Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Hating Government

Check out this video, especially beginning at approximately 35 seconds, featuring this astonishing statement:

If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and health care done by the government.

This was not from some right-wing fanatic disrupting a town hall meeting hosted by Senator Arlen Specter (D.-Pa.), Representative Lloyd Doggett (D.-Tx.), or House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.). This right-wing fanatic is Arthur Laffer.

Yes, the Arthur Laffer, whose theories arguably are responsible for some of the biggest damage done to the economy of this country the past thirty years, as the Laffer Curve became the intellectual underpinning of supply side economics. In "The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijaacked by Crackpot Economics," Jonathan Chait noted it all started innocuously 35 years ago:

The cult in question generally traces its political origins to a meeting in Washington in late 1974 between Arthur Laffer, an economic consultant, Jude Wanniski, an editorial page writer for the Wall Street Journal, and Dick Cheney,then chief of staff to President Ford.

Soon afterward, Wanniski introduced Irving Kristol to Jack Kemp, who converted Ronald Reagan to an ideology whose

core principle is that economic performance hinges almost entirely on how much incentive investors and entrepreneurs have to attain more wealth and this incentive in turn hinges almost entirely on their tax rate. Therefore, cutting taxes- especially those of the rich, who carry out the decisive entrepreneurial role in the economy- is always a good idea.

And continuously cutting taxes gave us a war in Iraq paid for by borrowed money, back when Republicns like Dick Cheney argued "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." Until recently- when the need for health care reform awakened in the GOP a convenient distaste for deficits- supply siders would argue "either that tax cuts will produce enough growth to wipe out deficits or that deficits simply don't matter."

Arthur Laffer is the man who gave birth to the free lunch- cut taxes and keep spending- which fueled the Reagan and Bush 43 tax cuts, ballooning the deficit and helping exacerbate the gap betweeen rich and poor. Arthur Laffer now implies a) the Post Office (really, the U.S. Postal Service) is undependable; and b) Medicare and Medicaid are not government programs.

Could it be that the Arthur Laffer, a conservative economist, is not aware that the mail does get delivered on time? Or that Medicare and Medicaid are government programs?

Virtually impossible. Thirty-some years ago Arthur Laffer realized his theory made no sense, and he now realizes that the incomparably popular Medicare is a government program- a popular, efficient government health program. So it's necessary that Laffer, and the rest of the denizens of the despicably dishonest right, spread the fiction that Medicare is a private program.

It's possible to argue that Medicare is popular and run by the government and simultaneously to oppose health reform which includes a public option. But that requires some explanation and reasoning, two things that the conservative mob, either bereft of an interest in detail or suffering from a deficit in attention, has now almost entirely relinquished.

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