But it goes back even further than Silent Cal Coolidge. As historian Robert McElvaine notes the subject of trickle down economics was the point of William Jennings Bryan’s 1986 “Cross of Gold” speech.
“There are two ideas of government,” William Jennings Bryan declared in his 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech. “There are those who believe that if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”
I find studying American history to be strangely comforting because the same impediments to better government and economic and racial justice keep getting raised by the enemies of democracy. Now that might sound depressing because, well, we keep fighting the same impediments to better government and economic and racial justice. But the fact that the malefactors of great wealth are so persistent with bad ideas that never work does make them very predictable. And while we seem to be taking two steps back right now, that’s because for many years we took many steps forward.
In short, despite the absolute blithering nonsense the modern GOP is trying to push on the American people as “improvements”, the pendulum always swings the other way and real progress is made.
During the 1920s, Republicans almost literally worshiped business. “The business of America,” Coolidge proclaimed, “is business.” Coolidge also remarked that, “The man who builds a factory builds a temple,” and “the man who works there worships there.” That faith in the Market as God has been the Republican religion ever since. A few months after he became president in 1981, Ronald Reagan praised Coolidge for cutting “taxes four times” and said “we had probably the greatest growth in prosperity that we’ve ever known.” Reagan said nothing about what happened to “Coolidge Prosperity” a few months after he left office.
In the aftermath of Reagan the country wasn’t awake enough to even wish for another FDR. In the rubble of George W. Bush, some people finally hoped aloud for the emergence of an FDR. Now, with the full attack on our democracy being perpetuated by the full force of the Republican party a massive movement of angry and aware voters are ready to be activated. Virginia was a sample.
If we do indeed crawl back into a recession, or a depression, there will be national wave that will resemble the 1932 wave. For a more recent example, it will resemble the absolute marginalization of the Republican party that has taken place in California.
The craziest thing is, as Matt Yglesias notes in Vox, the worst consequences of the current bill could be averted by just cutting the corporate tax rate to 25% rather than 20%. They just don’t know what they’re doing.