Commentary: Who do Republicans represent?

One of the big lies that the Republican Party peddles is the trickle-down theory. The main economic idea promoted by all Republicans is tax cuts for the rich. After 40 years of promoting it as a surefire remedy, they are now stuck with it. Their corporate sponsors expect it, Wall Street has become unimaginably rich behind it, and they sell it as gospel to the American voter. They may even believe it.

The idea holds that if enough income is routed to the top earners, by means of tax benefits, societal tweaking, and outright scams, some of that money will leak out and dribble down to the rest of us. Despite decades of economic hardship for the middle class, some feel we should not be greedy or envious of the good fortune that has blessed the top 1 percent. This idea has nothing to do with financial responsibility, while the country’s infrastructure is allowed to crumble, and the lower classes are squeezed ever harder. This is Republican orthodoxy,  accepted and believed without exception, and crucially, without proof.

The problem began back in the ’70s. At that time, the business establishment decided to start chipping away at the hold the government had on society and replace it with pro-business theories. The notion advanced by business leaders was that regulation and taxation were holding back the economy, and if we just backed off on those things, everyone would prosper. They said that union greed was holding the economy back, that regulations were too restrictive and kept corporations from competing.

Wall Street found schemes to ease their tax burden and to multiply their influence along with their earnings, CEO pay skyrocketed, and corporations made decisions to stimulate short-term gains for management and stock holders, who in turn paid less in taxes. Throughout society, the trend has been toward concentrating on the bottom line and supporting the winners, while ignoring long term interests like infrastructure and education. The result has been the hollowing out of the middle class, and we have reverted to two-income families, holding multiple jobs, and spending on credit cards and credit card interest to provide the goods that their families want and need.

The broad base of the middle class that was once able to spend disposable income and buy goods now has to go into debt in order to provide what their families need. The security once available through good paying, plentiful jobs has evaporated, and the middle class has less money to purchase the things they once built.

Meanwhile, the tenuous hold the Republicans have on fiscal reality translates to blaming the poor and lower classes for whatever assistance they can eke out while Republicans support the upper classes in their bid to keep more of the earnings. The poor are shamed for being lazy, or wasteful, or not trying hard enough to pull themselves up. Public assistance is squeezed ever tighter, while spending on more favored issues increases. When mismanaged financial schemes brought the economy to its knees, the well off were protected and the middle class was struck another blow.

What will turn this around? Is it possible that the tax structure that was in effect 40 years ago when the top tiers paid more taxes could provide the answer? Wouldn’t having those who have been the beneficiaries of the laws they promoted and paid for  return to paying their proportionate share of taxes bring money back into the economy? If some of the money was redirected to the middle and lower classes wouldn’t it be circulated back into the economy much more quickly? Is directing benefits to the top tier really the best thing for our society?

The point is that all the Republican hopefuls, contending for presidential and Congressional positions, are in thrall to an ideology that has been proven wrong at the federal and the state level, and the fact that they are unable to acknowledge this truth is the scariest part of their belief system.

Do Republicans believe this in fact, or support it as a way of paying back campaign contributors and enacting their wishes?

The fact that 400 American families are richer than 150 million of their fellow citizens cannot mean that the vast majority are too lazy to work. It means that something in the system is amiss, the economy is being manipulated, and that the game truly is rigged by those that control the finances.

Steve Foreman is a resident of Front Royal.

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