KRUGMAN (12/23/05): Since the 1970's, conservatives have used two theories to justify cutting taxes. One theory, supply-side economics, has always been hokum for the yokels. Conservative insiders adopted the supply-siders as mascots because they were useful to the cause, but never took them seriously.Supply-side has always been hokum for the yokels, Krugman says. (In our language, it has been a way to fool the rubes.) If we lower the tax rates, revenues rise! No serious person could believe such a thing as a matter of general policy. But this utterly laughable claim has been a staple of our discourse for decades. It has been used as a way to fool the rubes—tossed out as fine hokum for yokels.
Nope! No one could believe, as a general matter, that lowering tax rates brings higher revenues. For example, did George Bush believe this during Campaign 2000? Obviously, no—he did not. During that campaign, Bush proposed lowering the marginal tax rate from 39.6 percent down to 33 percent. But if lowering the tax rate brings higher revenues, why would Bush have drawn the line there? Why not lower the tax rate to thirty-two percent? No, to thirty-one! No, to 30! Obviously, no politician seriously thinks that lowering the tax rate brings higher revenues. But the claim has lived as a staple of talk-show discourse over the course of the past several decades. How in the world could that happen?
It has happened because we live at a time when no one really tries to police our utterly laughable public discourse. In part, the eternal life of such silly spin is the fault of Dem pols, of course. But its also the fault of a lazy press corps—a press corps which has long since abandoned the attempt to police the American discourse. Ludicrous spin-points can live for decades without comment or challenge from mainstream pundits. Sean Hannity is free to throw hokum to yokels because our press corps lets him.
In the new year, we expect to spend our time on a new subject—the education of low-income kids, kids from low-literacy backgrounds. Theyre the kids described in this searing passage from that recent CAP report, the passage weve quoted so often:
CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Young low-income and minority children are more likely to start school without having gained important school readiness skills, such as recognizing letters and counting...By the fourth grade, low-income students read about three grade levels behind non-poor students.Just what happens to these kids when they arrive in kindergarten without having gained important readiness skills? What happens when they hit fifth grade, years below grade level in reading? We hope that liberals will follow along as we try to flesh out these topics. Liberals abandoned this subject long ago. Its time it came back center stage.
But as we move to this important new topic, wed like to say a word in defense of the yokels Krugman mentions. Yokels go off to work every day, and then they have to take care of their children. They dont have time to analyze every nuance of every policy proclamation. When they hear pure bullroar again and again—and when they never hear it challenged—then only naturally, theyll start to think that the hokum is well-founded. This happened, of course, during Campaign 2000, when they heard how dishonest one candidate was—and liberal elites all stared off in to air, refusing to utter a word of protest. And it has happened for decades with supply-side economics. Sean keeps handing them consummate crap—and no one explains that its hokum.
Yokels—who go to work every day—deserve to be served by the national press corps. Krugman is right this morning, of course; the people he describes long been served a big plate of hokum. Its time for pundits to get off their keisters and report this remarkable situation as news. And its time for Dems and liberals to serve yokels, too, by telling them an important story: For decades, you have been treated like fools by people who feed you unvarnished hokum. All politics is yokel! Its the great liberal uber-tale of our time. Its time that we libs started telling it.
ITS BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE THE HOLIDAYS: We may do a post or two next week. Or perhaps not. Have a Clarified New Year!