will be due largely to the cut in federal spending.
Believing in the Tax Fairy doesn’t make it real. Whether it’s Reaganomics or Rumpelstiltskin, this false economic ideology belongs in history books with Communism and not in any serious public policy discussion. But don’t expect Republicans in Congress to get with the program any time soon. After all, if tax cuts for the rich don’t grow the economy, if lesbians don’t cause hurricanes, if contraception doesn’t cause promiscuity, and if corporations aren’t people, then why even have a Republican Party?
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who has helped elect or re-elect more than two dozen members of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jasstanford.