The stock market is falling today, in part a reaction to GOP threats to shut down the government: it's all part of their plan.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week warned us that the GOP is about to use Jude Wanniski's "Two Santa Clauses" fraud again to damage Biden's economy and our standing in the world. And, sure enough, Mitch McConnell verified it when he said last week there would be "zero" Republican votes to raise the debt ceiling.
Yellen responded yesterday by telling The Wall Street Journal that if the Republicans force a shutdown of the US government like they did to Obama in 2011, "We would emerge from this crisis a permanently weaker nation." But the GOP is adamant: they have their strategy and they're sticking to it.
Here's how it works, laid it out in simple summary:
First, the Two Santas strategy dictates, when Republicans control the White House they must spend money like a drunken Santa and cut taxes to run up the US debt as far and as fast as possible.
This produces three results: it stimulates the economy thus making people think that the GOP can produce a good economy; it raises the debt dramatically; and it makes people think that Republicans are the "tax-cut Santa Clauses."
Second, when a Democrat is in the White House, Republicans must scream about the national debt as loudly and frantically as possible, freaking out about how "our children will have to pay for it!" and "we have to cut spending to solve the crisis!" Shut down the government, crash the stock market, and damage US credibility around the world if necessary to stop Democrats from spending money.
This will force the Democrats in power to cut their own social safety net programs and even Social Security, thus shooting their welfare-of-the-American-people Santa Claus right in the face.
And, sure enough, here we are now with a Democrat in the White House. Following their Two Santas strategy, Republicans are again squealing about the national debt and refusing to raise the debt ceiling, imperiling Biden's economic recovery as well as his Build Back Better plans.
And, once again, the media is covering it as a "Biden Crisis!" rather than what it really is: a cynical political and media strategy devised by Republicans in the 70s, fine-tuned in the 80s and 90s, and rolled out every time a Democrat is in the White House.
Jude Wanniski hatches the scheme that saves the GOP
Republican strategist Jude Wanniski first proposed his Two Santa Clauses strategy in The Wall Street Journal in 1974, after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace and the future of the Republican Party was so dim that books and articles were widely suggesting the GOP was about to go the way of the Whigs. There was genuine despair across the Republican Party, particularly when Jerry Ford couldn't even beat an unknown peanut farmer from rural Georgia for the presidency.
Wanniski reasoned the reason the GOP was losing so many elections wasn't just because of Nixon's corruption, but mostly because the Democrats had been viewed since the New Deal as the Santa Claus party.
On the other hand, the GOP, he said, was widely seen as the party of Scrooge because they publicly opposed everything from Social Security and Medicare to unemployment insurance and food stamps.
The Democrats, he noted, got to play Santa Claus for decades when they passed out Social Security and Unemployment checks — both programs of FDR's Democratic New Deal — as well as their "big government" projects like roads, bridges, schools and highways that gave a healthy union paycheck to construction workers and made our country shine.
Even worse, Democrats kept raising taxes on businesses and rich people to pay for all this stuff — and those taxes on the rich didn't have any effect at all on working people (wages were steadily going up until the Reagan Revolution, in fact).
It all added, Wanniski theorized, to the perception that the Democrats were the true party of Santa Claus, using taxes from the morbidly rich to fund programs for the poor and the working class.
Americans loved the Democrats back then. And every time Republicans railed against these programs, they lost elections.
Therefore, Wanniski concluded, the GOP had to become a Santa Claus party, too. But because the Republicans hated the idea of helping out working people, they had to come up with a way to convince average voters that they, too, have the Santa spirit. But what?
"Tax cuts!" said Wanniski.
To make this work, the Republicans would first have to turn the classical world of economics — which had operated on a simple demand-driven equation for seven thousand years — on its head. (Everybody understood that demand — "working-class wages" — drove economies because working people spent most of their money in the marketplace, producing "demand" for factory output goods and services.)
To lay the ground for Two Santa Clauses, in 1974 Wanniski invented a new phrase — "Supply-Side Economics" — and said the reason economies grew wasn't because people had good union jobs and thus enough money to buy things but, instead, because business made things available for sale, thus tantalizing people to part with their money.
