It’s finally dawning on American voters that our political views have become every bit as “faith-based” as our religious beliefs. The old-fashioned idea that partisan disputes should still be settled by the facts is not only quaint and naive, it’s now positively dangerous.
The modern political paradigm is that we really are entitled to our own facts, and to an unbounded flood of campaign donations with which we can drown the unwashed masses. Political reality has divorced itself from the facts and is now, like religion, infused with faith.
The first real messiah of faith-based politics was Ronald Reagan, and his greatest, most terrible plague was the myth of “Reaganomics.” First embedded into Republican dogma in the early 1980s, President Reagan’s supply-side sermon preached that reducing taxes and regulation always improves economic growth. Period.
Simple, elegant and almost entirely absurd.
One early advocate of the supply-side snake oil was President Reagan’s economic adviser, Arthur Laffer, the godfather of Reaganomics and creator of the mysterious “Laffer Curve.”
Laffer’s simple graph shows that when tax rates rise into the “prohibitive range,” tax cuts spur economic growth and government tax receipts increase.
But what his graph also illustrates is that when tax rates drop below this prohibitive range, tax cuts will not help the economy grow. That’s blasphemy to the true believers.
“Over the past 100 years, there have been three major periods of tax-rate cuts,” Laffer wrote in a 2004 paper for the Heritage Foundation. “Each of these periods of tax cuts was remarkably successful as measured by virtually any public policy metric.”
But for all Laffer’s earnestness, the data still don’t seem to fit. The Brookings Institute published a graph earlier this year, for example, which shows the real growth rate of U.S. Gross Domestic Product as essentially flat during the past 60 years, as the top income tax rate dropped from above 90 percent to below 35 percent.
Not that any of that neo-colonial, socialistic, lame-stream liberal media propaganda matters anyway. Like Stephen Colbert says, “Keep your facts, I’m going with the truth.” Amen!
And after assuring his readers that tax cuts are “remarkably successful,” Laffer went on to argue that, since tax cuts “create an incentive to increase output, employment and production, they also help balance the budget” by reducing government expenditures.
Wow, tax cuts also help eliminate budget deficits! It’s almost unimaginable that Republicans are still making this argument and that their legions of faithful followers still take them seriously.
Which brings us, of course, to Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency.
According to a recent Romney campaign press release, “marginal rates must be brought down to stimulate entrepreneurship, job creation and investment, while still raising the revenue needed to fund a smaller, smarter, simpler government.”
Hmm, sounds eerily familiar.
Romney might not sound like the second coming of Ronald Reagan, but at least he seems to be singing from the same hymnal. And in today’s political landscape, where faith has eclipsed fact, it just might be “morning again in America” real soon. God help us.