Supplanting Trickle-Down Economics

Topos’ new mental model for how the economy actually works, is providing advocates with the tool they need to win progressive economic policies.

While Americans reject the phrase “trickle-down economics,” our research shows the way they think about the flow of money in the economy has continued to reflect that supply-side model: People with money hire and invest, and that money eventually gets to the rest of us through wages. That mental model allows conservative, supply-side policies to continue to get traction.

Without a clear, alternative model, progressive advocates can easily sound anti-business, forcing a debate that boils down to “what workers need” vs. “what businesses need,” as though one side comes at the expense of the other in a zero-sum conflict.

To win, Topos research recommends simple, common sense ways to reverse perceptions about the flow of money and make the case for progressive economic policies. Instead of reinforcing the idea of workers and businesses at odds, we link the two what workers need IS what business needs, because when workers and families have enough, they spend their money, lifting up businesses and communities in the process. “Economy-boosting” jobs and policies are ones that give people more money to spend and greater economic security, that therefore boost Main Street, create jobs, and help our communities thrive.

This approach has been the foundation of winning minimum wage and job benefits campaigns:

“If we raise the minimum wage, we won’t just put more money in workers’ pockets; they’ll spend that money at local businesses, who in turn will hire more people. In the two years since I first asked Congress to raise the national minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. went and raised theirs. And more business owners are joining them on their own… Let’s give America a raise. It will make the economy stronger…. California adopted paid leave, which boosted work and earnings for moms with young kids. Let’s follow their lead. Let’s make our economy stronger.”

~President Obama, Northwestern University, October 2, 2014

“The economy is built from the bottom up, not the top down. Every job should be an economy boosting job… My business’ employees are another business’ customers. In the first decade of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law, low-wage consumers will have $3 billion more to spend.”

~Makini Howell, owner of Plum Restaurants and a leader with the Main Street Alliance, addresses Seattle’s landmark $15 Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Days laws at White House Summit on Working Families

“When the National Fund for Workforce Solutions started using the Topos Framing Research on economy boosting jobs we were amazed by how much it opened up our own thinking. Proof that we were on to something came when an employer who heard our presentation told us that they now see the value in creating these jobs and that they’d never thought about job quality that way before!​”​
~Janice Urbanik, National Fund for Workforce Solutions, Senior Director for Innovation and Strategy