The 100 Year Lie: Dissecting Every Number & Historical Fact Of The GOP’s Impact On America’s Economy
Written By: Anton Sawyer
Listen to Episode #1 of the "You Can't Handle The Truther" podcast where this article is the feature topic
The 100 Year Lie: Dissecting Every Number & Historical Fact Of The GOP’s Impact On America’s Economy
Former President George W. Bush once made a statement that I think perfectly exemplifies the thought process of the GOP when it comes to their ability to enact horrific legislation time and time again yet be able to bounce back so consistently. "There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, 'Fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again.'" It's this same snap mental quickness that has allowed a specific republican lie to not only be reused decade after decade but to also be held close to the hearts of their followers as fact (even though it has been debunked time and time again).
Today we are going to look at the GOP manipulation of facts and the true numbers, along with historical events, that will fully illustrate that if you are someone who believes every word said about socialism/capitalism/economic policy by any conservative leader, you are the problem and an unwitting aid to the greatest chasm of income inequality America has seen in modern times.
But first, we need to turn back the hands of time to a little over 100 years ago …
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When looking at the overall picture of modern-day economics, something you'll begin to notice is that after World War I, America is a series of peaks and valleys. These increases and decreases in buying power are normal for any advanced nation. When you break them down, you see that almost every one of the discrepancies that have happened to the US since the early 20th century has been predicated on deception, number-play, and fear.
The one benefit to this historical data is that during the time frames I’m writing about it paints a crystal-clear picture of what is most beneficial for all classes. Conversely, it also shows how the greatest ally that bad legislation has found is within the ignorance of the many.
Enter former President Calvin Coolidge.
Though his predecessor (President Harding) was one of the top three most corrupt politicians in American history, I can't hold that against Coolidge. Coolidge was never a part of the corrupt inner circle—i.e. “The Ohio Gang”—of Harding and had nothing to do with their illegal activities. When Coolidge took over after Harding died in office just two years into his first term, he made it a point to reverse the War Revenue Act of 1917 and lower the tax rate on the top earners to 25%. Coolidge loathed taxes, once saying, “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.” He also hated regulations, once proclaiming "I would like it if the country could think as little as possible about the Government and give their time and attention more undividedly about the conduct of the private business of the country.” Using his power of persuasion, his agenda passed and became embraced by most.
It was truly a time of paradise for the conservative movement once all of Coolidge's policies went into effect. Between the post-World War I economic boom and money going all around, Americans fully embraced the Roaring 20s. But as anyone who parties really hard for really long knows, there's going to be a crash. Because of Coolidge’s deregulations in the Stock Market, the banks became too big to fail ... until they did.
Enter Black Tuesday 1929, and the beginning of the Great Depression ... and the rise of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR).
President Hoover's administration was helping nothing during his tenure, so Roosevelt looked back at what aided the economy during World War I and used that as the template for an idea, The New Deal (TND). Though there were many pieces to this legislation, there were two parts that would have the most impact on the middle and lower classes. The first was by instituting a federal minimum wage that would increase along with inflation to ensure it was a living wage. The second was to increase the tax rate on top earners to 90% and use the revenue to fund infrastructure programs. Once his programs were announced, the conservatives hit all the news outlets immediately to discredit this idea as "socialism." Though running as a Democrat, former New York Mayor Al Smith made it clear from the first day he ran that he was a die-hard economic conservative. Using these conservative ideals as a springboard, it was during a speech in 1936 where he used a phrase that would become the calling card of future GOP attacks on any liberal agenda. "Just get the platform of the Democratic Party, and get the platform of the Socialist Party, and lay them down on your dining room table, side by side, and get a heavy lead pencil and scratch out the word 'Democrat,' and scratch out the word 'Socialist,' and let the two platforms lay there. Then study the record of the present Administration up to date. After you have done that, make your mind up to pick up the platform that more nearly squares with the record, and you will put your hand on the Socialist platform."
Now you know where it all began.