The more products (supply) there were in the stores, he said, the faster the economy would grow. And the more money we gave rich people and their corporations (via tax cuts) the more stuff (supply) they'd generously produce for us to think about buying.
At a glance, this move by the Republicans seems irrational, cynical and counterproductive. It certainly defies classic understandings of economics. But if you consider Jude Wanniski's playbook, it makes complete sense.
To help, Arthur Laffer took that equation a step further with his famous napkin scribble. Not only was supply-side a rational concept, Laffer suggested, but as taxes went down, revenue to the government would go up!
Neither concept made any sense — and time has proven both to be colossal idiocies — but if Americans would buy into it all they offered the Republican Party a way out of the wilderness.
Ronald Reagan was the first national Republican politician to fully embrace the Two Santa Clauses strategy. He said straight out that if he could cut taxes on rich people and businesses, those "job creators" would use their extra money to build new factories so all that new stuff "supplying" the economy would produce faster economic growth.
George HW Bush — like most Republicans in 1980 who hadn't read Wanniski's piece in The Wall Street Journal — was horrified. Ronald Reagan was proposing "Voodoo Economics," said Bush in the primary campaign, and Wanniski's supply-side and Laffer's tax-cut theories would throw the nation into debt while producing nothing in growth.
But Wanniski had been doing his homework on how to sell "voodoo" supply-side economics.
Democrats, Wanniski told the GOP, had been "Santa Clauses" since 1933 by giving people things. From union jobs to food stamps, new schools and Social Security, the American people loved the "toys" the Democratic Santas brought every year as well as the growing economy that increasing union wages and the money from social programs in middle class hands.
Republicans could stimulate the economy by throwing trillions at defense contractors, Jude's theory went: spending could actually increase without negative repercussions and that money would trickle down to workers through the defense industry, which had reacted to Eisenhower's warning by building factories in every single one of America's 435 congressional districts.
Plus, Republicans could be double Santa Clauses by cutting people's taxes!
For working people the tax cuts would only be a small token — a few hundred dollars a year at the most — but Republicans would heavily market them to the media and in political advertising. And the tax cuts for the rich, which weren't to be discussed in public, would amount to hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars, part of which would be recycled back to the GOP as campaign contributions.
There was no way, Wanniski said, that the Democrats could ever win again. They'd be forced into the role of Santa-killers if they acted responsibly by raising taxes, or, even better, they'd be machine-gunning Santa by cutting spending on their own social programs. Either one would lose them elections.
Reagan, Greenspan, Wanniski, and Laffer took the federal budget deficit from under a trillion dollars in 1980 to almost three trillion by 1988, and back then a dollar could buy far more than it buys today. They and George HW Bush ran up more debt in twelve years than every president in history up till that time, from George Washington to Jimmy Carter, combined.
Surely this would both "starve the beast" of the American government and force the Democrats to make the politically suicidal move of becoming deficit hawks. And that's just how it turned out.
Bill Clinton, the first Democrat they blindsided with Two Santas, had run on an FDR-like platform of a "New Covenant" with the American people that would strengthen the institutions of the New Deal, strengthen labor, and institute a national single-payer health care system.
A few weeks before his inauguration, however, Wanniski-insider Alan Greenspan and Goldman Sachs co-chairman Robert Rubin sat him down and told him the facts of life: Reagan and Bush had run up such a huge deficit that he was going to have to raise taxes and cut the size of government.
Clinton took their advice to heart, raised taxes, balanced the budget, and cut numerous programs, declaring an "end to welfare as we know it" and, in his second inaugural address, an "end to the era of big government."
Clinton shot Santa Claus, and the result was an explosion of Republican wins across the country as Republican politicians campaigned on a platform of supply-side tax cuts and pork-rich spending increases.
State after state turned red, and the Republican Party rose to take over, ultimately, every single lever of power in the federal government, from the Supreme Court to the White House.
