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Look who once again, right on schedule, is telling the Forever Lie.
There are some things in this world you can just count on. Sunrise. Maternal love. Due to high call volume, wait times may be longer than usual.
And also one more: asinine conservative ideology, especially in budget season, alleging that tax-and-spend Democrats are so busy giving handouts to the undeserving that our economic engine is destined to stall. No matter the preamble to the Constitution vowing to “promote the general welfare,” any meager step the modern government takes to protect the most vulnerable and unfortunate among us is deemed Marxism — although never by anyone who has any idea whatsoever what Marxism is. Such as Republican Senator Ron Johnson (R-Dumbass), who is at a loss to understand how the economy, and the society, actually work.
Johnson: “Don't ask me to get inside the mind of a liberal, progressive, socialist, Marxist like President Biden.”
When Biden announced his proposed $6.8 trillion federal budget for 2024, the GOP and its aligned business interests rushed to the dog-eared old playbook and explained why the Democratic plans to soak the rich and enrich the poor will destroy the economy en route to civilization itself.
"I think Biden is the ultimate socialist president,” Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley declared on Fox Defendant Channel. “He loves to spend everybody else’s money. His answer to everything is to increase taxes.”
Because the “radical left” has no respect for capitalism, hard work or the heroic small businessmen who slave their lives away only to be bullied by the federal government.
“Nobody works. Nobody gives a damn,” says Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot and high-profile Trump supporter. “‘Just give it to me. Send me money. I don’t want to work — I’m too lazy, I’m too fat, I’m too stupid.’”
The biggest victim of the nanny state, of course, is the benighted small businessman, who bears the excruciating weight of general welfare on his aching back. This was the reaction from Brad Close, president of the National Federation of Independent Business, to Biden’s proposed budget:
The expanding list of tax increases included in the FY 2024 proposed budget would crush Main Street’s ability to grow and create jobs … Congress and the administration should instead focus on policies that will provide certainty and promote economic growth to allow small businesses to create jobs and raise wages.
Likewise the S Corporation Association, which trotted out the perennial canard about how taxes and regulation destroy its members’ competitiveness, leaving nothing to trickle down to the miraculous Fountain of Prosperity.
“The President claims his budget will only go after ‘super-wealthy’ tax cheats, but it targets over 1 million small and family-owned businesses,” the letter states. “It would hurt their ability to hire new employees, offer better benefits, and invest in the equipment and technology necessary to sustain their businesses and help them grow. The President might claim his tax proposals close loopholes, but America’s small and family-owned businesses are not a loophole.”
Yeah, yeah. Big Government is an albatross on the neck of capitalism. Conservatives have been making the same argument for 140 years. The counter-argument is something called “the history of American economic growth.” To synthesize the mountains of receipts accumulated over the past century (and with the obvious caveat that this is a rough metric), job growth has been higher under Democratic administrations, business investment has been larger under Democratic administrations and Gross Domestic Product growth has been 75% higher under Democratic administrations.
In other words, these sacred articles of conservative faith are not only untrue, but the opposite of true. The other jawdropper is that the greatest beneficiaries of government largesse are not “welfare queens” and entitled millennials, but business itself.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, government has spent many hundreds of trillions of dollars (and maybe into the low quadrillions) creating the environment required for commerce to flourish. There is the physical infrastructure — overwhelmingly government funded — of roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, interstate highways, water and sewer.
There is the educational infrastructure — this year it will be just shy of $1 trillion — that has created universal literacy for the workforce and the consumer, whose education promotes skilled labor and the wages that go with it, which of course then flow into the economy at large. Percolate-up Economics, you might call it.
There is the safety infrastructure, such as the $129 billion spent on policing, which, for all its failures and excesses, nonetheless cultivates an overwhelmingly safe environment for 330 million Americans.
There is clean water, 100% supplied and regulated by government, deemed a given in the United States but fundamental to a stable and thriving society. There is equally the energy grid, heavily regulated by government, that is taken for granted but also obviously fundamental to a functioning society and economy. There is the absence of kleptocratic rulers and mundane daily graft, which sucks the life out of societies in the developing world, thanks to a seldom mentioned but priceless pillar of economic infrastructure called Rule of Law.
This is what Barack Obama was trying to get at in 2012, much to the umbrage of Republicans, when he said that even the hardest working and most independent of independent businesses has a silent partner in their enterprise:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
What differentiates our society from struggling ones is the almost astonishing lack of “friction,” the term economists apply to anything that interferes with the flow of commerce. With less friction, the better the workforce, the better the discretionary consumer income, the better the economy. So, instead of seeing government as a parasite, American business large and small might think of it as a gigantic can of WD-40. And they might better think of themselves not as the heroic exemplars of the Protestant Ethic, but as the ultimate Welfare Queens, taking the (maybe) $1 quadrillion Nanny State dollars to set up shop and keep the lights on.
Yet, in response to Biden’s budget, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reliably trotted out the Forever Lie:
“The administration’s proposed budget is a recipe for economic and fiscal disaster,” said Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley. “Nearly $2 trillion in spending increases would result in an economy where one out of every four dollars is government spending. An unprecedented $5 trillion in tax increases would hit businesses of all sizes and lead to lower wages for working Americans.”
I’d frame it a little differently. I’d say, “Neal, you’ve been gorging on a government-paid free lunch for more than a century. It’s rude to talk with your mouth full, so why not just shut the fuck up?”