From there, the attacks on FDR and TND began to escalate. Various conservative leaders and news outlets called the above-mentioned elements of TND a "soak the rich tax," and many said that this level of wealth distribution would ultimately cripple the American economy. As an example, one of these horrifically un-American pieces of legislation in TND was the GI Bill. By giving veterans money for tuition, living expenses, books, supplies, and equipment, the GI Bill effectively transformed higher education in America. Before the war, the college had been an option for only 10-15% of young Americans, and university campuses had become known as a haven for the most privileged classes. By 1947, in contrast, vets made up half of the nation’s college enrollment; three years later, nearly 500,000 Americans graduated from college, compared with 160,000 in 1939. This was the kind of thing the conservatives were completely against.
FDR's programs were fought with such intensity that he looked at packing the Supreme Court for his agendas to pass. Ultimately all of the programs of TND were seen through, and as the GI Bill above illustrated, the programs worked gloriously. Between post-World War II and Watergate, Americans experienced living conditions and upward mobility the likes of which hadn't been seen in modern times. Ask anyone what it was like living in the middle class of the 50s and 60s and they will reminisce about how "great" America was.
As I mentioned above, all good things must come to an end. Let’s jump ahead to the 1980s.
Former president Ronald Reagan was enamored by Coolidge. So much so that he would often speak about Coolidge on radio addresses, extolling the virtues of the former president, and how we needed to return to that era of the American economy. Reagan once said, “In just the 5 years from 1922 to 1927 the purchasing power of wages rose 10%. It was a kind of golden era in other ways. Hollywood would never again be more glamorous and there were giants in the sports arenas whose names are still legend – the Manassas Mauler, Jack Dempsey, Knute Rockne, The 4 Horsemen, Red Grange, Babe Ruth, and Big Bill Tilden. No, I’m not saying President Coolidge was responsible for them but they were larger-than-life figures that went with America’s place in the world.” It came as no surprise then that Reagan used the Coolidge template when it came to his presidential economic agenda: lower taxes on the wealthy and deregulate the businesses and Stock Market. Reagan was smart in the fact that he re-packaged this previous failure as “trickle-down economics,” or “Reaganomics.”
Reagan sold the idea that businesses and states were inherently good and that anything from the federal government was completely evil and should not be trusted. The idea is that because your employer knows you, knows your family and your needs, that they would be better able to understand your needs and therefore should oversee what you make—not some politician in Washington who doesn’t know or care about you and your family. The American people loved it and we went on another spending spree just like the 1920s. Of course, as we all know, history tends to repeat itself and Reaganomics would be no different.
Because the infrastructure had become so intertwined with tax revenues, when the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 was passed, it immediately caused problems with shortfalls. Because the act allowed for the top tax rate to be cut to 50%, while significantly lowering estate taxes along with taxes paid by businesses, all that revenue was lost. The Grace Commission (or the President’s Private Sector Survey on Cost Controls) was put together by Reagan to see what impacts his policies would have. In their report, it was made clear to the president that his current programs were unsustainable. "... 100% of what is collected is absorbed solely by interest on the Federal Debt ... all individual income tax revenues are gone before one nickel is spent on the services taxpayers expect from government."
Reagan ignored these warnings and kept on with his hubris. Just like with the Coolidge presidency, Reaganomics was met with the same fate: a stock market crash. During the end of his presidency, Reagan watched the inevitable outcome of his policies as the American economy experienced Black Monday of 1987. It was, at that time, the greatest stock market crash since the Great Depression.
There was one other president during this ill-fated 100 years of policies that tried to make these conservative tax and spending policies work. That was George W. Bush.
Cutting taxes, deregulating businesses and banks had all failed before, so Bush knew he had to sell it to the American people in a way to make it fresh and new. I must admit, he did a pretty good job to those who don’t remember American history at all. Keeping in mind that after the Clinton administration, the US had a budget surplus; this surplus was all the reasoning Bush needed. “The last time taxes were this high as a percentage of our economy, there was a good reason … we were fighting World War II. Today, our high taxes fund a surplus.
