Republican Rigging Part 21: It’s about Equality, Not So Much the Economy
Written by Robert Warden
Bill Clinton famously used the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid” during his successful 1992 campaign for the presidency. However, like all oversimplifications, this is only partially correct. Current events tell us that, while the economy remains an important factor influencing political opinions, equality takes precedence over measures of the economy such as GDP, stock market levels, unemployment rates and so forth. In fact, why more politicians don’t recognize this is rather mystifying. The only explanation that I can come up with is pro-business propaganda as manifested by the capture of American culture by the corporate elite and as aided by Republican rigging of the intertwined socioecnomic and political systems.
A book published in 2009 called The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, enumerates the reasons that wealth inequality (although the same argument largely applies to other forms of inequality such as racial or gender inequality) causes socioeconomic problems.
These issues which wealth inequality causes problems are listed as:
“Community life and social relations
Mental health and drug use
Physical health and life expectancy
Obesity: wider income gaps, wider waists
Teenage births: recycling deprivation
Violence: gaining respect
Imprisonment and punishment
Social mobility unequal opportunities” (https://en.wikipedia.org/…/The_Spirit_Level:_Why_More_Equal…).
All of these areas are ones that the United States has long sustained difficulties, plus related issues such as race relations and sexism along with sexual abuse.
With the recent passage of the Republican tax scam/”tax reform plan,” already astronomical wealth inequalities in the United States are set to worsen even further. Tragically, we find ourselves caught in a kind of vicious cycle, where wealth inequality appears to be both a cause of further wealth inequality and a consequence of current levels of wealth inequality. Thus, Republicans in Congress, flush with donor cash from wealthy corporations and corporation owners, vote to give further tax breaks to their sponsors, as well as to themselves. Yes, initially most people will receive a small tax break, but ultimately, most will end up paying more as public funding dries up and thus people lose their healthcare subsidies, for instance, or other public funding. Meanwhile, in an attempt to make up for lost revenue, governmenst will rely more on revunue sources that take their money primarily from less wealthy people. These for instance would include fees, fines and taxes other than federal income tax. But to go into that in depth is another topic. The end result is that there will be another huge upward siphoning of money to the already wealthy, paid for ultimately by “the 99 percent” who aren’t so fortunate. This is Republican rigging at its worst.
What I find really rather stunning recently — as pollsters have noticed — is that the public understands the lessons of “The Spirit Level,” and that is manifesting in poll after poll.
We now live in a stage of American culture where, despite an economy with good traditional measures of economic health, wealth and even improvement:
1. America’s billionaire president (who still refuses to release his tax returns), is very widely unpopular;
2. The just completed tax bill, in contrast to every previous tax cut, which have generally been popular, is very unpopular as well, because it is correctly perceived as a blatant money grab by the rich, and a prelude to even worse wealth inequality than already being experienced, plus even worse national debt.
Both of these statistical facts are unlike anything ever seen before in United States politics, or perhaps anywhere on this planet. People are getting it. Unfortunately, Republican politicians are not; they are still living in their Laffer Curve, trickle down economy Fantasyland. And yes, I do think that most of them really believe the economic ideas that they are promoting, although some may be in it hypocritically just for the money while actively deceiving the gullible.
Think about it. Two things that in the past were practically guarantees of political popularity — at least according to political convention –a good economy and tax cuts, are not providing Republicans with any popularity whatsoever now. To the contrary, their administration and entire party have ratings that are abysmal. To me, this represents a tsumami of change in public perceptions.
And why has this shift occurred? It is just as has been spelled out above. All the ways that inequality negatively impacts society, have never been more evident. The misery index rises as wealth inequality does, and that probably includes racism and sexism, which were not mentioned specifically in The Spirit Level. The mask has come off and the end game of corporate dominance paired with the destruction of our democratic institutions, has become evident in the Republican agenda.
By the way, just imagine how unpopular the current administration and Republican politicians across the United States will be if the economy hits the brakes in the near future, an event of which there is a very good chance, given the very limited funds of most Americans, coupled with the huge national debt and regular economic cycles which indicate that we are due for an economic downturn. The economy could falter due to a variety of possible events, either foreseeable or otherwise.
The good news in all of this is that an increasing majority of the electorate wants to reverse this process, and make the Republican Party pay the political price for its misdeeds, while seeking to replace Republican Party dominance with an increasingly progressive Democratic Party. This dynamic has developed even in the absence of an economic downturn. Next year’s midterms could very well be a political turning point. Stay tuned, everybody, keep working for progressive policies, and keep your fingers crossed.