The Elite Make Out Like Bandits

A political movement fueled by resentment of “elites” is elitism’s best friend. Bob Herbert writes,

One of the reasons so many conservative Republican absurdities became actual U.S. policy was the intellectual veneer slapped upon them by right-wing think tanks and commentators. The grossest nonsense was made to seem plausible to a lot of people — people who wanted to believe in a free lunch. When Mr. Reagan told the country that “government is the problem,” the intellectual handmaidens of the corporate and financial elite were right there to explain in exhaustive detail why that was so.

The result, in addition to the terrible consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan and the damage to America’s standing in the world, was the tremendous (and tremendously debilitating) transfer of wealth from working people in the U.S. to the folks already in the upper echelons of wealth and income. The elite made out like bandits — often literally.

But, hey, at least we’re not those squishy socialist Europeans, right? See also Frank Rich.

Update: Via Ron Beasley, See Thom Hartmann’s “Two Santa Clauses or How The Republican Party Has Conned America for Thirty Years.”

But Wanniski had been doing his homework on how to sell supply-side economics. In 1976, he rolled out to the hard-right insiders in the Republican Party his “Two Santa Clauses” theory, which would enable the Republicans to take power in America for the next thirty years.

Democrats, he said, had been able to be “Santa Clauses” by giving people things from the largesse of the federal government. Republicans could do that, too – spending could actually increase. Plus, Republicans could be double Santa Clauses by cutting people’s taxes! For working people it would only be a small token – a few hundred dollars a year on average – but would be heavily marketed. And for the rich it would amount to hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. The rich, in turn, would use that money to import or build more stuff to market, thus increasing supply and stimulating the economy. And that growth in the economy would mean that the people still paying taxes would pay more because they were earning more.

There was no way, Wanniski said, that the Democrats could ever win again. They’d have to be anti-Santas by raising taxes, or anti-Santas by cutting spending. Either one would lose them elections.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

15 thoughts on “The Elite Make Out Like Bandits

  1. I’d heard of the two Santa’s.
    Here’s my take on it:
    The rich get two Santa’s and all the presents, we get a lump of coal, and the poor SOB’s who dig for that die in explosions and cave-ins while being expoited by the rich who want to increase productivity and profit by decreasing safety.
    Dumbing people down has been as successful as the 2 Santa’s. They’d better hope their “Tex-books” keep doing that, because if people in this country ever do smarten up, the rich had better ask Santa(s) for a new head to replace the one that’s about to be lopped off.

  2. They were right on the raising taxes thing, no politician is willing to get within 500 yards of raising taxes. Even in times when it makes sense to do so to, I don’t know, provide for schools for the kids or cut down on state/national debt and deficit. By the same token, no Republican is willing to cut programs, so we’re in a horrible bind, we want the programs that govt. gives but don’t want to pay for them. Irresponsibility ensues brought to you not by the left, but by the right who sell the ‘no free lunch’ meme, but in fact, are selling just that.

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  4. Liberals, at least, understand who the elites really are. But rather than pursuing justice to overcome the deadly damage of the elites, most liberals are content to mock and ridicule them. A pity, that.

  5. Great post, thanks for the link to Tom Hartmann’s article.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that we are ruled by tha Pentagon. The course may wobble over time, but the trajectory remains constant.
    Our spending on the military is out of control while the conservatives rail against “entitlements”.Without a healthy educated population, we have nothing to be excited about.
    The “elite” is the military-industrial complex/ big oil/ big pharma/big banking, and big ag.
    I have NEVER heard a conservative bitch about a “Blue Angle” fly-over at a sporting event, but they go ape-shit over any social programs.

  6. In re this post and the previous day’s, I’d like to recommend Cavafy’s poem “Waiting for the barbarians” as a prediction of where our financial mercenaries are taking us.
    Note, please, that I am not referring to the novel by the same name.

  7. When St. ronnie of the bleesed memory announced his trickle down method of our economy, where by putting more money in the hands of the rich would create new jobs. And oppertunity, lets not forget that. I thought i would die laughing. The trickle down economy. I called my brother and asked him had he heard about it? He said yes he had heard of the new economic program adopted by St.ronnie, but he also said that people didnt get rich by letting money trickle through thei fingers.He said that was the stupidist thing he had ever heard.

  8. erinyes – It is ‘odd’ that the Reps constantly and endlessly talk about the outrageous size of the deficit/debt, the zillions of dollars being spent here/there by fiscally irresponsible Dems but never, absolutely never mention the over 50% of the discretionary budget that goes to the military/industrial complex.

    I’ve decided that the ‘argument’ (taxes, spending, regulations…) is really about who GETS the what and/or who GIVES the what. If-I-get-it-it’s-good, whereas, if-you-get-it-it’s-bad. Call it envy, call it infirm egos, call it one-upmanship, there are passels of people out here who simply can’t stand the thought of someone getting something for ‘nothing’ not to mention being forced (by the government) to give them some of their ‘something.’

    The rabidly resentful Reps really are an odd bunch. They rail at any mention of a living wage being paid to workers – forget UNIONS – but don’t blink an eye at hedge-funders making billions of bucks/year. What is that? Maybe it’s that the average Joe worker is ‘competition’ while the zillionaire is not – not a neighbor, not a co-worker, not in their social circle – so not part of, in, the competition?

  9. muldoon,
    Ike warned us about this in his exit speach.
    Few paid attention then.
    No one pays attention to it now.
    It is the single most expensive expenditure that we have. We spend more in one year than the rest of the world combined. It begs the question, “Exactly how many foreign nuke-carrying monsters are there under our beds?” The real danger is not from Iran, if they should get weapons, but from splinter groups to want a big “Bang” for their bang.
    Somehow, this stupidity will continue until we are all backrupt. Which, if we continue the way we’re going, will be any day now…

  10. In these blogs we can take refuge. Like a warm fire where we all come to get warm after wandering too long in the woods. The year I was born, 1961 Eisenhower gave his military industrial complex speech. Go ahead – google it. We’ll wait while you read it. Since the time of the founding fathers (reverential sigh) it has always been government of the gold for the gold by the gold. “We want our country back!” Please – it’s been bought and paid for and don’t think that the corporations that actually own this U.S. of A. are going to hand it back any time soon. The best we can hope for is a decent wage for our indentured servitude.

  11. Let’s not forget “big food” which is not quite the same as “big ag” in this list of big things that rule us all. Walk down the aisle in you grocery store, close your eyes and reach for something…anything and the odds are over 90% that it is a product of one of five corporations.

    Hartmann has been talking about the Two Santa Clauses for years. To see the political history of the last 50 years laid out in terms of election strategies is eye opening to say the least. While working folk might seem like hapless pawns there is an overarching struggle evident with average working people on the one side and those who profit from them on the other…haggling where the currency is human sweat imposed more by greased palms than by the crack of a whip.

    The inevitable cost of gains by one side is increasing inequality but thats hardly the worst of it. A host of appeals to fear accompany it — primarily the fear of some undeserving generalized other being given something for nothing, stoked to the point that otherwise giving humans beings are willing to engage in some twisted ritual of mutual starvation.

    I once had a political conversation, explaining to a conservative that I could never abide by a political philosophy that relied on the worthlessness of others. I waited for the response but none came.

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