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Hullabaloo


Thursday, August 02, 2012

 
Scott Brown maintains the Big Lie--and the Big Gamble

by David Atkins

Scott Brown, slagging Elizabeth Warren and President Obama for daring to suggest that business owners actually pay taxes to pay for the society that makes their success possible, reiterates the big lie:

America’s entrepreneurs have built great things on their own. If only leftists like Warren and all Occupy protesters weren’t so wrapped up in taxing and regulating them without end or in denigrating their achievements, these men and women would do even greater things and hire even more workers.
There is nothing in this statement that isn't a lie. Taxes? They're at their lowest point in 60 years, especially on the wealthy. Income inequality? At or near record highs. The stock market? Still doing much better than the real economy, with the Dow Jones up near a nosebleed-worthy 13,000--nearly 4,000 points ahead of where it was when President Obama took office. Oh, and the reason we're in this economic slump in the first place? Deregulation was the primary cause. So where are all the jobs?

Scott Brown is peddling full-bore Ayn Rand Objectivism: the business owner as epic hero, struggling to succeed to provide jobs to the ungrateful and parasitic masses. In reality, of course, corporations aren't in the business of creating jobs: they're in the business of making profits for shareholders and investors. If they can do so by hiring fewer workers and paying them less, they'll do it in a heartbeat. The success of small business depends on the infrastructure our taxes pay for, and a healthy consumer base willing and able to purchase products. The biggest threat to small businesses is the predation of big business forcing them out of the market. The biggest destabilizing threats to general prosperity going forward are the financialized casino economy in the short term, and the effects of climate change in the long term.

Republicans like Scott Brown are staking everything on convincing the public of this Galtian Big Lie. It's an incredibly risky gamble. If they lose this argument, the entire edifice of their economic policy crumbles along with it. As Greg Sargent at The Plum Line notes:

This is what this whole thing has been about from the start. It's about selling voters a bill of goods — a narrative about what ails the economy that obscures the fact that Republicans don’t have a plan to fix the short term unemployment crisis. Brown and Mitt Romney want voters to believe that the recovery is being held back by taxes, regulations, and Obama’s and Warren’s disdain for your success. If we just put people in charge who want people to succeed — who would of course promptly cut regulations, government and taxes on the rich — then the recovery will roar forward.

This is a pleasing little tale, but it’s wholly at odds with the consensus view of many mainstream economists, who think the problem lies in weak demand. Economists believe that government spending, in the form of Obama’s stimulus, did bring down the unemployment rate. Economists don’t believe that high end tax cuts will produce the runaway growth necessary to bring in the revenues to pay for them. Economists don’t believe that getting rid of Obamacare will solve the crisis. As Mark Hopkings of Moody’s Analytics has put it: “The central problem is not burdensome regulations. It’s that people can’t sell anything.” Nor do economists believe that cutting government will fix the crisis; in fact, reduced government outlays are partly responsible for slow growth, and economists say that in the short term, more fiscal austerity will slow growth further.

Neither Obama nor Warren demeaned success or individual initiative, but even if they had, the idea that those sentiments are responsible for holding back the recovery is just snake oil. From the start, this whole thing has been about selling people a storyline about the short term economic crisis that covers up the fact that Republican ideas wouldn’t do anything to solve it.
On the one hand, it's an outrage that national Republicans are daring to make such a mendacious and immoral argument. On the other, it's almost exhilarating that they're staking so much on it. So much, in fact, that Democrats who have spent the past half century arguing simply for equality of basic opportunity and access to our flawed meritocracy are now being forced to actually make arguments in favor of the social contract itself.

This is a good thing, and potentially bodes well for the future.

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