A Student's Reading of The Politics of Rich and Poor


Often times, a political analyst/scientist will write a book on the
politics and economics of the time. This writer may also create a work which
emanates views contrary to the opinion of the governing body. Rarely, however,
does one find an analyst who will clearly undermine his own political party by,
in effect, saying, "I told you so." Kevin Phillips, editor-publisher of The
American Political Report, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and chief
political analyst for the 1968 Republican presidential campaign, describes in
his book, The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in
the Regan Aftermath, the consequences of the decisions made by the United
States government while under the presidency of Republican Ronald Regan.
Phillips' theme of the widening gap between the upper twenty percent of the
population, in respect to annual income in actual dollars, with the lower
twenty percent of the population coincides with the belief of the typical
American avarice, during the eighties, leading the country on a rollercoaster
ride of economic instability and shaky ground. These ideas remain constant and
prevalant throughout the seven chapters. His views, though somewhat repetitive
in the text, strike the reader with astonishment, especially when considering
Phillips' Republican party affiliation.
With his thesis in mind, Phillips discusses three major factors that
escalate and at the same time submerge the state of the economy in America.
These factors include: the sudden shift in tax rates, the diminishing "global
wealth" of America, and the inability of the government under Regan to satisfy
a "happy medium" for economic growth. All of these factors support Phillips'
theme and prove his argument of an up and down cycle of economic stability.
From 1921 to 1925 the top one percent of the population's tax rate was
gradually decreased from the marginally high rate of seventy-three percent all
the way to just twenty-five percent. Over four years this elite group of
Americans received a forty-eight percent reduction in taxes. This decrease
opened the door for the super-rich Americans to capitalize and increase their
current wealth.
As the taxes decreased for this group of the population, others also
benefited. A surge in real estate investments occured, the stock market values
rose dramatically, and new technology such as radios and automobiles were
surfacing every day. This bull economy lasted only a few short years. By 1929,
the situation was reversed entirely. The economy crashed with unequaled
consequences. The rich citizens who were living "the good life" four years ago
were now stuck with paying seventy-three percent of the entire population's
taxes. The stock market was on the down side, to say the least, the real
estate and technological markets were also paralell to the stocks. The
solution from the new democrats was to bring the economy back by forcing the
affluent to carry the burden. The highest tax rate eventually reached ninety-
one percent. After about twenty-five years, the economy was finally stable
enough to lower this absurd rate. In the mid seventies, the rates were
gradually lowered to a mediocre seventy percent. Starting in 1980 the
republican machine decided to again lower the rates, thereby lessening the gap
between rich and poor. What actually happened was the high income brackets had
more of a decrease than anyone. The rates at one point reached a low fifty
percent. This cut, once again opened the door for the elite to become super-
elite. The cycle had surfaced again. Just like in the early 1920s, the rich
were gradually getting richer at the expense of everyone. The technology
markets boomed once again, real estate sales increased dramatically, and the
stock market rose by leaps and bounds. It seemed like just what the economy
needed. Regan's reelection thrived on the fact that the entire country was
caught up in a whirlwind of the seemingly perfect economy. The cycle continued
just like economists predicted; the perfect economy suddenly had a recession to
deal with.
Another one of Phillips' reasons for the downfall of the United States'
economy after Ronald Regan is the diminishing "global wealth" of the country.
The stock market crash of 1987 opened Regan's eyes to the fact that his efforts
to heal the economic woes of America were failing. The huge amounts of money
borrowed to fund the tax cuts of the early eighties were borrowed at high
interst rates. The republican party decided to raise the United States
interest rates to a high level in order to fight inflation on the borrowed money.
This