Same Old Bogeyman

Member Group : Reflections

During their first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton referred to Donald Trump’s proposals for economic recovery as "Trumped-Up Trickle-Down," a reference to the so-called "trickle-down" theory she’s been denigrating for decades.

Mrs. Clinton’s attempted zinger against Mr. Trump via "trickle-down" was in response to Trump saying he was going to be a "job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan."

Trump should have known better. Referring to the success of Reagan’s economic policies in front of Hillary is like waving a Saint Benedict "devil-chasing" medal in front of Satan.

"The kind of plan that Donald has put forth would be trickle-down economics all over again," stated Hillary Clinton. "In fact, it would be the most extreme version, the biggest tax cuts for the top percent of the people in this country than we’ve ever had."

Continued Clinton: "I call it trumped-up trickle-down, because that’s exactly what it would be. That is not how we grow the economy."

Mrs. Clinton’s economic analysis and policy prescriptions – the denigration of incentive-directed tax cuts, her refusal to acknowledge the positive economic outcomes during the 1980s, and the promotion of more government spending, more regulations and more taxation — is a copy of Bill Clinton’s campaign rhetoric in the congressional elections of 1994, the year Republicans won control of both the U. S. House and Senate after two years of the Clinton presidency.

Criticizing the "Contract with America," Bill Clinton attempted to link these Republican proposals to the allegedly flawed policies and economic performance of Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s. "It’s amazing," Clinton said. "I mean, it’s just what they did in the eighties." In another interview: "It’s the same old thing they did in the 1980s." Before the Broadcasters’ Associations, he denounced "the trickle-down Reaganomics years."

It was an odd strategy for Bill Clinton to choose an anti-Reagan trickle-down theme in his 1994 midterm efforts to win nationwide votes for Democrats in congressional elections, given that Reagan was re-elected by winning 49 states, losing only Mondale’s home state of Minnesota by 3,761 votes, meaning he came within a whisker of winning all 50 states.

Reagan, even with the loudspeakers incessantly demonizing "trickle-down economics" during his first term, obtained 525 electoral votes (out of 538) in his 1984 reelection, the highest electoral vote total ever received by a presidential candidate, while opponent Mondale’s 13 electoral votes were the fewest received by a second-place candidate since World War II.

Republicans, additionally, picked up 45 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, gaining a House majority not held by the GOP for 40 years.

With an increase of eight seats, Republicans also gained control of the U.S. Senate in the 1994 midterm election, while at the state level Republicans picked up 12 gubernatorial seats and 472 legislative seats, taking control of the majority of state legislatures for the first time in 50 years.

For the American public, economic realities were more important than the drumbeat about a "trickle-down" bogeyman and condemnations about a "decade of greed."

Bottom line, the stagflation and economic malaise of the 1970s was replaced by over a decade of growth, jobs and higher incomes. Between 1983 and 1990, 18 million new jobs were created, average after-tax disposal income per capita increased by 20 percent, and the overall economy expanded by a third. Inflation, 13.3 percent in 1980, dropped to 5.4 percent in 1990.

Ralph R. Reiland is Emeritus Associate Professor of Economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

Ralph R. Reiland
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 412-527-2199