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Neo-Neocon

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August 9, 2012 - 2:07 pm

Bridget Johnson points out that Obama has a new catch-phrase that he’s used five times in recent speeches, “trickle-down fairy dust.” A typical example:

We know better than this. They have been trying to sell us this trickle-down, tax cut fairy dust before. We’ve seen this before.

Yes, we have—at least we’ve seen the fight about it before. It goes back at least to William Jennings Bryan, who used the phrase “leak through” in 1896, in his famous “Cross of Gold” speech:

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

“Trickle” and “leak”—the picture conjured up is almost inevitably that of wetting one’s pants, or of urinating on the masses. The phrase has virtually always been a pejorative used by the Democrats; as Thomas Sowell has pointed out, it’s not used by those on the right, and the theory the left critiques is not the theory under which the right is operating:

The point, however, is not simply to move money around but to change behavior in a way that will result in more economic activity. Tax cuts have a long track record of doing that, resulting in rising national incomes and rising employment.

But there is no way that some people are ever going to admit that what they call “tax cuts for the rich” are tax cuts for the economy. As far as they are concerned, this is all just an excuse to “give” something to the rich, in hopes that it will “trickle down” to the lower income brackets.

A year ago this column defied anyone to quote any economist — in government, academia, or anywhere else outside an insane asylum — who had ever argued in favor of a “trickle down theory.”

Many people quoted David Stockman as saying that others had made that argument. But David Stockman was not even among the first thousand people to make that claim. What is crucial is that not one of those who made the claim could provide a single quote from anybody who had advocated a “trickle-down theory.”

The “trickle down theory” has been a stock phrase on the left for decades and yet not one of those who denounce it can find anybody who advocated it. The tenacity with which they cling to these catchwords shows how desperately they need them, if only to safeguard their vision of the world and of themselves.

Sowell wrote that in 2006. And Obama is proving it’s still all too true.

Neo-Neocon is a New England-based blogger.
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