Shane Nicholson
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The Expanded Arthur Laffer Tweet Thread

The Expanded Arthur Laffer Tweet Thread

Sep 25, 2022

Sometimes I do a twitter dot com thread that would've been better had I sat my phone down and gone to my laptop. Recently, I did one about a real economic heavyweight, insomuch as his economic ideas are a very heavy weight for most of society to bear. This is that thread with more organized and expanded content.

Let's review some of the truly incredible career highlights of Arthur Laffer, the patron saint of trickle-down economics and very smart man. You can tell he's a very smart man because he's often seen on stage at events hosted by other very smart men who host events to tell one another how smart they are.

Laffer weaseled his way into the grand politik off the back of drawing some ovals and then cutting them in half. He then bestowed mystical powers upon them in order to convince fully three generations of politicians that something we know from empirical data does not work will work this time.

One can find any number of photos of him standing in front of the half ovals on the internet.

The half ovals and the idea they represent became known as the Laffer curve, a name derived because it's so utterly laughable an economic policy you can literally fit it on a bar napkin.

That was enough to convince Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld of the newly-created Gerald Ford administration that this was a very smart man they were dealing with and kickstart a nearly five-decade career in the service of ruining the lives of millions of people.

The Laffer curve was to spawn an entire cottage industry of reactionary politicians using it to screw already underrepresented people more thoroughly to the floor. This got Laffer his real start in destroying global economies with a post to the Executive Advisory Committee for the 1980 Reagan campaign, a job he still puts on his public speaker bio on websites you can find on the internet.

In this post, Laffer was one of the very smart men who convinced Ronald Reagan to lie about what he really wanted to do to the country in his 1980 debate with John B. Anderson.

Owing to his lying throughout the entire debate, and Jimmy Carter's unwillingness to share a stage with Anderson as he was a third-party candidate after losing the GOP nomination to Reagan, the media hailed Laffer's new boss as a genius, clearing the path for his wiping the floor with Carter in the 1980 election. Anderson's campaign taught us nothing as a people and as a result, the GOP began its lurch toward the extreme right after having its feelings hurt over the whole Watergate thing, because who cares about ideas from a very nice and wise man like Anderson when you can win with an actor?

Despite even right-wing groups knowing Laffer's ideas were ridiculous and largely unworkable, he took his theories into the White House where for eight years he used a spot on the Economic Policy Advisory Board to send Reagan out in front of cameras with graphs to point at and word salads filled with ideas about bootstraps and better government for you.

Occasionally he had to take a shift wiping the dribble from Reagan's face and making sure he knew that he wasn't in California anymore. Reagan in turn paired Laffer's ideas with those of White House phrenologist Charles Murray, a real double-whammy for minorities. And even if you weren't a minority, they were still going to find a way to make you pay for all this money they were giving away to increasingly wealthy families, like handing off the moonshot increase in education to banks to make a few bucks on.

Results were as expected, even for the right-wing think tanks previously referenced.

Deficits and therefore national debt also rapidly spiraled out of control, because Republicans don't actually care about those things.

Oh, and just in case you want a graph about how quickly the cost of education skyrocketed as government revenues and therefore money for higher education was slashed, here's that one.

After leaving the White House along with Reagan I in 1989, Laffer took his half-oval drawings to a bunch of those right-wing think tanks that knew back in 1981 his ideas would shatter the economy, including some real neoliberalist hellholes. This led to him supporting Bill Clinton in 1992 (and again in 1996), the third Ronald Reagan in a row that America elected president.

At the turn of the new millennium, George W. Bush gave Laffer some time off to work on his first novel as everyone in the White House by that point had learned from Laffer the bare minimum required to be called an "economist" on television. They put that to use completely destroying the economy in less than eight years.

His novel, called The End of Prosperity, was originally scheduled for release in October 2008. Sadly, few noticed it on the bookshelves as the entire US economy went in the shitter about three weeks before when economic policies championed by Laffer and his former Reagan-era colleagues led directly to the Great Recession. If you're worried they take on any blame in this, fear not.

While this should have yet again ended his career as a very smart man, Laffer and his cohorts were allowed by polite society and television political hacks alike to go back and add a chapter saying that this book actually predicted the 2008 financial collapse. In fact, Neil Cavuto gave them a tagline for the 2009 edition of the book, which, again, many did not buy because it could not be used to feed their families or pay their mortgage before the bank which the government was now bailing out foreclosed on their home.

By the way, and I'm not joking here, another book also titled The End of Prosperity about the 1929 stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression was released in 2007. It was only 114 pages long and you would therefore think be more accessible to the kind of people who would vote for someone that would employ Laffer's economic concepts, but that was not the case.

Not long after the first edition of Laffer's novel was released, Barack Obama was elected president because the bread lines of late 2008 snaked past polling places in liberal cities in just enough states for the junior senator from Illinois to win by a meager 192 electoral vote margin.

