Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reagan, Trickle Down, My Madeleina

My daughter Madeleina, 13, got off from school early today and just a few minutes ago came into the kitchen while I was sweeping and asked: "Was Reagan a good president?"
It was sort of out of the blue and probably prompted by a mention of him on the television or computer.
"No, he was horrible. An awful lot of people loved him though."
"Why don't you?"
"Well, you've heard me talk about his team's work in Central America, right? I mean..."
"I know, I know," she said, cutting me off. "Presidents shouldn't encourage foreign rebellions over duly elected governments as happened in Nicaragua on Reagan's watch. Particularly if it involves permitting the sale of enormous quantities of cocaine to US citizens, the profits of which are then used to buy arms for an attempted government overthrow. And especially particularly if those US-citizens caught using that government okay'd cocaine are going to be incarcerated for long periods of time in prisons. Particularly privatized, for-profit prisons, which also began to occur on Reagan's watch. I have heard all that before dad. Like a million times. So why else don't you like Reagan?"
"The money. His idea was that if you gave huge tax breaks to the rich they would open factories and provide jobs to the middle and poor classes. He called it trickle-down. I think it was more like pissing on everyone who wasn't rich."
"Sound like a good idea to me. What's wrong with it?"
"Well rich people often don't open factories. They invest their money, they guard their money, they build themselves mansions... none of which really produce a lot of jobs."
"Building a mansion does..."
"Yes, for one construction firm and some contractors for a few months. On the other hand, if you give those tax breaks to the middle class, they start to buy cars. And when people, I mean whole groups of people, millions of people, start to buy cars, that makes jobs for all sorts of people. And then they have money and they want apartments and houses and that makes all sorts of jobs for other people. And then all those people with jobs start needing more stores and restaurants and middle class people open those and give more people jobs...."
"Why don't rich people open stores and factories and restaurants?"
"Some do. But a lot don't. I mean, if you had a few million stashed away and you could invest it with a bank and get a guaranteed interest--profit--or open a factory which might or might not wind up making you money, or a restaurant, which in most cases will lose money, which would you do?"
"So why do middle class people take chances and open factories and restaurants?"
"Cause it's their chance at becoming rich. If it works--and it's a lot of work to make things work right--they win. And if they're lucky, they win big. And then they take their money and invest it. Or build a mansion. Generally."
"So Reagan's plan basically sucked?"
"Totally. Robbed from the poor to give to the rich."
"Screw Reagan! Long live the middle class!"
"Now you're talking, kiddo. That's my girl."

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