Trickle Downers

The Prospect's ongoing exposé of the folly, dysfunctions, and sheer idiocy of feed-the-rich economic policies.

Tax Cuts for the rich. Deregulation for the powerful. Wage suppression for everyone else. These are the tenets of trickle-down economics, the conservatives’ age-old strategy for advantaging the interests of the rich and powerful over those of the middle class and poor. The articles in Trickle-Downers are devoted, first, to exposing and refuting these lies, but equally, to reminding Americans that these claims aren’t made because they are true. Rather, they are made because they are the most effective way elites have found to bully, confuse and intimidate middle- and working-class voters. Trickle-down claims are not real economics. They are negotiating strategies. Here at the Prospect, we hope to help you win that negotiation.

Trickle Downers

As We Enter Age of Trumponomics, Five Charts That Highlight Persistent Worker Woes

­Decades of trickle-down trends hurting working people will worsen under the next administration. 

trickle-downers.jpg It is now apparent to anyone paying attention that the trends driving the working and middle classes’ woes—from decades of expanding corporate power to the silencing of workers’ voices—will be exacerbated by the incoming Trump administration. Here are six charts from the Economic Policy Institute that underscore the systemic inequities for workers that will persist—and almost certainly worsen—under the right-wing doctrine of Trumponomics. The gap between productivity and worker pay continues to widen. During the postwar economic boom (in tandem with a strong organized labor movement), worker pay levels increased at the same pace as productivity. However, beginning around 1973, hourly compensation stagnated while productivity levels kept increasing. As the chart shows, productivity has increased more than 73 percent since 1973 while the average worker pay has increased just 11 percent. To put it simply: Workers are producing more...

How Not to Make America Great Again

AP Photo/Claire Galofaro
trickle-downers.jpg It’s the 1950s, Donald Trump told New York Times reporter David Sanger , that is the “again” he has in mind when he speaks of making American great again. We may cavil that in the Fifties, African Americans still suffered under Jim Crow laws and women endured their own distinctive discrimination, but for the white male working class—whose heirs, today, are the core of Trump’s support—things had never been better. They were still the guys who’d won World War II, and their newfound material prosperity was the social miracle of the age, and testament to the rightness of the American way. But if Trump’s appeal to his base is his promise to restore these onetime protagonists of the American epic to their rightful place, he’ll need a radically different set of economic policies than those he now champions. Bringing back the factories won’t in itself recreate the lost economic Eden of the Eisenhower era. A...

Rising Inequality Is Far From Inevitable

AP Photo/Teresa Crawford
An earlier version of this story appeared in The Boston Globe. trickle-downers.jpg The latest study of deepening inequality by three of the most careful scholars of the subject, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saens, and Gabriel Zucman, has prompted another round of shrugs from economists that inequality is just in the nature of the advanced economy. Supposedly, these inexorable trends reflect technology, globalization, and increasing rewards to more advanced skills. The poor are paid in correct proportion to their contribution to the national product, which alas, isn’t much. A close look at political history suggests that this widespread inference is convenient nonsense—convenient to economic elites. In fact, the distribution of income and wealth has bounced around a lot in the past century and a half. It was extreme in the first Gilded Age of the late 19th century, a little less so in the Progressive Era, extreme again in the 1920s, and remarkably egalitarian in the period...

Is Minnesota the Next Target for GOP Wage Suppression Laws?

A conservative ALEC legislator threatens to block local minimum-wage hikes.

AP Photo/Jim Mone
The state of Minnesota—long a liberal bastion of the upper Midwest—could be the next target for the right’s nationwide effort to block any minimum wage increases by cities like Minneapolis that are higher than the state’s minimum of $9.50 an hour. In the months before the November election, progressive advocacy groups and a majority of the Minneapolis city council were pushing for a $15 minimum wage. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges opposed it, however, saying she would prefer it if Democratic state legislators passed a bill mandating a higher regional minimum wage for the Twin Cities metro area instead. However, Election Day changed that political calculation when the Minnesota GOP expanded its majority in the state House ( with help from the Koch brothers ) and, in a huge upset, wrested control of the senate from the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party (the state Democratic party). Suddenly, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton was the sole remaining block on Republican...

An Alternative to Puzder

Fast-food CEO Andy Puzder, Donald Trump’s pick for labor secretary, is a big fan of robots—and not so much of humans. In an interview with Business Insider last March, Puzder had this to say about our robotic little friends: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”

Correspondingly, Puzder’s record makes clear that the wants and needs of human workers repel and disgust him. He’s opposed increases to the minimum wage, and the extension of overtime eligibility to workers making more than $23,000 a year. His fast-food outlets have been penalized for violating minimum-wage laws. And as his Business Insider disquisition makes clear, things like employee vacations and slipping on the job—things that come out of Puzer’s profits, that is—drive him batty.

When the Senate convenes in January to consider Trump’s cabinet nominations, it might be prudent for the solons to apply Puzder’s tests for human frailty to the nominees—at minimum, to Puzder himself. Is he always polite? Has he been known to take vacations? Or slip? Or fall? If so, wouldn’t a robot do a better job? Any robot programmed to become labor secretary, after all, would likely understand better than Puzder that its mission is to advance rather than retard the interests of American workers.

The senators should heed Puzder’s advice: Reject his nomination and petition Trump to send them a robot, which, by any criterion, including that of human empathy, would be more qualified than the current nominee. 

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