In the 1970s, conservative economists and intellectuals led by Milton Friedman started to promote the idea that public investment was the root of our economic problems at the time, and that we should give the money back to rich people and let them decide what to do with it. Friedman also advanced the notion that corporations have no responsibility to their communities or workers, only their shareholders.
What has resulted has been the most grotesque transfer of wealth in the history of the country, with far more money involved now than there had been even in the Gilded Age. Right-wing economic policy has confiscated trillions out of the bank accounts of middle- and working-class people…
As conservatives have persuaded Republicans—and, alas, a good chunk of the American people—that they needed tax cut after tax cut since government couldn’t do anything good with their money, liberals said no, there’s a price that we pay for all these tax cuts, and that price is lack of public investment. People wonder why the state university keeps jacking up their kids’ tuition? In no small part, it’s because state governments keep slashing their levels of support for higher education. Those levels ticked up last year a bit, but they’d been falling since—guess when?—the early 1980s, when supply-side took over.
These are things conservatives demanded and won: supply-side economics, tax cuts, stagnant wages, assaults on trade unionism, free trade, disinvestment, tuition increases—that have hollowed out our communities. Liberals were against every one of them—and put forward proposals to fight them.