Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 6:57 am | Fair 53º


Jim Hightower: Professor Bush’s Economic Nostrum

Bush's tinkle-down-economics created 5 million new jobs. That's a pathetic record no matter how you slice the pie.

[Editor’s note: Beginning this week, Noozhawk is welcoming syndicated columnists Jim Hightower, Michael Barone, Susan Estrich, Larry Kudlow, Michelle Malkin and Robert Scheer to our nest. Click here for more information.]

Despite all the speechifying, editorializing, barbecuing and general ballyhooing of Labor Day, there really was not all that much to celebrate last week, for working families across our land are struggling.

Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower
To help us understand how it came to this, let’s reflect on the profound insight of that eminent economic theorist, George W. Bush. While campaigning for president in 2000, he explained his approach to economic policy with this theorem: “We ought to make the pie higher.”

What the professor was trying to express is the old notion that by baking a larger pie, everyone can get a bigger slice. And, indeed, the pie got higher during his presidency — there have been great gains in worker productivity, a tremendous expansion of America’s overall wealth and a boom in corporate profits. But Bush’s high pie theory fails to consider an essential goal of our nation’s economic growth: shared prosperity.

Workers did their part, putting in longer hours, increasing output and getting more creative on the job. But the Bushites baked their pie with heaping cupfuls of anti-worker legislation, skewed tax cuts and assorted wage-busting policies. As a result, Bush has simply fattened the slice that goes to corporate profits and wealthy speculators, leaving the workaday majority of folks with even slimmer pickings than they had before his bunch came into office. In the past eight years, workers’ share of national income has plummeted, now standing at its lowest level in 40 years.

Maybe so, say Bush and Co., but look at the 5 million new jobs created on our watch. See: tinkle-down-economics works for everyone, and the fundamentals of the economy are sound.

Do they think we have sucker wrappers around our heads? Far from sound, creating 5 million jobs in eight years is a pathetic record, not even keeping up with the 20 million new jobseekers who’ve entered the workforce during his tenure.

Besides, the issue is not jobs. Think about it: Even slaves had jobs. You could ask a waitress at a cafe or bar in your town if she’s aware that Bush created 5 million new jobs, and she’ll say, “Yeah, I know, I have three of them.”

The issue is wages and middle-class income. That’s how ordinary Americans measure prosperity, and that’s the main reason 81 percent of people now say that our current leaders have sent America in the wrong direction. Despite economic growth, wages are not even keeping up with inflation, and today’s median family income is lower than it was eight years ago.

Meanwhile, the number of people without health coverage has risen by more than 6 million in the Bush years, and the number living in poverty has increased by nearly 6 million — including an 18 percent rise in the number of impoverished children.

Bush is the worst of it, but certainly not all of it. For three decades, the greedheads of Wall Street and the boneheads of Washington (both parties) have ganged up to push an economic agenda of offshoring, downsizing, union-busting, trade-scamming, privatizing, deregulating and such that has weakened America by disempowering and knocking down the majority. Worse, these kleptocrats have tried to force an ethic of greed on our country, hoping to bury our historic, unifying ethic of the Common Good.

This is why there’s now a populist stirring from coast to coast. American workers have had all the tinkle-down economics they can stand, and they are eager for a grassroots approach of percolate-up economics, investing directly in workaday people to renew middle-class possibilities. This means such steps as restoring the right to form unions, providing universal health care, initiating a multibillion-dollar national drive to build a green economy, enlisting millions to repair our neglected infrastructure, making a real commitment to public education and returning to progressive taxation.

The Powers That Be have failed America, and the Powers That Ought to Be — ordinary working families — are on the move.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

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