Don’t like trickle-down economics? Talk to your dog about it

In observance of the holidays, a little whimsy this week.

If a theory doesn’t work, create and fund “think tanks” and buy the media to tell everybody it does.

Well, it works for the one percent. Why shouldn’t it work for you? How else to account for the fact that three decades of that thin gruel of an economic theory, “trickle down,” is still peddled as the cure for what ails us? Never mind that it is precisely trickle-down ideology that led us to economic crisis and stagnation.

The idea does seem, to put a gentle spin on it, counter-intuitive: Shower money and tax cuts on the very wealthy, and some of their gains will then “trickle down” to the rest of us. It’s been mighty dry for three decades, but it must be admitted that it has worked out well for the very wealthy.

The usual response when a well-promoted ideology fails — and so it is here — is to claim in a loud voice that the real problem is a failure to apply the ideology with sufficient zeal.

So maybe the solution is that trickle-down ideology should be applied to more spheres of life.

Take medicine, for instance. Talking to a doctor and having a prescription filled out makes it too easy on the sick. Instead, everybody should have a portion of their wages sent directly to a doctor, in case they should need health care in the future. Those who pay the most are first in line when sick. The rest can stand outside the office — on the sidewalk, please; let us not have the grass trampled — and wait for vials of medicine to fall out the window.

By arranging for the medicine to go to the rich who can afford to buy their way to the head of the queue, a natural order is established, and the rest merely need wait for some of that medicine to trickle down. The wrong medication fell, you say? Well, you shouldn’t have gotten sick in the first place.

For that matter, supermarkets are too egalitarian. Where is the market discipline sorting the worthy eater from the unworthy eater? A proper trickle-down regime would arrange for food to be given only to those with the highest income; what the rich didn’t care to consume would then be offered to those not at the top of the food chain. Please wait outside until then. Hey, you over there — get off the grass!

I admit that I had not applied trickle-down with sufficient zeal. For instance, I hadn’t thought through how we could apply it in our everyday lives. For instance, what if the ideology was not limited to humans, but applied to dogs and cats? We could save a bit of work. We’d just put food on the table, and whatever crumbs fell off the table — trickling down — could be scooped up by them.

I hadn’t thought of using such a method to feed the cat back in the early days of Reaganite trickle-down. Never mind that the cat knew I was a soft touch and, besides, she could tell time. I would come home from my newspaper job as a young reporter a little past midnight and the cat would be waiting for me when I parked whatever early-model wreck I was driving at the time.

The cat knew I would feed her, which I did, and then she’d meow for me to let her out. Then again, the cat wouldn’t have starved as she was a good hunter. But that isn’t what is meant by trickle-down, unless the cat occasionally left the odd bird around for other neighborhood cats. I didn’t keep track of what the cat killed, nor had I ever known her to discuss economics.

The Shetland sheepdog wasn’t necessarily a good example, either. Admittedly, the dog was quite patient when it came to sitting at attention during dinner, so could be considered willing to wait for scraps to trickle down her way. Inherent in any systematic willingness would be a rugged individualism — a dog-eat-dog mentality, shall we say — but the dog and cat instead tended to work well together.

They were the best of friends, and sometimes swapped dinners. Bad dog! Bad cat! Subverting the natural social darwinism of nature! I can’t say what the dog thought about this, either. She was smarter than most dogs (her ancestors were bred to do a job, not look good in somebody’s lap) but I had never known her to discuss economics, either.

We never do know what our pets are thinking, do we? Well, in the case of dogs we do have some idea: They would like to eat. Had I ever managed to speak Dog (I never have had an aptitude for foreign languages), the conversation might have gone something like this:

“You know, after all these years, you might think about learning to make your own dinner.”

“Dinner? Did you say dinner?”

“Yes, but you already ate. I don’t mean dinner now, I mean dinner in the abstract, as a future concept.”

“Dinner? I would love to eat.”

“Right, but you do understand that I am speaking of future dinners? Your ancestors were smart enough to keep the sheep from wandering off and probably were capable of grabbing themselves something to eat in the field.”

“Eat? Yes I am ready to eat!”

“I think we have that established. You have always been a loyal friend, and I appreciate that when you are riding in the car you always try to attack the attendant at the gas station on our behalf, but it wouldn’t hurt to help out a bit around the house.”

“Do you notice that scary hose the attendant sticks in the car? What if it is some sort of terrorist weapon? And, besides, he never feeds me.”

“Ah ha! You can conceptualize the future: Terrorism won’t become a national obsession for another two decades. This is the still the 1980s, when terrorism is called ‘low-intensity conflict.’ ”

“It’s only called low-intensity conflict because the terror campaign is waged by the side that Reagan is funding, the Contras. And Reagan has never fed me, either.”

“Okay, you got me on both of those. Neither of us could conceive of voting for Reagan. Now I’m hungry, too. Would you like to eat?”

“Yes, but you know very well I can’t open cans.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll never let you go hungry.”

Trickle-down never does seem to work.