Friday, February 10, 2012

Bloodletting, Snake Oil, and Tax Cuts

A word about the long abandoned but even longer widely used medical treatment of Bloodletting.

According to the PBS documentary Red Gold
Phlebotomy, or bloodletting, is the longest-running tradition in medicine. It originated in the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Greece, persisted through the Medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment periods, flourished in Arabic and Indian medicine, and lasted through the second Industrial Revolution. The practice continued for 2,500 years until it was replaced by the techniques of modern medicine. Doctors bled patients for every ailment imaginable. They bled for pneumonia and fevers, back pain and rheumatism, headaches and melancholia; even to treat bone fractures and other wounds. Yet there never was any evidence that phlebotomy did any good.
You get the idea, a medical practice that no one had any reason to believe worked was frequently employed anyway. In fact, as everyone now knows, bleeding a sick person harms them.

It seems clear now that Republican elected officials, party leaders, and pundits are modern day Bloodletters. Even worse, given the financial meltdown of 2008, they are rather like some professional Bloodletter plying his trade after the discovery of vaccines and antibiotics!

Republican elected officials and pundits continue to argue that the economy can be fixed and jobs created only if we cut taxes further and deregulate markets and banks more. If we do so, they claim, the wealth will trickle down making us all well-off, employed, and living the good life.

This is nothing new. The "prosperity gospel" has been the official doctrine of the right wing since the mid 1970s. What I find perplexing about this dogma, however, is that such policies have been enacted - with barely a pause or a counter policy - for 35 years. Tax cuts have never created jobs (even in the Reagan era jobs were only created by Tax raises) and never boosted the economy.

The wealth has not trickled down. In fact, as all data shows only the super rich (the 1%) have benefited from these policies. The rest of us have lost our homes and our retirements, seen our health care costs soar, our policies cover less, our personal debt explode, and our incomes stagnate or even decrease. Don't believe me? Just look at the following chart:

If you still have doubts, read the information on income inequality gathered here and here. The data is absolutely clear and perfectly comprehensible: The rich gain, everyone else loses. The most dramatic deregulation and tax cuts in our history (the Bush Tax cuts, and the repeal - under Clinton - of Glass-Steagall) far from fixing, preventing, or even alleviating this trend have caused the greatest economic and job crisis since the great depression.

And, no surprise here, the last time the super wealthy had taxes this low was the roaring 20s. Take a look at one more chart and see it for yourself:

Low tax rates combined with minimal regulation right before the great depression. The exact same combination leading up to 2oo8. Mere correlation? Both in the 20s and the decades leading up to 2008? Not likely.

Ok. I can hear some right leaning readers refusing to believe me. So one last bit of evidence. Watch the Following episode of Fault Lines (Aljazerra News) on the top 1%:

And some people think - or at least claim to think - that more of these same policies will fix things!!!???

Either these folks are modern day Bloodletters or modern day snake-oil salesmen. Take your pick.

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