Have you ever watched someone have an argument entirely with themselves? If not, I invite you to join me for one of my favorite sporting events: Democrats debating the soundness of “trickle-down” economics purely amongst themselves. Just consider this recent example from progressive activist Robert Reich:
Trickle-down economics has been an abject failure over the past 20 years. It’s time to invest in workers. Now.
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) December 17, 2022
They’re having this debate with themselves because no one on the Right is arguing back… and that’s because it’s a made-up term used to strawman the actual economic schools of thought found on the Right. You won’t find it taught in a single economics program, no economist can be found waxing poetic on its merits, and as a whole—based on the definition Democrats have given the term—it is wholly in contrast to actual free-market schools of economics, which the Right has traditionally (albeit, poorly) defended.
Name one person right of center who has ever touted or even mentioned “trickle-down” economics.
— Hannah Cox (@HannahDCox) December 17, 2022
What Democrats tend to be referring to when they talk about “trickle-down” economics is the idea that cutting taxes for the rich will eventually lead to greater prosperity for all as the rich pass their increased funds onto the masses through more jobs, an expansion of businesses and GDP, higher pay, and lower prices.
But as famed conservative economist Thomas Sowell writes, “No such theory has been found in even the most voluminous and learned histories of economic theories, including J.A. Schumpeter’s monumental 1,260-page History of Economic Analysis. Yet this ‘Trickle Down’ Theory and ‘Tax Cuts for the Rich’ non-existent theory* has become the object of denunciations from the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post to the political arena. It has been attacked by Professor Paul Krugman of Princeton and Professor Peter Corning of Stanford, among others, and similar attacks have been repeated as far away as India. It is a classic example of arguing against a caricature instead of confronting the argument actually made.”
I guess when you can’t win the actual argument against your opponent, you just pretend they’re arguing something else entirely.
True capitalists do not, and will never, support cutting taxes for one group of people alone. That’s why many in our camp actually argue for a flat tax rate, work against corporate welfare (including selective tax breaks, not just handouts), and as a whole seek to limit regulations and other costly infringements that can be used as a hidden tax on individuals and small businesses.
Far be it from me to claim that Republicans are stalwarts of free markets. Right-wing politicians are often as guilty as the Left when it comes to crony policies that allow them to bestow special favors and privileges on their friends in business. But to be clear, the Left doesn’t even really have detractors when it comes to these issues. Rather they cheerlead regulations, antitrust, higher taxes across the board, and monetary policies that directly cause inflation (which is a form of taxation).
And furthermore, you still won’t find these Republicans arguing that giving the rich (and the rich alone) tax breaks helps everyone—even if some of the Right’s representatives sell out their professed values behind the scenes.
If the Left wants to debate the merits of economic theories, it needs to actually come to the table ready to discuss true free market ideas. And they also need to answer for all the ways they themselves are complicit in handing out special favors to the rich.