Looking at the wreckage of the Democratic Party all around Clinton in 1999, Wanniski wrote a gloating memo that said, in part:
"We of course should be indebted to Art Laffer for all time for his Curve... But as the primary political theoretician of the supply-side camp, I began arguing for the 'Two Santa Claus Theory' in 1974. If the Democrats are going to play Santa Claus by promoting more spending, the Republicans can never beat them by promoting less spending. They have to promise tax cuts..."
Ed Crane, then-president of the Koch-funded Libertarian CATO Institute, noted in a memo that year:
"When Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, Vin Weber, Connie Mack and the rest discovered Jude Wanniski and Art Laffer, they thought they'd died and gone to heaven. In supply-side economics they found a philosophy that gave them a free pass out of the debate over the proper role of government. ... That's why you rarely, if ever, heard Kemp or Gingrich call for spending cuts, much less the elimination of programs and departments."
Two Santa Clauses had gone mainstream.
Never again would Republicans worry about the debt or deficit when they were in office; and they knew well how to scream hysterically about it and hook in the economically naïve press as soon as Democrats again took power.
When Jude Wanniski died, George Gilder celebrated the Reagan/Bush adoption of his Two Santas scheme in a Wall Street Journal eulogy:
"...Jude's charismatic focus on the tax on capital gains redeemed the fiscal policies of four administrations. ... Unbound by zero-sum economics, Jude forged the golden gift of a profound and passionate argument that the establishments of the mold must finally give way to the powers of the mind. ... He audaciously defied all the Buffetteers of the trade gap, the moldy figs of the Phillips Curve, the chic traders in money and principle, even the stultifying pillows of the Nobel Prize."
The Republicans got what they wanted from Wanniski's work. They held power for forty years, made their donors trillions of dollars, and cut organized labor's representation in the workplace from around a third of workers when Reagan came into office to around 6 percent of the non-governmental workforce today.
Think back to Ronald Reagan, who more than tripled the US debt from a mere $800 billion to $2.6 trillion in his 8 years. That spending produced a massive stimulus to the economy, and the biggest non-wartime increase in American national debt in all of our history. Nary a peep from Republicans about that 218% increase in our debt; they were just fine with it and to this day claim Reagan presided over a "great" economy.
When five rightwingers on the Supreme Court gave the White House to George W. Bush he reverted to Wanniski's "Two Santa" strategy and again nearly doubled the national debt, adding over a trillion in borrowed money to pay for his tax cut for billionaires, and tossing in two unfunded wars for good measure, which also added at least (long term) another $5 trillion.
There was not a peep about that debt from any high-profile in-the-know Republicans; in fact, Dick Cheney famously said, amplifying Wanniski's strategy: "Reagan proved deficits don't matter. We won the midterms. This is our due."
Bush and Cheney raised the debt by 86% to over $10 trillion (and additional trillions in war debt that wasn't put on the books until Obama entered office, so it looks like its his).
Then came Democratic President Barack Obama, and suddenly the GOP was hysterical about the debt again. So much so that they convinced a sitting Democratic president to propose a cut to Social Security (the "chained CPI"). Obama nearly shot the Democrats' biggest Santa Claus, just like Wanniski predicted, until outrage from the Democratic base stopped him.
Next, Donald Trump raised our national debt by almost $7 trillion, but the GOP raised the debt ceiling without a peep every year for the first three years of his administration, and then suspended it altogether for 2020 (so, if Biden won, he'd have to justify raising the ceiling for 2 years' worth of deficits, making it even more politically painful).
And now Republicans are getting ready to use the debt ceiling debate to drop their Two Santas bomb right onto President Joe Biden's head. After all, it worked against Clinton and Obama. Why wouldn't they use it again?
And if Republican debt-ceiling default threats could lower the stock market, as they did to both Clinton and Obama, all the better: Republicans could just blame the Democrats in power!
Americans deserve to know how we've been manipulated, and by whom, for the past 40 years. Hopefully Democratic politicians and our media will begin to call the GOP out on Wanniski's and Reagan's Two Santa Clauses scam.
