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Trickling Up

Living in the shoes of Ronald Reagan's ghost.

Ronald Reagan is an interesting spectre.

When Reagan was President from 1980 to 1988, I was still coming to a period of political realization.  I was still a child, paying more attention to the news than my friends were, but I was too young to understand the nuances of Cold War politics.  My primary source of information was my parents; and, like most “my dad is cooler than your dad” children, I probably annoyed the other children on the playground by talking about how I would vote for Walter Mondale, if only I could vote yet. 

And, it was probably my continued predilection towards these kinds of conversations that made me a social leper when it came to dating in high school.

But let’s give credit where it’s due.  Reagan probably accidentally introduced me to politics as a young child by giving his (overwhelmingly expensive and realistically-impossible) missle-defense shield program the nickname “Star Wars” at a particularly impressionable time in my life.  When you’re a child in the 80s, a shield in outer space seems perfectly plausible, especially when you believe your society is only ten-to-fifteen years away from patrols by the Millenium Falcon above your head and Marty McFly's Hoverboard below your feet.

And so, while I have grown up to realize that my childhood ideas of the way the world works were naive, many people have not learned that lesson about the economic policies of Ronald Reagan.  

Quite the opposite, actually.

Somewhere in the years following his death in 2004, Ronald Reagan became a legend; and possibly Mitt Romney’s favorite ghost since Moroni.  During his term, President Reagan’s approval ratings never topped a modest 68%, and his average was a 53.  In case you’re not one to click on the links I provide, George HW Bush capped at 89 and settled with about a 61.  So that means that, during their respective presidencies, George HW Bush was actually more popular than Reagan.  And Bush spent less time at his job than your average Cleveland Browns coach.

But oh, how history re-writes itself in rose-colored inks.  Turn on the news today, and it seems like Reagan was a beloved demi-god, wielding the Hammer of Thor and bringing the nation together over a time of such economic prosperity that our middle class feet were lined with diamonds on the souls of our shoes.

(Hell yes I dropped an obscure Paul Simon reference.  Take that, Dennis Miller.)

Today, Republicans love the ghost of Ronald Reagan.  And I think that’s fantastic.  Good for you guys.  Reagan did arguably (and eventually) preside over a time of economic prosperity, and there’s nothing wrong with regarding the 80s as halcyon days.  I still love a good game of Galaga.

But let’s not pretend the world was not a different place.  Let’s not make the mistake of exactly and finitely equating his policies as though past were prologue.

Reagan’s famous M.O. was the oft-debated theory of “Trickle Down Economics.”  In short, the theory is that, if businesses and the wealthy are afforded tax breaks and incentives, that money will eventually “trickle down” to the poorer and make the economy stronger.  It wasn’t a new idea, and it wasn’t even one that was agreed upon as something that would work (even then), but it was a sort of blueprint for him then, and it is still the economic blueprint for the GOP now. 

Mitt Romney (as of now, anyway) would love us to go back to the policies of Reagan to re-usher in that same prosperity; say nothing of the fact that the tax rates were still higher under Reagan than they are today, that the internet and machines hadn't yet replaced humans in manufacturing jobs, or that we were spending money hand over fist to push the now non-existent USSR into bankruptcy.

Another thing we seem to be ignoring is that there are less mechanisms in place for that wealth to trickle down to the working class because there are fewer unions today in order to bargain for a bigger piece of that wealth. In 2011, the union membership rate was 11.8%.  In 1983, it was 20%.  With the number of union memberships essentially cut in half, there are even fewer tools in place for middle class workers to bargain for that wealth than when Reagan was President.

And since Reagan was President, the wealth gap has increased, and expendable income decreased; whether or not you want to debate that Reganomics was the cause of that.  There have simply been no reasons for the wealthy to give up the very human tendency towards greed, hire more people, and filter that wealth down through philanthropy and the growth of the middle class. 

The realisty is that, since the days Reagan, the diamonds on the soles of our middle class shoes went first to cubic zirconium, then to shards of glass, and now we’re stuck with idiotic lights in our sneakers that make us look like you’ve got a one-man disco party on your piggies.  And that’s if you haven’t given up on life completely and decided on Crocs.

