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.

10 comments on “Don’t like trickle-down economics? Talk to your dog about it

  1. immanuelness says:

    Agreed, unfortunately Keynesianism is just less worse. Great blog!

  2. Alcuin says:

    Looks like an interesting book, but I don’t think many people are going to be reading it. After all, it is published by Haymarket Books. Haymarket, hmmmmm ….. is that where they sell hay? Raise your hands, kiddies – how many of you know about the Haymarket “riot”?

    • I can confirm it is a highly interesting book, having read it. And if many people are not familiar with the Haymarket riot, that is the fault of the educational system, which, after all, is not eager to inform young citizens of rebellion, except when it was against the British crown.

      • Alcuin says:

        But the educational system doesn’t make clear that the rebellion against the British crown was led by the rising capitalist class in this country, does it? I read an interesting piece about systemic thinking that I think you, and others, would enjoy. Is there any hope? Probably not. It is in the best interests of the ruling class for the peasantry not to be able to connect the dots, isn’t it?

  3. JAH says:

    Great piece –
    Can you read it in three minutes?

    Happy New Year-


    • Alcuin says:

      If you’re referring to the article I linked to, no, it takes a lot longer than that. There is a short summary at the top, though, to help you decide if you want to devote more time to reading the article. I’d say it would take more like 15 minutes to read and then you need to reserve some time to read through the bibliography and chew on what the author has to say.

  4. John’s three-minute reference is to the annual New Year’s Day alternative poetry and performance marathon in New York City in which all participants are limited to three minutes so that around 150 people can be on stage. We both are annual participants. Alas, this piece takes more than 6 minutes out loud, so can’t do it.

    As to Alcuin’s link, I did read it, and found it interesting. A sentence that stood our for me was: “Systems literacy makes it easier to see the commons: the shared gifts of nature such as water, air, land, fish, and also the shared efforts of our communities, upon which we depend, and for which we are all responsible.”

    The author’s stress on teaching children to see problems in their whole, rather than as isolated aspects, is sound. It does go against the grain of education or problem management in capitalist countries. Unless we see the economic crisis, and our other crises, in a holistic way, we won’t be able to solve them.

  5. Timothy Radhitya says:

    LOL, this is hilarious! Especially the conversation part. I found this blog when I randomly decided to click an author’s link in one of Counterpunch articles (it was about Wal-mart, I think) though I’ve never done so and I am grateful that I decided so. Never have I read leftist articles which are written in such light, easy-to-comprehend and sometimes humorous manner yet contain magnificent depth and sharp analysis on today’s problems. The discussion on the comments are enlightening too, with much reading material suggestion.

    I’ve been reading articles here everyday and am learning a lot. This even inspired me to write in a similar manner – something that I have never done before. Thank you SD, keep up the good work! I wish Indonesia (my country) has some activists like you, given the huge challenge the Left has to face here.

    • Timothy, thank you for your very kind comments. And if I have inspired you to carry on work in your part of the world, all the better.

      I do hope you inspire your fellow Indonesians — Suharto’s massacres after taking power are one of the worst crimes of the 20th century, and it is a testament to the human spirit that activists are willing to continue to work there. Unfortunately, the Left has huge tasks in front of it in every country on Earth, but we have no choice but to go on.

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