Editor:

Ten years after a major drought, the farmer’s cattle herd was looking well. Nevertheless, he tried a plan to greatly increase their weight and number. Selecting out his fattest steers, he gave them not just their usual ration of feed, but also half the ration of the majority of the herd, who he sent to pasture to fend for themselves. His plan was that the fat cows would generate more manure, which would fertilize the field grass, upon whose growth all the herd would eventually feed.

The fat cows loved the farmer’s new plan. They generated more manure and the grass in their field grew dense and green. But when the farmer went to open the gates to let in the rest of the herd, the fat cows chased them out. The majority of the herd, weakened by the pillaging of their feed, could not work their way into the green grass. The farmer had counted on the fat cows to share, but they had other ideas.

Now, wasn’t it foolish of the farmer to assume his fat cows would surely share with the rest of the herd after they were treated as “special?” Instead, they acted like animals, just as they had always acted before.

Welcome to farmer Paul Ryan’s theory of fat cow economics. The House speaker is poised to enact into law the Federal Tax Code, his belief that the richest among us, given additional shares of the national wealth, will abandon their acquisitive ways and become charitable. The entire U.S. economic base is about to become a Republican experiment.

Given past behaviors of the one-percenters, there's no reason to expect positive economic results. But we can count on getting piles of manure.

James Reid, Cambridge

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