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Trickle-down government?

Romney’s line about trickle-down government in Debate One was clever. It means that every time a Democrat derides Romney for believing in trickle-down economics, listeners will hear that line about trickle-down government in their heads, again. Which means that Democrats will be dissuaded from using such phrases. As a piece of campaign meme-blocking, so to speak, trickle-down government was and is, as Mark Steyn says in this, and as many other have surely said also, excellent. Plus, it enables Romney to come across as moderate rather than manic in his objections to too much government.

But for me this phrase is far too moderate. As a description of current reality “trickle-down government” is ludicrous, never mind the kind of government that President Obama believes in. Trickle-down government is what the luckier parts of the Western World had in about 1912. Calling what we endure now, a century later, trickle-down government is like standing under the Niagara Falls and calling it a trickle-down waterfall.

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19 comments to Trickle-down government?

  • Or to use the line from “Outlaw Josey Wales”:

    Don’t piss down my back Senator and tell me it’s raining”.

  • Paul Marks

    Josey Wales for President! Although I do not think this character delivered the line.

    Well he might carry Missouri – and Kansas. But he would not carry Ohio and Flordia.

    But to turn to the post…..

    It is a good post by Brian.

    It is true.

    Sadly it is Mitt Romney running – not Senator Rand Paul (who would agree with what Brian has written).

    And if Rand Paul was running – he would (alas) carry about the same number of States as Josey Wales would.

    Of course the logical conclusion from all the above is that the future of the United States (and the West generally) is not going to be good.

  • Laird

    I disagree that it was too moderate. First of all, it was crafted specifically as a reply to “trickle-down economics”, so it has to use the same formulation. Otherwise it just doesn’t work. “Waterfall government”? That might be a good line in some other context, but not in this one.

    And secondly, consider his audience. Romney can’t be too strident (that would be being “mean”, and we don’t like bullies) or too strong in his denunciation of government (not that he ever would be, since Romney doesn’t really think government is too big, just too expensive). Most US voters, especially those so clueless and/or spineless as to be “undecided” one month before the election, basically like our government; it’s just gotten a little bit oversized lately. (It’s that deficit thing, you know? A bit worrisome.) Someone like me, who would go at the government with a wrecking ball, wouldn’t be electable. Which is why Romney (and not Ron Paul) got the nomination in the first place.

    So I say it was a finely-crafted turn of phrase, precisely calibrated to the moment. And it also perfectly captures Romney’s philosophy of government: big but gentle (at least, in his hands). As I’ve said elsewhere, he’s a big-government Republican, and his words reflect this.

  • NickM

    Josey Wales didn’t say it but it was in the movie. Damn it! who was it?

  • RRS

    Some years back, when I did some writing with the late Clement R McCormack, we came up with an analysis of:

    Trickle Down Taxation

    That is, the taxation incurred by those at certain levels is actually passed on down in the charges for their services (or goods produced) to yield a “net take-home pay,” after tax impacts. Professionals in particular do this.

    Taxes come out of the goods and services through the pricing mechanisms. You either pay more for what you get, or you get less for what you pay.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    According to imdb the quote you’re all hunting for was spoken by Fletcher, the confederate officer whose men are massacred and who is then conscripted to hunt Josey Wales down:

    Senator: The war’s over. Our side won the war. Now we must busy ourselves winning the peace. And Fletcher, there’s an old saying: To the victors belong the spoils.

    Fletcher: There’s another old saying, Senator: Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

    I’m largely indifferent to both candidates in the US election, but I can’t help be amused by how quickly Obama’s campaign has started imploding once he had to speak without a Teleprompter….

    Of course, if he loses we’ll have to put up with the lefty true believers whining about racism and the failure of the nation to have to courage to vote for the empty suit. However, if he wins there is the possibility of the ideology of big government being smacked down for years to come because of the chaos that will ensue.

    On second thoughts the left would probably whine then too…..

  • Paul Marks


    The victory of Barack Obama would indeed bring “chaos” – the intensifiction of statism would throw things over the cliff, into de facto bankruptcy and economic breakdown.

    However, there are two problems.

    Firstly this chaos would destroy very large numbers of people – mostly the old and the weak (as the government programs they depend upon would collapse – but the economic collapse would also mean that private resources were not available to help them).

    But there is also the problem that chaos might not lead to liberty (or course they are not the same thing). It might lead to even more collectivist regimes taking power (under conditions of much more primitive economic activity and a somewhat smaller population).

    Of couse all the above may happen anyway – with a Romney win.

    I have seen no real evidence that Mitt Romney really understands that the United States (indeed the West generally) stands upon the edge of a cliff.

    His proposed reforms (whilst very welcome – ……. NPR and PBS) are timid and small.

    However, better a small chance of saving the existing civilisation – than no chance at all.

    And better than a pius hope (for that is all that it is) that the existing order might be replaced by a more libertarian one – after a collapse.

    Still, of course, people should prepare for the possibility of collapse – to save what might be saved.

    Such ideas as a Republic of Texas (independent of a bankrupt United States) are certainly worth exploring.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Well, indeed Paul.

    There’s no particular reason why an Obama-induced crisis would result in increased liberty.

    It would have been easy to make similar predictions about the post-war Labour government in this country. Ultra hard-left and almost totally bankrupted the country, but Britain didn’t turn into some libertarian utopia afterwards.

    Rationing (which socialists totally love but will never admit) and ID cards disappeared, but planning permission and the highly restrictive firearms laws labour brought in were kept and indeed added to by subsequent governments.

