Profits ≠ Economy

“Republicans are just better at the economy,” he said as I went down—the gunfire and explosions rattling all around me. It took me one whole beat but I realized that—whilst I was watching my pal-who-has-disagreeable-politics kill everyone around me in this stupid videogame at 1am—it was this subject, this one talking point, that is the greatest threat to this election for Democrats; the belief that Republicans are good at the economy.

Setting aside what “good” really means for now, which political party is better for the economy? I’m asking that question earnestly. Because if you were to ask relatives or friends then you’ll likely get the answer you expect, but ask the vast majority of Americans and they’ll say Republicans should be trusted with the economy without a doubt.

So once my pal-who-has-disagreeable-politics said that I wondered: which political party really is better at the economy? What legislation can we look at? What improvements to the economy are Republican-led initiatives? For now, let’s not dig through the vast history of Republican economics or their talking points and instead focus on a specific bit of recent legislation: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. God I hate that name, but let’s continue.

Republicans argued that it would stimulate the economy, vastly increasing the number of new jobs. Wages would increase. Employees would get massive bonuses. And it would pay for itself without adding to the national debt.

As all these talking points go, it sounds mighty fine. I want all these things for the economy. But if you look beyond the talking points—look at the work itself—and you’ll find incompetence and malfeasance at every level. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s summary of this $1.5 trillion tax plan? A one page measly PDF.

Well, let’s ignore my own political leanings for a bit and try to look at what happened next without bias. Ignoring the coronavirus, we’ll look at the two years since it passed. Were the Republicans right? Did the economy boom in those two years?

In short: nope! Not even remotely. Every talking point was a lie. The economy didn’t boom after the tax cut. Wages didn’t increase. There was not an explosion of new jobs. Employees didn’t see bonuses. And the Congressional Budget Office estimates a deficit of $1 trillion for 2020. And all of that was before the pandemic hit our shores.

What did increase in that time? Corporate profits.

So when Republicans say “economics” they don’t mean the general financial well-being of society—lifting folks out of poverty, abolishing homelessness, improving the quality of jobs, etc. etc.—what they mean is “profits” instead. But they’ve weaved this fantastic myth about themselves, as the Grand Old Party that should be entrusted with the economy so the childish Democrats don’t fuck it up.

But everything everyone says about the Republican party’s economic record is a myth. As my friend said the other day: “it’s funny that it’s capitalism on the way up, and then socialism on the way down.”

So are Republicans better for the economy? Nope. Are they better for increasing corporate profits without any of that seeing a worker’s pockets? Yep!