The problem with the “trickle down” theory of economics is that it’s favored by the people at the top of the trickle. The people at the bottom know the old plumber’s rule about what flows downhill.
Not to be too indelicate about it, but I sometimes like to bring the discussion about the flow of sewage into the picture when we talk about politics. The people who live in the big houses at the top of the hill and have well water never give a thought to how the water got into their well. They like to think it’s just rainwater, filtered through the rocks and sandy soil into some pristine underground cistern just for them to draw through the tap and drink — or whatever.
When the downhill neighbors think about it, they will realize at some point that, yes, their well water is filtered rainwater; mixed with filtered — shall we say recycled — water that was used by the folks uphill.
Which brings us to the tax reform proposal put forth by those proponents of wealth and commerce in the United States Congress. They like to talk about life at the top of the hill. They tend to be tuned out to life at the lower altitudes, because the money trickles down fast until it reaches the places where politics is made, and then it slows, slows and becomes mud in the valleys of Lower Classville.
The numbers don’t mean much except to provide the basis for questions. Deftly, those who protect the idea of the benefits of trickle-down economics like to make broad assumptions about how appreciative the lower levels should be for opportunities created by a growth in burger-flipping careers.
For instance, if yours is a typical middle-class family, your tax cut might be all of just under $1,800 a year. The small print is that you’ll lose that in the extra you will owe the state or county or municipality in lost deductions, but hey, your conservative congressman in Washington did what she promised, right? Cut taxes.
The real trickle down happened upstream: The investors and owners and managers and movers and shakers will keep thousands of extra dollars — or even hundreds of thousands — because they are needed to prime that pump that keeps the mud moist in the valley.
I was a believer in trickle-down economics when I was in my 20s. Raised in America’s Golden Age of growth, the ’50s and ’60s, the boom years after World War II. The tax rates were more than twice what we pay today.
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But some of the trickle-down was government spending money on things.
The nation built schools and interstates and airports and cars and planes and spread cities out into suburbs where American companies built factories and filled jobs with everyday folks on the way up. People willing to put off the granite countertops and vacation homes to get the kids through college and a future of their own.
It was great while it lasted. Then the politicians began serving the people at the top who were making big money off their investments. Jobs went overseas; profiteering was exalted, and public services were pushed down the priority list because those numbers clashed with the flashier figures in the annual reports.
Instead of working together for neat slices of the economic pie, corporate greed and organized labor grabbed what it could and left the crumbs for the masses. And paid the political parties for their services.
When corporate profits got to be people, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling, it was bucks versus ballots. Jobs were drying up, but overseas profits — from lower-cost salaries paid out — gave the boys with bucks an edge over those who had only a vote.
The trickle became a slow leak.
So, I no longer believe in trickle-down economics, and I’m getting tired of being played as if I am stupid and not merely ignorant. Still, it seems to work for the boys with the bucks.