Financial crisis: the latest blow to free-market 'dogma'
Economic woes give plenty of ammunition to economists and lawmakers calling for new regulations and taxes.
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The Bush tax cuts probably helped bring the United States economy out of the 2000 recession, making it one of the shortest and mildest on record, says Frankel in a telephone interview. But by aiming too much of its benefits at the already prosperous, he says, the 2002-2007 recovery was "not spectacular."Skip to next paragraph
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Economic growth during the recovery under Bush has been much slower than under President Bill Clinton, who raised taxes decidedly on the well-to-do, notes Frankel. The economic record of the second terms of Bush and Clinton, in terms of employment, growth, and prosperity, has been like "night and day," he adds.
Frankel also attacks the conservatives' "starve the beast" hypothesis. It claims members of Congress are reluctant to increase spending when tax revenues are inadequate (sometimes as a result of tax cuts), resulting in big deficits.
Actually, notes Frankel, during the 1990s, Congress had a "pay as you go" regime requiring any member of Congress wishing to increase spending to show how he or she would raise taxes to pay for it. This "shared sacrifice" approach succeeded in eliminating budget deficits, to a substantial degree by cutting the growth of federal spending. But spending grew faster under the Bush administration. The "pay as you go" system has been blocked in Congress or the White House so far this decade.
Another progressive think tank, the Center for American Progress, also uses statistics to blast conservative economic views. Real investment growth grew at a 10.2 percent annual rate after 1993 and the Clinton tax hike, 2.7 percent after the Bush tax cuts in 2001. Annual real median household income growth was 2 percent after the 1992 tax boost, and 0.3 percent after 2001. Average annual employment growth was 2.5 percent after 1993, 0.6 percent after 2001.
So liberals see the economic perils of today, though unwelcome, as confirmation of the desirability of progressive economic policies and proper regulation.
A majority of Americans "fell for the line" that tax cuts for the already prosperous, including those on Wall Street, would be beneficial, says Frankel. Now there is a huge backlash against the financial community.
To deal with this anger, some liberals are proposing a tiny tax on securities transactions as a way to make Wall Street pay for its costly mistakes. Frankel notes that the American author of this idea, the late James Tobin, a Yale University economist, originally proposed the tax for foreign-exchange transactions. Now it is being suggested as a tax on trade in stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments. Such a tax is imposed in Britain and a few other nations.