'I need help': Michigan health official troubled after almost being run off the road by anti-maskers
“I need help," London wrote in an Aug. 22 email to the county commissioners, which Michigan Advance received today after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Kent County Board of Commissioners last week. “My team and I are broken. I'm about done. I've done my job to the best of my ability. I've given just about everything to Kent County, and now I've given some more of my safety."
London's email followed his announcement on Aug. 20 that masks would be required for anyone in preschool through sixth grade school buildings in Kent County in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Kids under 12 are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The decision to mandate masks in schools is supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and a long list of groups local to Kent County, including Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Mercy Health Saint Mary's, and Metro Health — University of Michigan Health, among others.
Despite this support, London and other members of the Kent County Health Department have received vitriolic criticism, as well as threats of violence, over the mandate. At an Aug. 26 Kent County Board of Commissioners meeting, a large and often raucous crowd spewed harsh and aggressive words for London, who had to attend the meeting virtually due to concerns for his physical safety.
“I had a woman try to run me off the road at 70+ miles per hour…twice, on Friday night," London wrote in his Aug. 22 email to commissioners. “I think we have all seen the aggression and violence displayed at meetings across the nation during the past week."
“There is nothing to be gained by entertaining such people with dialog," London continued. “In many cases, these are the same people who dismiss the plot against the governor [Gretchen Whitmer] as “just guys joking around" and the January 6th insurrection [at the U.S. Capitol] as a peaceful patriotic protest. I think it is a grave mistake to unnecessarily give them targets and platforms. There is a sickness in America far more insidious than COVID. You are more empowered to fight this disease than I am."
London declined to comment for this story. The Kent County Sheriff's Office said in a Sept. 21 statement that Kent County Undersheriff Charles DeWitt was contacted directly by London on the evening of Aug. 20 “about a traffic incident that had occurred on U.S. 131."
“Dr. London informed Undersheriff DeWitt that an individual had attempted to run him off the expressway two times while he was traveling," the sheriff's office wrote.
“While Dr. London was able to provide the make of the vehicle involved, he was unable to get a license plate number or provide a detailed description of the vehicle," the sheriff's office continued in it statement. “Dr. London was given options as to when he could file a report; however, no report was filed with the Kent County Sheriff's Office."
Across Michigan, local health and education officials have increasingly faced aggression and threats of violence, including death threats, after issuing school mask mandates. Last school year, the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) required masks, but has left it up to local officials this school year. The DHHS has said it is advocating, but not requiring, that schools implement indoor masking policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Whitmer has said state officials are focusing on local districts implementing school mask policies because they believe residents will be more likely to follow those requirements than if they came from the state.
“We are relying on school districts to work with our local public health experts to develop policies and enlist the support of the community. We know that broad mandates are only so effective, and when they happen at the local level it increases compliance," Whitmer told reporters earlier this month at an event in Kent County.
However, that decision has left local health and school officials to become the targets of public ire — and that, London said, is taking a deep toll on health department employees, himself and his family.
Last week, I had a person yell out to me, “Hey mother******, I hope someone abuses your kids and forces you to watch.
– Email from Kent County Health Department director Adam London
In his Aug. 22 email to commissioners, in which the health officer provides extensive data supporting the county's school mask requirement, London paints a dark picture of the abuse he has faced, from people “accusing me of being a deep state agent of liberal-progressive socialist powers that are working to undo the America they love (paraphrased minus expletives)" to others calling him a “child-abusing monster."
“Last week, I had a person yell out to me, “Hey mother******, I hope someone abuses your kids and forces you to watch," London wrote.
London's “health, my family and now our safety have paid a price for my work over the past year and a half," the health officer told county commissioners in his email.
“I want you to know that I will not needlessly expose myself (or my family for that matter) to the brute mob hatred that is crudely evident in a vocal and energized minority," London wrote. “These are people who hope to force their views on others through intimidation, aggression, and their rhetoric suggests violence as well. I will not participate in witch trials in which the science I've presented, and the opinions of legitimate experts, is reduced to the same stage as people living in echo-chambers of junk science, salespeople, and Youtube videos. For the leaders of these misinformation campaigns, it's never really been about our data; it's been about their dogma."
