Loony Supply-Siders

LOONY SUPPLY-SIDERS….Does the Atlantic pay its bloggers by the post? They sure do burn up the pixels over there. Now that there are six of them, I conservatively estimate a combined output of approximately a brazillion words a day. (You all know what a brazillion is, right?)

Anyway, over at the Atlantic Megan McArdle has not one, but two posts about Jon Chait’s book The Big Con today, and the second one begins with this odd claim:

I’m diving into Jonathan Chait’s piece in The New Republic [based on the book –ed] on how a whole huge conspiracy of crazy supply-siders has taken over the Republican party. This is, to put it kindly, wildly overblown. I mean, I’m all for someone taking on the sillier kind of supply siders who fanny about claiming that tax cuts increase tax revenue, but they’ve been rather thin on the ground lately….Chait tars all tax-cutters with the ideas of the looniest supply siders. One can believe that tax cuts, by reducing deadweight loss and/or providing fiscal stimulus, will be good for the economy, without necessarily believing that the economy will be crippled by a 5% rate increase.

Well, yes, one can believe that. The problem, as Chait says, is that virtually no one in the Republican Party does believe it. George Bush doesn’t believe it. Dick Cheney doesn’t believe it. Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey and Tom DeLay didn’t believe it. And judging by the astonishing pander-fest that takes place whenever taxes are mentioned in one of the Republican debates, not a single one of the Republican presidential candidate believes it.

And then there’s the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which routinely suggests the nation will collapse if taxes are raised. There’s the Club for Growth, ditto, plus Rush Limbaugh and his clone army. And there’s Grover Norquist’s tax pledge, signed by virtually every single GOP member of the House and Senate. As I said in my review of The Big Con:

There are, it’s true, a few honest supply-siders who are careful about what they say: namely that some tax cuts, under some circumstances, if they’re matched by spending cuts, can modestly stimulate economic growth and pay for about half their cost in the very long term. But it was never sold this way, and more than a decade ago it lost even its original tenuous groundings in reality. Instead, it’s become little more than a carnival barker’s cure-all: Cut taxes and the economy will boom! There isn’t a practicing economist in the country who believes this, but that hasn’t stopped Republican primaries from becoming virtual meat markets where the candidates vie to outbid each other over their fealty to tax cuts today, tax cuts tomorrow, tax cuts forever.

The proposition that tax cuts are the answer to all problems and that tax increases are little more than naked invitations to economic disaster is, as near as I can tell, almost universally accepted by Republican politicians and conservative think tanks. Even ur-supply-sider Bruce Bartlett has gotten fed up with it. I’d call this loony supply sidism, and far from being thin on the ground, I’d say it continues to have a stranglehold on conservative discourse. Anybody want to seriously argue this?