Put simply, even if we were to agree that “Trickle Down” economics was a viable theory back then, there are barely any mechanisms remaining in place today to ensure that the wealth actually does what it’s “supposed” to do.  And though our country still maintains some similarities from the 80s (I’m still waiting on that Hoverboard, McFly), it’s simply not applicable to make an apples-to-apples comparison with our current economic climate.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Chris (Kit) Myers May 21, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Contrary to what you say, the money that the wealthy have is not buried out back in the orchard. It out there being invested in businesses. Even if it is in banks, it is being loaned to businesses to make capital investmnts, to purchase raw materials, and to make payrolls. You need to rethink trickle down economics. People who invest, whether they be rich or middle class are the people who keep the country going. I know people who make eleven bucks an hour and have kids, who are thrifty enough to put away for the future. They don't drink vast amounts of alcohol They don't gamble. Their refrigerators are not full of Coca-Cola. They cook their meals instead of eating out or ordering expensive pizza. They are young, vibrant, and realize that you have to start somewhere and WORK your way up. Ronald Reagan did not preach hope. You can hope all your life and get nowhere. Ronald Reagan preached optimism. He was alive and he brought the country to life.
Ed Fisher May 21, 2012 at 09:50 PM
I was blue collar manufacturing for all of my working life. I remember the Reagan years well. He seemed to be a nice man, and was pleasant to listen to during his speeches. But we all know that "trickle-down" never really does trickle. If you don't know that, your very naive.
tom m May 21, 2012 at 10:07 PM
I always look at this Reagan Quote as a warning from our past--------"When the American people wants something from Congress, regardless of its political complexion, if they make their wants known, Congress does what the people want., behind it will come other government programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day as Norman Thomas said we will wake to find that we have socialism."
Chris (Kit) Myers May 21, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Investment money paid your wages, Mr. Fisher. THAT, sir, is trickle down.
Nathaniel Brooks May 21, 2012 at 11:57 PM
The way things work are: If you have money, you have to work, just not as hard as those without money, to achieve the same result. When I said you, I meant your family. We all know the 22 year old driving the S4 Audi probably didn't buy that himself? Wealthy people have resources available to them, that aren't available to the general public. I'm not just referencing money here. I'm talking about influence, power, and nepotism, which is rampant in our society today. Heaven forbid you are a minority because someone will try to defecate on you. History has proven this, time and time again. I have no problem with people who have wealth. Wealthy people care nothing about the others on the bottom of the totem pole, and that's human nature, therefore understandable. What I do have issue with are the systems of control. You have to pay mortgage, utilities, gas, insurance, and maintenance, not to mention the ridiculous amount of tax surcharged on to everything that is consumed. The government then takes your tax dollars and spends them on wars, useless programs, and to provide tax loop holes for big oil and other monopolies. It's the "good ole boys". If you take money from my pocket, at least have the decency to let me have a say in where it goes. JP Morgan Chase lost 2 billion dollars last week in a dice game lol. Sometimes the things you own, end up owning you.
Victor Mooney May 22, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Patrick: I lost a Sister and Brother to Aldziemer`s----I suggest you seek help----your symptoms are reminicent of those displayed by them----absolutely everything you said is Barbara Striesand , all I can say is: --look down ocassionally, your wading through your own excrement!!!-----
tom m May 22, 2012 at 12:30 AM
nathan tell that to Larry Page and sergey brin (google) and mark zuckerburg (facebook) and John Schnatter (papa johns) these people came from modest means and they made their money the old fashioned way ....they worked for it ..... and nathan if you are on the bottom of the totem pole feeling sorry for yourself there is nobody to blame but yourself
James Thomas May 22, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Well said Kit.
Phyllis Stager May 22, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Lets face it, the nation would have been far better off if Jimmy Carter had been able to beat Ronald Reagan. But, until Carter dies, I guess wont have a n interesting spectre about which to ruminate.
tom m May 22, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Jimmy carter ????? really !!!!!! Phyllis is such the kidder
Troy McClure May 22, 2012 at 01:43 PM
"Investment money paid your wages. THAT, sir, is trickle down." I was wondering what stunk around here, and it was this pile of crap.
Troy McClure May 22, 2012 at 01:44 PM
So you lose family members to Alzheimer's and you're making jokes about it? Classy.
Chris (Kit) Myers May 22, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Yep, good old Jimmy (19% inflation; abandon the hostages) Carter!
Ed Fisher May 22, 2012 at 03:46 PM
For the record, Myers: Products produced in the factories where I worked were sold and the money made paid my wages. Profits made life easier for the owner and his family. Trickle down means getting urinated on by rich people.
lyn May 22, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Would it be better that the owners be poor and unsuccessful? Then, you don't have an employer for very long. And, you - no job. Why is it that people would want to make business life difficult for their employer, when all it could do is put an end to that business. Your livelihood depends on them being successful.
Tim Torrence May 22, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Ed, I believe you entered into a contract with your employer. Your employer agreed to pay you a certain wage or salary in exchange for your services. You agreed to provide your services for a certain wage or salary. Am I correct? Exactly where did you get urinated on? How did you get yourself trapped in such a terrible situation that you couldn't get out of? Were you chained to your work station or was your employer threatening your family in order to keep you on the job?
Nathaniel Brooks May 22, 2012 at 09:11 PM
