The truth is that there is virtually no evidence in support of the Bush tax cuts as an economic elixir. To the extent that they had any positive effect on growth, it was very, very modest. Their main effect was simply to reduce the governmentâ€™s revenue, thereby increasing the budget deficit, which all Republicans claim to abhor.
Update: Why righties are ignorant — some guy at National Review Online named Kevin Williamson writes, â€œThe difference between communism and socialism: Under communism, politics begins with a gun in your face; under socialism, politics ends with a gun in your face.â€
This is what passes for “clever” on the Right. But what does it actually tell us about either socialism or communism? Absolutely nothing. What does it tell us about totalitarian regimes that are neither socialist nor communist? Absolutely nothing. How does it prepare a citizen to judge what economic/political policies actually might be “socialist” under any academic definition of the term? It doesn’t.
All it does it set up the poorly educated among us to be afraid of anything that somebody labels “socialist,” whether that thing is socialist or not. And in doing so it sets up the poorly educated among us to stampede into the waiting arms of corporatism and plutocracy — both of which are capable of pointing lots of guns at lots of faces, although it’s not their usual style.
This same clever Mr. Williamson said elsewhere, “Socialism is when The Man comes to your house with a gun and tells you that you are going to serve the community.” To which someone at The Economist wearily objected:
Is that what socialism is? I thought that was corvÃ©e labour. It’s funny, because I have lived or spent time in several of the northern European social-democratic countries that are often described by American conservatives as “socialist”, and I don’t remember seeing anything like this going on. Let’s see, the Netherlands, Denmark, France…nope, don’t remember seeing The Man coming to anyone’s house with a gun to tell them to go serve the community. …
…Okay, enough with the cuteness: what I’m objecting to here is Mr Williamson’s use of the “gun in your face” trope (more usually rendered as “gun to your head”) as a grab-bag shorthand for law and government. This is a completely routine part of conservative language at this point. It’s also completely obfuscatory, aggressive and just plain inaccurate.
Mr. Williamson then whines that the Netherlands, Denmark, and France are different, and don’t count somehow, but he has lived in a real socialist state (he doesn’t say which one) and it was real awful.
Then he says,
The resort to violence is what makes the question of what kind of things it is legitimate for states to do an important moral concern. It seems to me perfectly reasonable to shove a gun in somebodyâ€™s face to stop him murdering, raping, or robbing. It seems to me entirely unreasonable to shove a gun in somebodyâ€™s face to extort from him money to fund a project to get monkeys high on cocaine. Those seem to me fairly reasonable distinctions. It is illegitimate for government to use force or the threat of force for projects that are not inherently public in character.
Get monkeys high on cocaine? This is an old rightie trick — find some fairly standard academic research grant (in this case, $71,623 to Wake Forest University to study the effect of cocaine on monkeys), make it sound ridiculous, and blow it up into an Issue. Universities and medical research centers depend on grants like that to keep their equipment updated and to pay researcher staff salaries.
But when did anyone point a gun in anyone’s face to extort money for a research grant? We now see that we aren’t talking about real guns, but merely rhetorical guns, as a kind of metaphor for paying taxes.
So, we can infer that any nation that requires its citizens to pay taxes is socialist. Brilliant. And at the rate they are devolving the next generation of righties will be too stupid to learn how to use a fork.
Update: See Dean’s World.