Melissa Ryan, the editor of the Ctrl Alt-Right Delete newsletter and an expert on extremism, emphasized this idea in a recent interview with Michigan Advance. The vitriol lobbed at local health and education officials is often perpetuated and exacerbated not by local residents but through right-wing talking points and national funding campaigns, Ryan said.
Personally, I don't believe they have the authority to implement a mask mandate and should they try, I will refuse to follow their mandate and encourage others to disobey this overreach into people's lives.
– Rep. Stephen Johnson (R-Wayland)
“You can't really talk about what's happening in Michigan without talking about other states," Ryan told the Advance. “It's national politics and national money and strategy being spent to pit neighbor against neighbor in school districts."
It's not just attending large commission meetings who have hurled intense criticism for London and health department employees. Four West Michigan Republican state legislators — state reps. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), Mark Huizenga (R-Walker), Steven Johnson (R-Wayland), and Bryan Posthumus (R-Cannon Twp.) — recently threatened to pull funding from the Kent County Health Department if masks are mandated in schools.
“Along with several of my colleagues, I've sent a letter to the Kent County Health Department calling on them to avoid implementing any mask mandates," Johnson wrote on his official government Facebook page on Aug. 16. “Personally, I don't believe they have the authority to implement a mask mandate and should they try, I will refuse to follow their mandate and encourage others to disobey this overreach into people's lives."
And after members of the public called on Kent County commissioners to rescind the Health Department's mask mandate, both the county's in-house legal team and an outside counsel group, Warner Norcross & Judd, concluded that is not legal.
“Both opinions concluded that neither the Kent County Board of Commissioners nor the County Administrator/Controller have the authority to intervene in the health officer's performance of his statutory duties under Michigan's Public Health Code," the county wrote in Sept. 8 statement.
Members of the public also have called on London to resign, or for the county to fire the health officer.
These are people who hope to force their views on others through intimidation, aggression, and their rhetoric suggests violence as well. I will not participate in witch trials in which the science I've presented, and the opinions of legitimate experts, is reduced to the same stage as people living in echo-chambers of junk science, salespeople, and Youtube videos.
– Email from Kent County Health Department director Adam London
“If you want to fire me, or censure me, or pass a resolution condemning me, by all means please proceed," London wrote in his Aug. 22 email. “Do what you need to do your job. But first, let me share my prayer with you: I pray that people more powerful than me, Democrats and Republicans, rise up with one voice and say, 'we will not tolerate or provide quarter for this nonsense in our part of America.' Public service is honorable and noble. Change the laws if they're not good; don't destroy the people who are carrying out laws you don't like. If people like Adam London aren't going to keep doing this work, who will?"
In response to the threats of violence London has received, Democratic Kent County commissioners issued a statement of support for the health officer and the county health department. Republican commissioners were asked to sign their names to the statement from Democrats; none did so.
“Many Kent County employees have been stretched to the breaking point during the pandemic, but none more so than those in the Health Department," reads the statement from Democratic County Commissioners Phil Skaggs, Michelle McCloud, Carol Hennessy, Melissa LaGrand, Dave Bulkowski, Robert Womack, and Stephen Wooden.
Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair Mandy Bolter and Vice Chair Stan Stek, both Republicans, did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story. Following the story's publication, Bolter issued a statement on Sept. 21.
“As a large and diverse county, we will not agree on every issue," Bolter said. “However, we are one community and we should hold ourselves to the highest standard of public discourse. Threats of violence against any resident or county employee is, without question, unacceptable and should be immediately reported to the proper authorities."
The Democratic commissioners said their Sept. 15 statement was issued “in absence of official public support from the Board of Commissioners."
“We have been shocked to learn that [London] and his family have received threats to their physical safety and disheartened to see his reputation abused in public forums," the Democratic commissioners wrote. “While it is our wish that all Kent County Commissioners would unite in publicly supporting [London] and his team, we will not wait to express our gratitude for the Health Department and [London]. We support the August 20th health order requiring mask use in PK-6 educational settings and appreciate their work to keep the people of Kent County healthy and safe in the face of a serious threat."