Some say that growing federal surplus means Washington has more money to spend. But they've got it backward. The surplus is not the government's money. The surplus is the people's money.” Shortly after this Bush also made sure that those he had placed in positions of power in the White House would run interference on anyone trying to bring more regulation to banking. In fact, this desire for deregulations led to William Donaldson (a former Wall Street executive with respected Republican credentials who became chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission under Bush), quitting in 2005 after facing resistance from the White House and Republican members of the panel who criticized his support for stiffer regulations on mutual funds and hedge funds. Outside of a few stragglers, the GOP jumped aboard this two-time failed economic policy that had been wrapped in new, shiny paper, and rode that train straight to hell. In September of 2008, the bill came due once again and we had another Stock Market crash, leading to the financial crisis called “The Great Recession.” This most recent crash of 2008 was also said to be the worst stock market crash in American history since the Great Depression.
Notice a pattern yet?
There are some Republicans who are smart enough to realize you can’t completely re-write history down to the minutia and are therefore trying to spin the realities of what actually happened.
Pundits like Glenn Beck have taken things a step further by lying about FDR's new deal. He helps bolster the lie by having guests on his various talk shows who are nothing more than yes-men on the programs. This helps add to the chorus of deception for good measure. Though there have been examples of Beck doing this over the years, there is one example that I feel uses the cleverest attempts at deception; a 2009 interview he did with Thomas Woods—author of the book "Meltdown.” During this time Beck was pushing the narrative that the stimulus package done by Obama to pull America out of The Great Recession was becoming a rallying cry from liberals for wealth distribution using FDR's The New Deal as its core. Thomas said, "So when you actually look at the evidence, you don't look at, you know, Franklin Roosevelt gave some sweet little speeches and he comforted everybody. When you look at the cold hard facts of the matter, from 1933 to 1940 unemployment averaged 18%." He continued, "And by the time you get to 1939, his treasury secretary was saying, 'Well, let's see. We've spent more than we've ever spent before and yet unemployment is, well, by and large unchanged.' By the late 1930s, it had gone back up again. And so all we have to show for this entire experiment is a whole lot more debt." Ultimately agreeing throughout, Beck asked later in the interview, "Now, where is the stat that shows that the New Deal worked ...?"
Um, all of those stats are above Glenn.
But when it comes to the assertions made by Thomas on Beck’s show, I have to admit that it is one of the best examples of using half-truths and weaponizing the lack of knowledge on behalf of the party being deceived. First off, there is some merit to the unemployment numbers. In the 1930s they were extremely high and peaked at 24.9% in 1933. That's the truth part. The problem comes when you examine the years. The final pieces of legislation completing the programs brought about by TND weren't passed until 1937. Shortly after their enactment, World War II broke out and many governmental programs (and not just only those in TND) had to be put on the back burner. It wasn't until the war ended and our government was able to start everything running as intended that the programs of TND were able to come to fruition. This is one of the reasons many Americans voted FDR in for a third term: they wanted him to see the programs through. As I've written before, when TND programs were firing on all cylinders (i.e. minimum wage raised with inflation and the top tax rate hovering in the 80s and 90s), we had the greatest economically prosperous time for all income classes in America. That would be the 50s, 60s, and part of the 70s.
When considering everything over the last century of economic history, there is no realistic way that GOP economic policies can work. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, whenever we have enacted democratic “socialist” agendas, it has never come close to destroying anything. As a nation, we have now suffered three major stock market crashes in 100 years because of the same legislation being passed time and time again. The same legislation which keeps getting repackaged because there is a huge chunk of this nation can’t be bothered to remember events that have taken place 10, maybe 20 years prior that made their lives an utter hell. I know there are going to be people who will think that a lot of the years, numbers, and jargon that I’m using are all deception and shading to push a socialist agenda.
To them, all I ask is this: how many grown-ups needed to work in a middle-class house in the 1950s, 60s, 70s to have a roof over their head and food on the table? And how many grown-ups need to work in a middle-class house in 2010, 2015, 2020 to have a roof over their head and food on the table?
Yeah, it can be broken down that simply.
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