LOL Tom, you obviously have me confused with someone who cares about the human condition. You would be wrong. If you read my post, instead of searching for a soap box, you would realize where I truly stand. I doubt you care. As stated previously "I have no problem with those who are wealthy." I respect those who work for theirs, more than those born with the elusive silver spoon. Considering Zuckerberg was attending Harvard without a scholarship, I'm willing to bet he comes from an affluent family. Let's be real here people, you don't get into Harvard on merit alone. I'm sure you knew that though. I feel no pity for myself. Lawrence said it best: "I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself" Tom assumes he knows me, it's sort of condescending, but not in a good way. I might be disabled, or indigent, maybe I lost my limbs in a war? Yet, he tries to belittle me because he believes he's better than me. He has a mandate from heaven to enlighten us. He speaks as if he invented the wheel, or something. That's funny, real funny, actually it is sad and pathetic. I support Charles Darwin's theory. I wonder what would happen if we dropped Tom out in the Kodiak? I don't know him personally, but I'm willing to bet he wouldn't last a day. Where's the merit in that? You know why people perish in the wilderness? They die from shame and they have no one to blame, but themselves.
lyn May 22, 2012 at 10:07 PM
"Let's be real here people, you don't get into Harvard on merit alone." And, what are scholarships? As I remember, maybe incorrectly, didn't Obama go to Harvard? Was that on his own dime or from a wealthy family? I don't know. Maybe you know better.
Ed Fisher May 22, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Tim, I don't pretend to know you or your circumstances. How is it you wave off my perspective without knowing any details ? Have you always been so blessed with this all-seeing wisdom ? In your simplified scenario, working people would just up and quit their job with abandon and rush to greener pastures. What world is this ? Do you not allow for the possibility that people are actually stuck in jobs and their horizons are limited ? Sometimes by circumstances they can't help ? Have you never felt taken advantage of and had no recourse ? Guess not.
Patrick Giusto May 23, 2012 at 09:30 AM
Let me get this straight: you were worried that I had a degenerative form of dementia, and THIS comment was the vehicle you used to express those concerns?
Glen Heitkamp May 23, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Some of the most unhappy people I met were the uber-rich but also the ones that felt they were entitled or did not get their fair share. Money or Assets does not equate to happiness and a fulfulling life. The most successful and happy people are those that set goals for themselves, help others, believe in God and love. Patrick and others like him, you control and define your own happiness but you always see obstacles that prevent you and others from obtaining happiness and blame the rich because they are an easy target. Envy kills anyone's hope, (myself included when it comes to my life but I am trying to change and look at what is inside of me instead of others in how happiness is achieved or defined).
Bob Haley Jr. May 23, 2012 at 07:28 PM
You'd think after losing two siblings to the disease that you'd figure out how to spell it. When's the last time you were checked out?
Patrick Giusto May 23, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Can you explain the mental and reading processes you underwent prior to making that comment? I'm curious as to how you read an article about a national economic policy, and somehow decided that I (as the author) am either not happy, or equate happiness with wealth so much that I "blame the rich." Neither the word "happiness," nor the phrase "blame the rich" are anywhere in this blog. And let me see if I can set the record straight here: I'm a teacher, so it doesn't matter how hard I work, I make the same amount of money, regardless. When I stay up late grading papers, or emailing parents, or working weekends on lesson plans, there is no bonus. There is no upward mobility. There's not even an accurate and efficient way to pay me any more for the effort I put into my job, so there is no way for me equate any combination of hard work, money and happiness. My continued efforts are because I want my students to be smarter, more critical thinkers, and they translate to my happiness and self-efficacy. And asking for an economic policy where the average CEO doesn't make 380 times what his worker makes isn't blaming the rich. It's simply asking a relevant question: "Does a CEO work 380 times harder than the average worker?" And, if I were an average worker, I'd be insulted by the mere asking of that question. But I have no skin in this game, so I am not. What I am insulted by is your leap in logic to label me envious, when you have no idea who I am or what I do.
Glen Heitkamp May 23, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Wow, you just demonstrated your anger and unhappiness; class envy is no way to go through life and the way you write is full of angst. (Also, judging by all the comments to your masterpiece and using the title "Trickling up" you are promoting class envy and rich people are to blame for people's unhappiness).
Patrick Giusto May 23, 2012 at 09:35 PM
You don't actually read anything I write, do you?
tom m May 23, 2012 at 10:35 PM
I do ....you are a pot stirrer ...and you do a heck of a good job of it too !!!!!
Patrick Giusto May 24, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Tom: Ha... well, I'll take that as a compliment.
Glen Heitkamp May 24, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Pat: I can't wait for your next Humorist common sense opinion. It is just your negative tone and your idealistic views that I frown upon. I yearn for the days when Reagan was President and Tip O'Neil was Speaker, there is just so much hatred and envy now it is creating a very negative environment. Again, money does not equal happiness; grading papers late at night, seeing your former students exceed in life should. Capitalism and Free Markets are not inherently evil. ...
John McMillan May 25, 2012 at 12:20 AM
"Naive" is the perfect word for that person that responded to your comment, Ed. People like this really think that multi-million-dollar "bonuses" and other "perks" to CEOs and executives are examples of trickle-down theory? The only "investment" that is being seen today involves piles of money deposited abroad, so rich people can avoid paying taxes on it (Mitt?)...How much money is ENOUGH for these people?
John McMillan May 25, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Not inherently evil, no, but the current versions of them are pure evil.

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