Skaggs, a Democratic commissioner who represents portions of southeastern Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids, said in an interview with Michigan Advance that “every member of the county commission is aware of the threats to Adam London and the Health Department and the attempted vehicular assault against Adam London."
We were hoping that the Republican leadership would take action, and they did nothing.
– Democratic County Commissioner Phil Skaggs
“We were hoping that the Republican leadership would take action, and they did nothing," Skaggs continued. “We felt it was necessary for us to [issue the statement], even if we had to act alone. I encouraged them to sign onto the statement. I think unfortunately some of them agree with the message that masks are ineffective, that the pandemic is a hoax, and that the vaccine is unproven and dangerous, but I think the majority of them are simply unwilling to take a courageous stand on behalf of public health."
In his email to commissioners, London wrote that “because my character is under attack," he wanted the elected officials to know more about him.
“I am a Christian, and I embrace my job because it is an expression of that working faith," he wrote. “ … I attend church on Sundays and holy days, pray and study every day, and you can often find me spending my lunch hour at St. Andrew's Cathedral attending noon mass and praying for you, my co-workers, the people of Kent County, and the wisdom to do my job well.
“Others are calling me a traitor to our nation and liberty who must be stopped at all costs," London wrote. “Really? I'm the grandson of two WWII heroes, the son and step-son of men who served during Vietnam, and the brother of a soldier who served in Afghanistan. We proudly wave the flag at my house and in my office. Faith, Family and Country."
Ultimately, London told commissioners, he hopes elected officials will take a hard look at themselves and how they are doing their own jobs.
“I also believe it would be more helpful for the legislature to work on new laws which better protect rights and public health instead of attacking public servants," London wrote.
Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.
A New York-based attorney has become the go-to representative for families who want to treat their COVID-stricken loved ones with a livestock medication that doctors aren't sure is effective.
Ralph Lorigo hadn't even heard of ivermectin, an antiparasitic medicine commonly used in horses, until January, but he has in recent months convinced courts to allow hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients with the medication that's become known as "horse paste," reported The Daily Beast.
"While I certainly believe in the medical profession, what I've seen here is that the bottom line is what's trumping what I used to believe was the Hippocratic oath," Lorigo told the website.
The attorney argues that "Big Pharma" is turning desperate families away from ivermectin, which was first promoted by doctors connected with the group called Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, and Lorigo says his arguments before each court are essentially the same for every case.
"We have a patient who is on a ventilator and whose chances of survival are no better than 40 percent and in some cases as low as 20 percent," Lorigo said. "Why not?"
But doctors say there's little evidence that ivermectin works as a coronavirus treatment and may discourage the vaccine-hesitant from getting inoculated against the deadly virus.
"Hospitals are dealing with the unvaccinated COVID-19 patients at a very high pace," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, "and then you're going to burden them by filing a lawsuit or creating legal problems over them trying to provide the best care for these people who chose not to be vaccinated and who are now crushing their hospitals?"
Patients who take ivermectin are often being treated with other medications with more proven results, and Adalja said those positive outcomes can be misleading.
"I think that anytime someone hears about some miraculous recovery, or even that someone got better with ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine or whatever it might have been, it takes on a life of its own," the doctor said.
Lorigo disputed criticism from Adalja and other doctors who say he's "capitalizing" off of desperate clients, saying he takes clients at a "substantially reduced" hourly rate to help families who have exhausted all other options.
"I can't in good conscience turn away from these people who are calling me crying because they've got a loved one who is about to die," he said. "I can't turn my back on these people."
However, Timothy Brewer, an epidemiology professor at UCLA who treats COVID-19 patients as a physician, strongly disputed the attorney's claims that profit kept doctors like him from using ivermectin -- and he resented the court's intrusion on sound medical practice.
"In general, whenever the courts try to practice medicine, it usually doesn't work out well for anyone involved," Brewer said, adding that Lorigo's "why not?" argument made no sense medically. "That's not practicing medicine -- that's voodoo."
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