The Voodoo Campaign

Supply-side economics has powered GOP presidential campaigns, but that may be ending with Trump... or not

Since 1980, the GOP domestic agenda has been based on, in one form or another, "supply-side economics." In a nutshell, that has included:

♦ Lowering taxes, especially in upper income brackets.

♦ Privatizing much of government. (Even national parks, starting with the Grand Canyon.)

♦ Promoting free trade.

♦ Climate change denial. (Drill, baby, drill!)

♦ Cutting all those meddlesome regulations.

♦ Ferreting out "waste, fraud and abuse" that allegedly infects the government — except, of course, for the Pentagon. (This old standby works on voters every time.)

♦ The belief that even with tax cuts for the rich, the federal government will defy the laws of mathematics and produce more revenue.

♦ The guarantee that our business economy will grow by close to 5 percent a year. (At least that's what the Reagan administration promised.)

♦ And the promise that despite all the tax cuts, America will have plenty of money for legitimate government purposes, mostly national security. (But of course we'll have to do something about those damn entitlements.)

I wonder how our previous 11 presidents (not including Ronald Reagan, who brought all this to Washington), along with our two current candidates, might view supply-side policies and promises. Here's how I imagine it:

HARRY TRUMAN: "Reminds me of some railroad history. They wanted people to ride their trains so they borrowed Horace Greeley's catchy line: 'Go West, young man.' 'But isn't there a desert out there?' many asked. To quiet concerns, they came up with 'the rain follows the plow.' Known as sodbusters, many did go West — they plowed the sod and waited for the rain, which of course never came. But the winds sure did. Remember the Dust Bowl? This 'supply-side' stuff seems to me a highfalutin' way of sayin' pretty much the same thing — it's just a new kind of Dust Bowl, and us regular folks doing all the sodbustin'."

DWIGHT EISENHOWER: "Seems to me you're making a lot of assumptions, and when you think about it, the country did great during the 1940s and '50s — everyone had a job, going to college, buying homes. And the rich back then, they were in the 90 percent tax bracket, but they were still doing OK — for sure a lot better than Army generals like me."

JOHN F. KENNEDY: "Didn't Ike say, 'We are all Keynesians now?' Maybe that was Nixon."

LYNDON JOHNSON: "Remember when I said that sometimes chickenshit can be turned into chicken salad? Supply-side economics is just the opposite."

RICHARD NIXON: "Sounds like a lot of BS mumbo-jumbo to me. But voters will love it, and by the time they find out they've been screwed, we'll be outta here."

GERALD FORD: "Hmmmm... "

JIMMY CARTER: "Hand me my slide rule."

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: "I said it then, I'll say it now: It's voodoo economics."

BILL CLINTON: "On the off chance you're onto a new way to 'triangulate,' please work in the phrase, 'I felt your pain and did something about it.'"

GEORGE W. BUSH: "Sounds good, but could you explain that 'supply-side' thing one more time?"

BARACK OBAMA: "Let me get this straight: Am I imagining it, or have you just laid out a kind of government-run Ponzi scheme?"

HILLARY CLINTON: "My opponent is a loudmouthed disaster in waiting, in case you need to be reminded. And about supply-side — ditto what Barack said. Oh, and I didn't do it, whatever 'it' is or was or might be."

Even the Republicans aren't that enamored with the supply-side economy they've been enlisted to enforce. After all, the evidence says it doesn't really work. So where does The Donald fall on the supply-side spectrum? He says he hates free trade and will protect Social Security, but then he wants tax cuts for the rich — except when he wants more taxes for the rich. Just let him tell it:

DONALD TRUMP: "I don't know or care about any-side economics. I'll be busy making America great again — walls to build, nukes for all. Easy. As for my four bankruptcies, my tax returns, my 'university' and those federal fraud cases? None of your business, and who cares? The voters love me!

"Now I'm supposed to listen to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell? I'm where I am today because I didn't listen to these guys — losers, both of them. And I don't care what they say, I'm still suspicious about Vince Foster — you know the Clintons, they'll do anything. And do you really believe Obama was born in America?

"Did I mention that Putin loves me? He really does. And I can do deals with North Korea, too — they respect me over there. I do deals — that's what I do. Sooo many deals. Beautiful deals. Supply-side economics? Sure, I can do a deal on that. Why not?" ♦

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About The Author

Robert Herold

Robert Herold is a retired professor of public administration and political science at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Robert Herold's collection of Inlander columns dating back to 1995, Robert's Rules, is available at Auntie's.