The End Of “Trickle Down”?

Thom Hartmann Headshot

Thom Hartmann

Why the “Reagan Revolution” Scheme to Gut America’s Middle Class is Coming to an End

In an essay at Thom Hartmann’s blog www.hartmannreport.com Hartmann explains why the Democrats American Relief Plan that was just passed and signed last week may signal the end of a system that has cursed the country for the past 40 years, Reaganomics. 

Reaganomics is not new. The idea of an upper class that sets the standards of the economy for all the rest of us is an idea that has been around for a while. The concept is that money goes to those at the top and then they somehow spread it out to the rest of us. At various times this has been called “trickle down economics” and “horse shit economics.” The latter comes from the idea that after horses ate oats and passed them undigested through their digestive system, birds could live on the undigested oats the horses passed.

 As Hartmann lays it out:

Reagan and his conservative buddies intentionally gutted the American middle class, but they did so not just out of greed but also with what they thought was a good and noble justification.

As I lay out in more granular detail in my new book The Hidden History of American Oligarchy, back in the early 1950s conservative thinker Russell Kirk proposed a startling hypothesis that would fundamentally change our nation and the world.

The American middle-class at that time was growing more rapidly than any middle-class had ever grown in the history of the world, in terms of the number of people in the middle class, the income of those people, and the overall wealth that those people were accumulating. The Middle class was growing in wealth and income back then, in fact, faster than were the top 1%.

Kirk postulated in 1951 that if the middle-class got too wealthy, we would see an absolute collapse of our nation’s social order, producing chaos, riots and possibly even the end of the republic.

The first chapter of his 1951 book, The Conservative Mind, is devoted to Edmund Burke, the British conservative who Thomas Paine visited for two weeks in 1787 on his way to get arrested in the French revolution. Paine was so outraged by Burke’s arguments that he wrote an entire book rebutting them titled The Rights Of Man.

Burke was defending, among other things, Britain’s restrictions on who could vote or participate in politics based on wealth and land ownership, as well as the British maximum wage.

That’s right, maximum wage.

Hartmann goes on to discuss how controlling wages was one of the best ways to control the majority of people. As the middle class grew so did the independence of middle class in general. Sub-groups such as women, blacks, and the college educated became specific problems for the wannabe “rulers” in America.

Conservatives met these problems with their solutions of control:

“The Republican/Conservative “solution” to the “crisis” these three movements represented was put into place in 1981: the explicit goal of the so-called Reagan Revolution was to take the middle class down a peg and end the protests and social instability. 

Their plan was to declare war on labor unions so wages could slide back down again, end free college all across the nation so students would be in fear rather than willing to protest, and increase the penalties Nixon had already put on drugs so they could use those laws against hippy antiwar protesters and Black people.

As Nixon‘s right hand man, John Ehrlichman, told reporter Dan Baum: “You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. Do you understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.“

The conservative solution has been, so far, quite successful. For forty years Conservatives have squeezed various triggers to keep groups that have shown opposition from getting out of control – until Biden.

Joe Biden has shown that he is willing to bring the masses back into the government not as the ruled, but as members of the ruling group just as the Founders envisioned:

“Yet President Biden said something that Presidents Clinton and Obama were absolutely unwilling to say, so deeply ingrained was the Reagan orthodoxy about the dangers of “big government” during their presidencies.

President Biden said, “We need to remember the government isn’t some foreign force in a distant capital. No, it’s us. All of us. We, the people.“

This was an all-out declaration of war on the underlying premise of the Reagan Revolution. And a full-throated embrace of the first three words of the Constitution. “

Conservatives are fighting tooth and nail to keep their control. Keeping the filibuster in the US Senate is a major strategy for keeping control. Without that major reform legislation should flow from the Democrats. 

Along with the filibuster, voter suppression is also a major strategy. If Republicans can continue to pick the voters, they can control. Thus they need the filibuster in place to be used to stop the enactment of the voting reforms in HR 1 that is now in the senate waiting for a vote. 

Republicans have introduced some 250+ pieces of legislation in 43 states (those numbers are approximations) to fix a reported 2 cases of voter fraud in the last election. If HR 1 is passed, most of those voter suppression laws go by the wayside.

Finally, the re-emergence of Unions is is a must for workers to regain the middle class and take back their own lives. President Biden weighed in early on the side of unions in the Bessemer, Alabama attempt to unionize an Amazon Warehouse. If workers can once again negotiate wages and working conditions, perhaps they will be on the road to self-determination once again.

Good Luck, Mr. President – you chose the biggest dragon to slay.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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