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Half a Century Passed to Rediscover Trickle-Up Economics

It Took the Democrats Half a Century to Rediscover Trickle-Up Economics,” The Soap Box, Bruce Barlett

Republicans still cling to trickle-down delusions of the wealthy and big business delivering economic progress to the rest of the nation, while Joe Biden revives a philosophy of growth Democrats have not embraced since LBJ . . . Stimulating economic growth and prosperity from the bottom up.

Bruce Bartlett takes the reader on a journey to the times of FDR and the introduction of the concept of trickle-up economics citing a bit of  William Foster and Waddill Catchings 1928 book, The Road to Plenty (“[B]oth corporations and individuals must save), Will Rogers (money was all appropriated for the top) and William Jennings Bryan famous “Cross of Gold” speech ( two ideas of government) of 1896.

Bruce Bartlett, I bring up this history because President Joe Biden made a revealing comment in his April 29 address to a joint session of Congress:


“My fellow Americans, trickle-down—trickle-down—economics has never worked, and it’s time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out.”

Biden is the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson to forthrightly declare trickle-up is the party’s philosophy of growth. Indeed, Biden’s program is reminiscent of Johnson’s declaration on January 15, 1964, launching the Great Society:

“We are going to try to take all the money that we think is unnecessarily being spent and take it from the ‘haves’ and give it to the ‘have nots’ that need it so much.”

The tragedy of Vietnam and the stagflation of the 1970s killed the trickle-up vision. In the late 1970s, Republicans counterattacked with an updated, more sophisticated version of trickle-down called “supply-side economics.”

Every Republican since then has lived by it. Subsequent Democratic presidents essentially endorsed its key tenets—relatively small government, light taxation of capital and the wealthy, social programs implemented exclusively via tax credits—and appeared fearful of articulating a truly progressive vision. Who can forget President Bill Clinton’s capitulation to the Republicans in his 1996 State of the Union Address:

“The era of big government is over”?

But the long stagnation in real wages and the massive growth of income inequality are at long last leading economists back to the under- consumptionist viewpoint.

1 Comment
  • SW says:

    All it took was fifty years of data.  Christ.  And the Potato Head Party is still scribbling shit on the back of napkins.