That means, as Eric Beinhocker argues in this symposium, that middle-out economics is a truer form of capitalism: more competitive and dynamic by being fairer, and fairer by allowing more true competition. Trickle-down economics, properly understood, is socialism for a select group of capitalists. Middle-out economics isn't an attack on capitalism; it is simply a more effective form of capitalism than the faux free-market ideology we currently embrace. Perhaps this is why a growing number of thinkers on the right are also coming to see the wisdom of this approach.
To be clear, this is not an argument to be joined and resolved over the coming weeks or months. We have 30 years of terrible policy to undo, and only by reframing the public's understanding of the true source of shared prosperity in a capitalist economy can we do this. It will take patience and persistence--and a strategic sensibility.
How to Make Middle-Out Economics a Reality
For progressives to transform middle-out economics from an idea into a reality, we urge five approaches.
First, relentlessly frame the choice as a choice. It's trickle-down and middle-out economics. Not "top-down." Not "the old ways that got us into this mess." Trickle-down vs. middle-out. If we don't have the courage to name our alternative, and repeat it relentlessly, we haven't given people a clear choice. We will never displace trickle-down ideas if we don't provide a clear, concise, and compelling alternative. Neither term has inherent force; it's only in the contrast that we win.
Second, propagate the one pivotal meme at the heart of this entire effort: that rich businesspeople don't create jobs; middle-class customers do. To put it another way, the right's claim that rich businesspeople are job creators is the critical vulnerability deep in the heart of the Death Star; if we can target our ammunition to obliterate that single claim, the entire Death Star of right-wing ideology will implode and disintegrate. Why? Because without that claim, there is no way for the trickle-down camp to justify the absurd preferential treatment in the tax code and the regulatory regime for the rich and for large corporations. Without that claim, trickle-down economics reduces nakedly to a rent-seeking, self-serving agenda by the very rich to extract wealth from the poor and middle class. In short, we need to pick a fight with the right about the origins of prosperity in a capitalist society. Middle-out economics will prevail.
Third, make every economic issue an example of middle-out economics. The Ryan budget fails not because it is unfair or heartless or draconian. It fails because it perpetuates trickle-down thinking and cripples the ability of the middle class to generate national prosperity. Entitlement reform is not about the virtue or vice of running deficits. It is about whether we create enough security for middle-class consumers and workers to participate in the economy. The Affordable Care Act is not about the byzantine bureaucracy of health-care delivery. It's about whether the middle class can dedicate its purchasing power to productive economic activity instead. And so on with sequestration, fiscal stimulus, and tax reform.