One of the things we Americans are piss poor at is learning from our mistakes. Perhaps it’s because we are not fond of teaching our history, and even when we do, it’s watered down with copious amounts of propaganda meant to make our ancestors out to be heroes led by the divine hand of God. By ancestors of course, I mean white male ancestors as people of color and women, if they are lucky, are delegated a chapter in most text books. They are treated as more of an anomaly than a norm which helps to explain why we cannot have civil discussions about racism or sexism in this country without resorting to name calling and absurd accusations of whataboutism.
Take for example the GOP’s latest effort to reform taxes which is nothing more than a tax cut for the rich. Republicans intend to pay for these rich welfare payments by taking the money from middle and poor Americans in the form of higher taxes and by cutting welfare programs that poor and middle-class Americans need. Fairly standard modus operandi for the conservatives. While Republicans are busy filling the airways with implausible outcomes of this welfare for the rich legislation, every analysis has found that not only will it raise taxes on the middle class, it will put our already insane deficit on steroids.
Republicans are saying one thing, while Democrats and independent analyses are saying another. Who could blame the average American for being confused when they never got a decent education in history and politics in the first place? After all, no one likes paying taxes. It also seems reasonable to many of us that if you tax the crap out of businesses, then they won’t be able to provide for their employees or make a profit.
If only there was some way of knowing what these extreme corporate and rich welfare tax policies would result in….
We’ve Been Here Before
Though it wasn’t always known as “trickle down,” the economics of the GOP have not changed much since the 1920’s. After World War I, countries around the world saw a depression due to many factors but generally speaking, it was caused by going from a war time economy to a peace time economy. This allowed the Republicans to oust the Democrats and sweep elections by taking the White House and installing Warren Harding as president.
Harding had a bit more governing experience than Trump in that he had served in the Ohio state senate before running for president in 1920. Similar to the primaries of 2016, Republicans were not excited about his candidacy and considered him a long shot for winning the nomination. And just like Trump, Harding and his vice president ran on a platform of “America First,” anti-immigration policies and pro-business anti-regulation promises. Internal party angst and disagreements however, made his nomination and presidential win possible just as it did for Trump and Pence.
And the similarities don’t end there. Harding was considered to be an incompetent ignoramus, and just as Trump did, he chose his cabinet by relying on those that had tied themselves to his campaign for nefarious reasons and even nepotism. This would cause his short presidency to be called one of the most corrupt in history.
Until Donald J. Trump came along that is.
Both presidents’ campaign managers were nothing more than high bred criminals. Harry Daughtery was to Harding what Paul Manafort is to Trump today. Harding rewarded his campaign manager with the Attorney General position, and Daughtery repaid him by taking bribes from bootleggers and looking the other way while cabinet members used their positions to enrich themselves. Though Daughtery was investigated for several crimes, he always managed to escape indictments.
Harding’s Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall managed to embroil the administration in its most notorious scandal, the Teapot Dome Scandal. Edwin Denby, Secretary of the Navy, transferred control of government lands to the Interior. Fall then took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from oil executives allowing them to receive no bid contracts to then drill and maintain the rights and profits from the oil and gas they produced. Even Harding’s Postmaster General and former head of the RNC, Will H. Hays took bribes to keep quiet, and his Director of Veterans’ Affairs, Charles R. Forbes sold the government’s medical supplies and kept the cash for himself.
President Coolidge’s Trickle Down
When Harding died just 2 years into his presidency of a heart attack in 1923, vice president Calvin Coolidge set to cleaning out the riffraff. Coolidge’s presidency lasted until the Great Depression of 1929. His policies were credited with the “roaring twenties” economy that saw a decrease in the deficit and huge gains for businesses.
The same exact policies being enacted by the GOP and Donald Trump today were put in place by both Harding’s and Coolidge’s cabinet:
- Any government agencies that were responsible for regulations were filled with officials that did not believe in them. They then sought out to erase those regulations in favor of pro-business policies and make their agencies impotent.
- Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury, cut taxes for the rich stating that they would just avoid paying taxes anyhow. If the rich paid less taxes, they could then invest in their businesses and hire more Americans
- Mellon cut the tax rate for the super-rich, that included for himself, from 73% to 24%.
- Harding advocated the “America First” policy that we see today.
- He increased tariffs for imported goods in an effort to induce Americans to buy American made products.
- He passed the Immigration Act of 1921 that established quotas for immigrants that were not from white, northern European countries.
- Immigration was cut from over 800,000 in 1921 to just over 300,000 in 1922.
- Many of the cabinet members were advocates of eugenics. The Andrew Mellon Foundation actually continues to fund the American Eugenics Society today.
- Both presidents and cabinets have enacted policies that would directly benefit themselves and their businesses.
These policies initially caused the economy to soar, thus the name “the roaring twenties.” Business owners made a fortune and did invest some of their gains into employing Americans. However, just as happened under Presidents Reagan and Bush, the trickle down stopped, and the deregulation led to corruption and the stock market being overvalued. The correction was swift and brutal as they always are, and led to what we now know as the Great Depression.
Destined to Repeat
The excitement in the stock market that we see today over deregulation and possible tax cuts for the rich is merely the same over inflation we saw in the 1920’s, 1980’s and early 2000’s. Much like everything else, there is middle ground. You can’t have a robust economy when the government taxes people to death, but you also cannot have a society without paying taxes.
One of the differences between the 1920’s and now is that we are no longer a manufacturing economy. Harding and Coolidge were able to cut the deficit because of this. Today’s tax cut proposed by the GOP will only grow the deficit. The depression that Trump and Republicans are leading us towards will be faster and longer.
Additionally, this administration is destroying the gains made in the last 100 years of governing by deregulating businesses, turning the clock back on civil rights, pollution, labor laws, trade negotiations… The era Trump and gang wants us to return to, (those good ole days he speaks of), are the 1920’s. Corruption, racism, sexism, trickle down lies…that’s his “MAGA.”
As for me, I’m not destined to repeat and now, neither are you.