The moment the word is used as a pejorative in economics one knows the speaker is a liberal. It was in fact a liberal favorite during the Reagan presidency. Indeed, the entire 1980s was labeled “The Decade of Greed” by the American left.
Listen to the left on this.
John Edwards: “Corporate power and greed have literally taken over the government.”
Barack Obama: “There was a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich. I don’t know what Bible they’re reading, but it doesn’t jibe with my version.”
Al Gore: “I believe Bill Clinton and I were right to maintain in our 1992 campaign that we should fight for the ‘forgotten middle class’ against the ‘forces of greed.’”
John Kerry: “Our health care plan for America cracks down on the waste, greed, and abuse in our health care system…”
Hillary Clinton: “I want to take those oil company profits…”
What is greed? According to the dictionary, greed is “excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves.” The goal in denigrating Ronald Reagan and Reaganomics, of course, was to portray both Reagan and his economic program of tax cuts as being on the side of the super-rich, of those who possessed multiples of fancy houses and cars and jewels and yachts, fanning the flames of class warfare and the idea that the President, his program and indeed capitalism itself was fundamentally mean spirited and unfair to the average American.
The solution to all of this in liberal eyes was — and remains, as the quotes above can attest — simply to just take wealth away from the wealthy on the premise that this will make the poor middle-class or at least lift them out of poverty. Take from the haves and give to the presumed have-nots. Raise taxes. Redistribute wealth by taking from Peter to pay off Paul.
From 1932 to 1980 this was essentially the driving idea behind the American economy as run by Democrats in the White House and the Congress. And by 1980, the American people had come face to face with the fundamental economic truth: socialism, however potent or watered-down, simply does not work. It is the politics of scarcity, high taxes and class warfare. It pits one group against another with the false implication that someone sitting in Washington can substitute their judgment for that of individual Americans and somehow create economic opportunity and wealth. The idea had been tried for five decades and it failed.
To most conservatives, the 1980s and Reaganomics proved beyond doubt the wisdom of both Reagan and free market economics. In Reagan’s two-terms alone a record shattering 21 million jobs were created. Well beyond his time in the White House Reaganomics, effectively still in place today, has created millions more good jobs through the presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.
So while it does not surprise that there are class warrior Democrats attacking the idea of economic opportunity as “greed” and promising all manner of ways to pit one group against another, it is startling indeed to hear the following from a Republican presidential front runner — former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
ONE OF THE LEADING proponents of Reaganomics these days is an outfit calling itself “The Club for Growth.” Founded by supporters of Reagan’s supply-side economics, Reaganites one and all, the group is currently headed by former Pennsylvania Congressman Pat Toomey, the conservative who came within an eyelash of upending liberal Republican Senator Arlen Specter in the 2004 Pennsylvania senatorial primary.
The Club is famous for delving into the records of GOP candidates for not just the presidency but other offices as well, carefully combing the fine print of their speeches, programs and votes as office-holder or candidate and matching them to the Reagan ideal. Mike Huckabee, it seems, has supported any number of taxes while governor, and the Club has inevitably zeroed in on his economic beliefs.