|Remember Reagan’s second term? Remember that
“trickle-down” economic theory? Simplistically, we were told that if the
government enacted programs that benefited the wealthy, the wealthy
would in turn “trickle down” their largesse to the middle class; more
businesses would expand, more jobs would be created, and everyone would
I bought into that theory.
Card-carrying Democrat that I am, I decided maybe it was time to listen
to rich conservatives. “What the hell,” I said, “The important thing is
jobs, and if giving tax incentives and other economic breaks to big
business results in benefits for everybody, who am I to fault the plan?
So what if the rich get richer? They can’t get any snobbier and
exclusionary than they are, can they?”
Every time I try to compromise my liberal ethic,
every time I listen to the economic doubletalk of somebody living on a
fake farm in Somerset County, I get burned big time. Reagan got my vote,
we got trickle-down, and the only problem was the money for the middle
class somehow disappeared. The business “expansion” turned out to be
Caribbean resorts and cruise lines, and the jobs became entry-level
burger flippers for fast-food consortiums. Franchises that were once a
great opportunity for the middle class to get a leg up into the Hamptons
have now become the purview of stock brokers and bankers. McDonald’s is
one of the few successful franchise operations that still cater to
individuals (not partnerships and passive investors), but the average
franchise buy-in starts at $175,000! Trickle down, indeed. Money just
went from one pocket to another in the same pair of trousers.
But I digress. The real reason for this column is
to point out an essential difference between Republicans and Democrats.
Democrats like the two-party system. They think of elections as
honorable combat; sometimes they even listen to the opposition, and on
rare occasion compromise in their favor. Republicans, on the other hand,
appear to want all Democrats dead. In my own little mini survey, I have
found several dozen Democrats who, at one time or another, voted for a
Republican—Tom Kean, Millicent Fenwick, Rodney Frelinghuysen come to
mind—but not a single one of my GOP friends (yes, I do have some!) will
admit to ever having cast a Democratic vote. Ever. Compromise with
liberals is just not in their play book.
Take George W. for example. Here’s a guy the GOP
elected with a minority of the popular vote; you’d think common sense
would dictate some kind of amicable coming together, some attempt at
bi-partisan government, but after a few words in that direction the Bush
Administration has marched to the right as if it had a landslide
mandate, and it’s using the war on terrorism as an axe to cut off any
I never learn. Like Reagan’s second term, I
listened to W’s inaugural address, and he seemed to make sense. “I’m
gonna give this guy a chance,” I said. I tried to make sense out of oil
drilling in the Arctic, I tried to see Enron as just some fluke, but
last week I gave up on the guy. When he refused to acknowledge a global
warming report—and a lukewarm report at that—by the EPA, he showed just
what an inferior education can foster. Up until the Industrial
Revolution, the most toxic gas emitted on Earth came from sheep, but
since the 1800s we have fouled our atmosphere at an exponential rate.
Anyone who thinks 200 years of non-stop aerial bombardment of the
atmosphere is not worthy of a front burner on the governmental stove
just shouldn’t be in the kitchen. Harry Truman was right. The next time
I start to think a Republican has a good idea, that they have something
in mind besides their own account balances, somebody please kick me.
June 6, 2002