A Parable for the Times

Back in the 1970s, Ms Body Politic was very sick with Stagflation Disease. Its two main symptoms were Inflation Fever and Unemployment Upset. Dr Volker administered Tight Money Medicine to cure Inflation Fever, but he had no medicine for Unemployment Upset.

Dr Reagan, after consulting with Drs Laffer and Kemp, proposed Tax Cut Medicine to cure Unemployment Upset. But many other doctors disagreed, saying it would make Inflation Fever worse. But Dr Volker’s medicine worked and Inflation Fever almost disappeared.

The patient, Body Politic, chose to go with Dr Reagan’s medicine because the other doctors said to do nothing and Body Politic was desperate. In 1981, Body Politic took a large dose of Tax Cut Medicine.

Rather than get better, however, Body Politic got much worse. By the following year, she was receptive to Dr Democrat’s suggestion that the Tax Cut Medicine be partially reversed by an antidote, Tax Increase Medicine. Dr Reagan agreed.

Almost instantly, Body Politic felt much, much better. Drs Laffer and Kemp said it was the delayed effect of the Tax Cut Medicine and said Body Politic would be feeling even better if she hadn’t mistakenly taken the antidote.

Dr Reagan disagreed and continued to give 10 more doses of the antidote for the next 6 years, experimenting with larger and smaller dosages. Drs Laffer and Kemp continued to insist that the patient’s improved condition resulted only from the original dose of Tax Cut Medicine, half of which was reversed by 1988.

In 1988, Dr Reagan retired and was replaced by Dr Bush 41. He agreed with Dr Democrat and prescribed more of the antidote in 1990. But he was forced to retire in 1992 and was replaced by a colleague of Dr Democrat, Dr Clinton. Dr Clinton prescribed a larger dose of Tax Increase Medicine in 1993. The patient reluctantly took the medicine against the strong advice of Drs Laffer and Kemp.

Lo and behold, the patient got well very quickly after taking Dr Clinton’s medicine. Indeed, for the next few years she felt better than she had felt in her life.

But in 2000, Body Politic thought she was cured and was again tempted to take Tax Cut Medicine, which was addictive. She turned to the son of Dr Bush 41, Dr Bush 43. He prescribed several large doses of Tax Cut Medicine over the next few years. But rather than get better, she felt worse than ever. By 2008, the good health she had in the 1990s was completely gone and she was again very sick.

Dr Obama took over in 2008 and said the medicine prescribed by Dr Bush 43 was no good, but Dr Obama was reluctant to tell Body Politic to stop taking the Tax Cut Medicine. In fact, Dr Obama prescribed more of it in 2009 and 2010. But he also prescribed some Fiscal Stimulus Medicine as well, which helped stabilize Body Politic’s condition.

Finally, in 2012, Dr Obama stopped the Tax Cut Medicine entirely and gave Body Politic a small dose of Tax Increase Medicine. Almost instantly, Body Politic felt much better, although not as well as in the 1990s. Some of Dr Obama’s colleagues thought he hadn’t given her a large enough dosage of Fiscal Stimulus Medicine, but it didn’t matter because there was none left. A few thought a larger dose of the Tax Increase Medicine might have helped, but Dr Obama went along with some of Dr Bush 43’s colleagues and prescribed doses of Fiscal Consolidation Medicine instead.

Although Body Politic was feeling better, she longed for that feeling of good health she had had in the 1990s. She went to Dr Hillary, who was the wife of Dr Clinton, but she had nothing to offer except to avoid the patent medicine being peddled by a quack doctor named Trump. “Dr” Trump advised that Body Politic take a number of medicines he had invented himself, including a super-charged version of Tax Cut Medicine that was much better than Dr Reagan’s, he said.

Feeling that she had a choice between doing nothing or taking a chance on “Dr” Trump’s medicine, she chose the Trump medicine. However, as the months went by she never got the Trump medicine. There was always some problem with getting it from the Congress Drugstore. But she continued to feel a bit better and her Unemployment Upset almost completely disappeared.

A friend of “Dr” Trump’s, Dr Brownback, tried the Trump cure on his patient, Ms Kansas, but she became much sicker and almost died. Eventually, his own colleagues reversed his prescription and administered instead a small dose of Tax Increase Medicine. The patient immediately recovered.

“Dr” Trump continues to insist that Body Politic is still very sick, even as he took credit for the improvement in her Unemployment Upset without having actually done anything. He prescribed a giant dosage of Tax Cut Medicine, which he assured her would restore perfect health. But, still, there was difficulty getting the medicine from Congress Drugstore.

Friends of Dr Clinton and Dr Hillary suggested that a smaller dosage of Tax Cut Medicine, which was better targeted to Body Politic’s remaining symptoms, was a better idea. None of Dr Clinton’s and Dr Hillary’s friends suggested the Tax Increase Medicine even though it worked very well in the past and with other patients living in Europe. “Dr” Trump insisted that Body Politic’s problems were in fact the result of a previous overdose of Tax Increase Medicine by Dr Obama.

This parable does not yet have an ending. “Dr” Trump hopes Congress Drugstore will quickly manufacture a big supply of Tax Cut Medicine and that it will make Body Politic feel so much better that she will renew her contract with the Republican HMO in 2018. However, the friends of Drs Clinton, Hillary and Obama, who run the Democratic HMO, hope that Body Politic will give them the contract instead.

The Democratic HMO has offered no new medicine for Body Politic’s ailments, but believes that the failure of Republican HMO to deliver on “Dr” Trump’s promises will be enough to convince Body Politic to switch HMOs when the contract comes up for renewal in November. Republican HMO believes that if Congress Drugstore simply delivers the medicine “Dr” Trump has promised then the contract will stay with them, even if it doesn’t work.

Dr Bartlett, who used to work for the Republican HMO but is now an independent company, and actually helped invent the Tax Cut Medicine, has said that there is a completely different type of cure that Body Politic should consider called Infrastructure Medicine. It is similar to the Fiscal Stimulus Medicine of Dr Obama, but much more powerful. He also thinks serious consideration should be given to a small dosage of Tax Increase Medicine as well. However, under no circumstances, Dr Bartlett believes, should Body Politic take any more Tax Cut Medicine. It might kill her and definitely won’t help.

The end.



Bruce Bartlett is author of the new best-seller, The Truth Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks. His case for replacing a tax cut with infrastructure spending appeared in the New York Daily News on November 2.

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