    Generally speaking government’s of any persuasion don’t give liberties back once they’ve taken them.

  • I would the Jaded Voluntaryist that the World War II identity cards were enacted in 1939 under the National Coalition of Neville Chamberlain as the National Registration Act

    This act was repealed during the Conservative administration of Sir Winston Churchill on 22nd May 1952, but only after a direct judicial attack by the presiding Judge in the Appeal Court hearing of Muckle v Willcock.

  • RRS

    Not to get too deep into the weeds, but are we not placing too much emphasis on the role of one person in one office as a determining factor amongst many other factors in the trends observed in the development of the social orders that make up our civilization?

    Are we going to accept the conclusions of Thomas Carlyle?

    Civilizations, and the social orders that make them up, do not generally “go over a cliff.” They decline, disintegrate, are overrun, or transition into subsequent inter-regnums that have resulted in the formation of new civilizations.

    No one person in any one office by that presence alone can determine the disintegration and decline of the social orders of any particular nation, and certainly not of civilization.

  • Paul Marks

    Agreed RRS – but Barack Obama is not the only problem.

    Ideologically the United States started to go down hill in the late 19th century.

    The spreading of compulsory education (State after State) and licensing laws (doctor and lawyer) and….

    And, in the universities, the decline of pro freedom teaching – and the rise of German educated Progressives such as Richard Ely and his allies.

    In the 20th century the rise of government spending – even as a percentage of the economy.

    The Federal government has increased ten fold in size (again as a proportion of the economy).

    The economic damage this should have done has been masked by technolgical improvments – but there is a limit to how much the technology can do.

    And the social side?

    RRS – you know as well (or better) than I do, that modern American society is not the “functional” society written of by Talcott Parsons in the 1950s.

    Nor is it like the strong stable society that Atlee happened to be Prime Minister of in Britain in the 1940s (JV’s point was true – Atlee did not destroy Britain, but it was a different Britain).

    The Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and beyong (partly caused by government programs – partly by propagand and other factors) has done is work.

    Such things as family structure have been undermined, as have churches and secular clubs and fraternites.

    People now depend on govenrment – for just about everything.

    A de facto bankruptcy of government would have far more radical effects now than it would in 1950s America – or even in the Britain of the time of Clement Atlee (where government stuctures were new – and the things they replaced were still there, they had not rotted away with lack of activity).

    So if it was just Barack Obama….. yes there would be no great problem. But it is not.

    An old Hammer Horror film comes to mind…..

    “But why must we destroy him? I survived the vampire’s bite”.

    “He is not a man such as you, he is already dead, he must be destroyed”.

    This weakened society may not be formally dead – but it can not survive another bite.

  • Saxon

    Well said, Paul Marks!

    I too wish Romney were more libertarian than he is, but even this moderate guy is being vilified as a radical extremist who is going to shut down govt spending. What chance a real small govt type would have? We must support the most libertarian/fiscal conservative that is electable.

  • Rich Rostrom

    “Waterfall government” is a somewhat useful metaphor, but it runs against the message that Romney is making. The “trickle-down” meme is that social resources are lavished on one segment, but the general population get only limited benefits (a “trickle”).

    Romney’s point is that resources poured lavishly into government produce only a trickle of benefits, not a waterfall. The “waterfall” is in government burdens.

  • RRS

    Spot on again Paul Marks.

  • Richard Thomas

    What Rich Rostrum said. People need to understand that a dollar taxed is not a dollar to the poor or needy but a tiny fraction to those people and the majority to friends and special interests.

  • MakajazMonkee

    True but Obama has the Snoop quote “He’s a Mormon but he ain’t got not hoes”

  • What chance a real small govt type would have? We must support the most libertarian/fiscal conservative that is electable.

    There is no one even vaguely libertarian/fiscal conservative on offer from the GOP in this impending election. Do you think Romney will even manage to shrink the state back to the bloated size it was when GWBush left office? Is the insane drug war an issue for him? Well yes… he wants even more of it. Has he even mentioned the civil forfaiture issue, which is probably the most grotesque aspect of US law today?

    Should there ever be an election in the future between a Hitler-like person and a Stalin-like person, I fully expect people to still offer up the same ‘lesser evil’ calculus: “Well they may both be insane basterds but at least that guy with the funny moustache likes kittens, so I am going to vote for him as he is obviously the lesser evi;. Why can’t you silly unrealistic libertarian types see you’re wasting your vote abstaining?”.

  • Michael Kent

    Paul Marks:

    “I have seen no real evidence that Mitt Romney really understands that the United States (indeed the West generally) stands upon the edge of a cliff.”

    If you saw the 47% tape (the “47% comment” is itself a tell), you would have seen Romney say this:

    “Yeah, it’s interesting…the former head of Goldman Sachs, John Whitehead, was also the former head of the New York Federal Reserve. And I met with him, and he said as soon as the Fed stops buying all the debt that we’re issuing—which they’ve been doing, the Fed’s buying like three-quarters of the debt that America issues. He said, once that’s over, he said we’re going to have a failed Treasury auction, interest rates are going to have to go up. We’re living in this borrowed fantasy world, where the government keeps on borrowing money. You know, we borrow this extra trillion a year, we wonder who’s loaning us the trillion? The Chinese aren’t loaning us anymore. The Russians aren’t loaning it to us anymore. So who’s giving us the trillion? And the answer is we’re just making it up. The Federal Reserve is just taking it and saying, “Here, we’re giving it.’ It’s just made up money, and this does not augur well for our economic future.”

    I think he gets it.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Kent, I strongly hope you are correct.