Ducey’s “incremental” pursuit of Brownback’s policy is still a load of hooey

29 Dec 2014 07:00 am
Posted by: Donna

Kimber Lanning, founder and executive director of Local First Arizona, delivered a fairly thorough smackdown to Robert Robb’s AZ Republic column whining that the Buy Local movement is a bunch of hooey.

Republic columnist Robert Robb is tired of hearing about the “buy local” movement and would like Arizonans to turn a blind eye to the economy and simply shop wherever they feel most satisfied. (“Shop where you want, guilt-free,” Dec. 19)

He claims the local movement is “hooey,” yet unabashedly has no statistics to back this. He just wants you, dear citizens, to throw the concept out the window.

In his article, Robb questions the countless economic studies released since 2002 but does not offer any substantive reasons for the questioning. Instead of following Robb’s simplistic calculations, let’s turn to the professional economists who back these studies, which have all concluded that an average of $30 more out of every $100 spent will stay in the local economy when money is spent with a local company versus a non-local corporate entity.

A Civic Economics study from 2007 showed the state of Arizona’s then-$5 million contract with OfficeMax was causing the state to lose $500,000 per year in economic leakage.

Definitely read the whole op-ed, since Lanning makes a solid case, bolstered with plenty of stats, for choosing local merchants over national chains whenever possible. I especially appreciated her calling out Robb for tossing out a context-free bit of frippery – “economies of scale” – to make himself look so very chin-stroking and serious.

Economies of scale only work in a free-market society, which we are not. Our food is subsidized — consider 80 percent of all farm-bill dollars since 1995 went to the largest 10 percent of America’s farms for commodity crops, which is why processed fast food is so cheap.

Our oil is subsidized, our biggest banks are subsidized, and even chain stores are subsidized — all using taxpayer money. To believe in free markets in the U.S. today is like believing in the tooth fairy. Americans actually have forgotten how the economy works and have no tools to measure the true costs — human, social or environmental — of doing business. To suggest that we shouldn’t care about these costs is shortsighted and reckless.

Boom. If anyone is spewing hooey, it is certainly not the Local First people.

Lanning’s piece put me in mind of this recent Politico one about certain Republican governors and their fraught association with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

“It’s a major turnaround from two years ago, when Brownback was considered a Republican trailblazer for conservatives around the nation who dreamed of phasing out their state income tax.

Now, Republicans are rethinking how aggressive they can be on taxes in light of the projected $279 million revenue gap that’s plaguing Kansas this year — shortfalls that resulted in the state’s credit rating being downgraded and nearly booted the Republican from office in a state that bleeds red.

Of course, Republicans aren’t ditching supply-side economic theory or tax cuts. But they’re considering ways to avoid Kansas’ troubles. Their takeaways include smaller cuts over extended periods of time, stopgaps to protect revenues — and avoiding overpromising.

It’s making for an odd dynamic in which some Republicans now proudly say their tax plans will be “incremental” or “evolutionary” instead of “revolutionary.”

Of course they’re not going to ditch their beloved religion, any more than Bob Robb is going to stop worshiping Walmart (or supply-side economics, since he loves that too). What they are going to do is continue to press for their favored policies in such a way that the older white people whose votes they need won’t notice them too much. They’ll do it incrementally, and with lots of dazzling and smart-sounding bullshit like “economies of scale”.

An Arizona Republican close to GOP Gov.-elect Doug Ducey, who wants to make serious changes to the state’s Tax Code, said they’ll communicate more realistically than Brownback: Though they think tax cuts grow the economy, “we have never said decreasing taxes would increase state revenue.”

That’s a neat formulation that ignores the middle part that the supply siders have touted for decades – that tax cuts lead to wondrous growth, which in turn leads to increased state revenues – which has not actually happened. (The whole thing is a farce since, if tax increases really led to decreased government revenue, then wouldn’t Grover Norquist et al be demanding non-stop tax increases so as to hasten the day of the glorious drowning of the government in the bathtub? Hmm?)

That which will propel Doug Ducey’s administration toward their incremental pursuit of Sam Brownback’s temporarily thwarted utopia will undoubtedly include notions of “job creators” and “personal responsibility” and “accountability”, plus some really fancy-seeming things like “Laffer’s Curve” (it’s like Robb’s “economies of scale”, except it has some guy’s name on it. Fancier!). Arizona conservatives have a lot of chin stroking and seriousness to catch up on, now that Governor 17 Seconds is leaving. None of which, I promise you, will be anything but hooey. None of them bothering to show their work.

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