Laffer, sensing the potential for future opportunities perhaps slipping away, took this time to rebrand as one of those clever racists that you know what they mean even though they won't actually say it, in between Wall Street Journal op-eds and subsequent media appearances to repeatedly predict the economy would collapse again in 2011. While economic recovery from near catastrophic depression slowed to a rate about even with 2007, or The Last Year Before Laffer and His Friends' Ideas Tanked The Global Economy, US GDP grew 1.6% and would continue to post gains through the remainder of Obama's two terms.

Even the stock markets were able to keep on keeping on, which, let's be honest, is the only thing Laffer and his ilk care about as they strip away your pensions and try to dismantle Social Security.

For Laffer's part, though, by November 2016 all that hard work he put into rebranding as the kind of shitposter on Facebook who gets off on not actually saying the n-word paid off. In the coming years, he was allowed to say the black president by simply talking about it had created the near- depression-level economy he inherited from Bush (or Reagan IV). He did this around shifts scaremongering on Fox News about a Jewish senator from Vermont because he wanted to show he had diversified his dog-whistle portfolio:

"It's just plain economics, whenever you redistribute income you reduce total income and that is what he's doing and I am very afraid that if he were elected we would have an enormous crash in the market. Now, that crash would come in anticipation of his election, but it's much like Obama, who I believe was the reason why we had the Great Recession. As he got closer and closer to winning the markets collapsed."

He was, of course, allowed and even encouraged by polite society and political hacks to do this because he is a very smart man.

Laffer and fellow generally wrong about everything man Stephen Moore wrote yet another novel, Trumponomics, where they predicted annual 6 percent GDP growth rates and soaring budget surpluses due to the 2018 Trump tax cuts, a $2 trillion handout to the extremely rich. Despite his surefire predictions, the federal deficit increased 26 percent in FY19, the first year those tax cuts were in effect, reaching nearly $1 trillion. And GDP growth for 2019 was 2.29 percent, a 63 percent decline from 2018.

Undeterred, Laffer turned to the right-wing speaking circuit, where a whole new generation of Ivy League legacies were exposed to the ideas of this very smart man for the low price of only $25,000 per engagement.

He even traveled from his home in liberal shithole California to give the keynote address at the Africa 2025 conference:

While positive incentives inform people of what they should do, negative incentives tell people what they shouldn’t do. Dr. Laffer points out that we tax people for speeding so they won’t speed, we tax people for smoking so that they won’t smoke, and we tax people for drinking so that they won’t drink. However, why do we tax people for earning money?

“No one can be oblivious that when you tax people who earn income, they will stop earning income or reduce the amount of income that they earn,” Dr. Laffer insists. True, some taxation is necessary to run government, but he cautions officials to “collect taxes in the least damaging fashion. All taxes are bad, but some are worse than others.”

Only $25,000 plus travel expenses can buy you this sort of cutting insight.

Without a hint of irony, owing to both men being born incapable of achieving it, Donald Trump awarded Laffer the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019 for "public service and contributions to economic policy that have helped spur prosperity for our Nation." Trump further praised Laffer for four decades of policy-making that brought "greater opportunity for all Americans."

Also during the Trump presidency, Laffer was recognized by fellow economists for his role in nearly bankrupting the entire state of Kansas, known as "The Great Kansas Tax Cut Experiment." The results were predictable even if you had read the aforementioned white papers right-wing think tanks were producing about Laffer's concepts during the early days of the Reagan administration:

Under “supply-side” economic theory, these deep tax cuts should have acted — as (Kansas Gov. Sam) Brownback then predicted — like “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy,” stimulating strong growth in economic output, job creation, and new business formation.  But in reality, Kansas underperformed most neighboring states and the nation on all of those measures after the tax cuts. ...

Moreover, Kansas revenues plunged, leading to cuts to education and other vital services and downgrades in the state’s bond rating.  On June 6, 2017, the legislature terminated what Brownback had termed a “real live experiment” in supply-side tax policy, repealing the business profits exemption and moving income tax rates back toward where they had started.

Mind you all this was known in 2017 as the Trump White House was rushing through its tax plan that largely mirrored the Kansas model. Furthermore, many were coming to terms with Laffer having basically lifted all his ideas from his mentor Robert Mundell, which was a convenient way for the very smart man to shift some baggage. None of this stopped Laffer from cashing a $75,000 check from Kansas for his ideas that opened a $200 million hole in the state's budget.

And there you have Arthur Laffer: living proof that given five decades of unquestioned fealty, trickle-down economics can allow one very smart man to fail his way straight to the upper echelons of society and into unassailable positions at universities, think tanks, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Read another expanded tweet thread on the MLS Tax Dodge.

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