Sunday, September 23, 2012

Trickle-Down Economics

It used to be referred to as the horse and sparrow theory, i.e. if a horse was given enough oats, sooner or later some "ended up" in fields or along the road where sparrows could feed on them -- doesn't that sound lovely. But that's basically what trickle-down economics comes down to. Provide the wealthy with enough tax breaks or economic benefits and eventually the effect will trickle down to those on the lower rungs of the social ladder. As one who's worked his entire life for a living, as did my father (we were both business owners, by the way), you'll have to pardon me if I find that offensive.

For one thing, it's just too much like saying, if I devote myself to the care and feeding of a narcissistic parent, some day I'll be glad I did. Oh, please. For another, it's insulting to presume a "trickle" is all those who compose the majority of the American populace are deserving of. Who's making the rules here, anyway? Who decided a person born into a blue-collar family was less worthy of a seat at the socio-economic table than someone else born to wealth or privilege? It's not a good idea to forget history, you know.    

It was Paris, the summer of 1789, probably a warm and humid one like we had in Maine this year, when the so-called "benevolent aristocracy" came face to face with destiny.  Taxes were inequitable; merchants, tradesmen, and the poor bore the burden while the wealthy lived a life of the rich and famous. The court of Louis XVI had virtually spent the country into bankruptcy and reform was slow in coming. Food was scare and a revolution had taken place in America. The time was ripe for storming the Bastille.

Now, trust me, I'm not sounding the trumpet for revolution and I'm definitely not a member of the Tea Party. Nor, by the way, am I saying there's something wrong with having money. However, I do think it's time to take a look at the underpinnings of trickle-down aka supply-side economics, especially since one of the major presidential candidates seems to think it's the solution to what ails this country. As I see it, trickle-down economics is an outgrowth of an outmoded and substantially mistaken belief that wealth is a sign of moral, intellectual, and cultural superiority. Put another way, personal worth is what distinguishes saints from sinners. Not only is that theologically bogus, it's factually baseless. Crimes are committed by both rich and poor; Louis XVI lost his head making that clear. 

Of all the things we need in this country and God knows, we need a lot, a repeat performance of trickle-down economics isn't one of them. I don't know if anyone's noticed lately, but there are a great many of us out there who are first-generation college, graduate school, and medical school graduates. Like our parents, we've clawed our way through public education and worked like demons to establish ourselves as persons of social, if not yet economic, value. Not because we think that makes us "better" than anyone else or because we think it qualifies us to stand in judgement of those who've made different choices. We've done so because we believe our efforts create opportunities we and our children might not have had otherwise. Opportunities to be of service, opportunities to improve the lives of those around us, opportunities to establish justice and build a world where no one goes hungry or lives in fear of annihilation. It's not wealth that makes us do this, it's our humanity, and thank God for it.      

 (Creative Commons image by David Shankbone via Wikipedia)
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