If you've been pounding nails with your forehead for years, it may feel strange the first time somebody hands you a hammer. But that doesn't mean that you should strap the hammer to a headband just to give your skull that old familiar jolt.
How to Tank a State Economy
Senator LeFavour (D-reality based Idaho) has given me permission to re-post her most excellent commentary regarding Idaho Republican efforts to mimic Herbert Hoover's disastrous policies which hastened America's spiral into the Great Depression.
Many Idahoans wonder when their state will begin to feel the national economic recovery. They worry as January's Idaho jobless numbers showed the state's economic crisis deepening rather than improving. Yet today the state faces a third year of dire fiscal crisis with budget cuts now exceeding half a billion. Below are real strategies that Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction and / or members of the Idaho Legislature is currently contemplating, has proposed or has actually legislated during the 2010 and 2011 sessions.
How to Tank a State Economy: Easy Steps for Lawmakers.
1. DESTROY JOBS
A. Lay off as many state employees as possible
• Tom Luna's proposal to eliminate 770 teaching jobs is particularly effective since these are people with benefits that hundreds of families rely on. Losing health insurance effectively makes these families more economically fragile.
• The thousands of "vacant positions" in state government guarantees increases in unemployment and reductions in consumer spending in every sector of the economy. This helps weaken struggling restaurants, shops and producers of consumer goods who rely on local spending.
B. Reduce wages
• Any legislation which offers economic incentives to school districts to lay off more experienced teachers in a budget crunch is highly effective at reducing wages and the quality of education and can half the annual salaries going to 20% of teaching families in any given community in a single budget year. This pulls hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars from local economies, small businesses and consumer spending.
• Low levels of educational attainment, high drop out rates and high cost education all decrease the wage earning, consumer spending and tax paying potential of a state's residents.
• Furloughs while less effective at harming an economy in the short term, when carried out over multiple years can ensure that family savings dwindle, can reduce discretionary spending and may produce out migration and loss of population which is one of the most effective ways to ensure economic decline. The cost of retraining workers who leave government jobs is very effective at increasing net costs to government and accomplishing goal 3 below.
• Eliminate Unions or anything that resembles an organization that would help raise wages, monitor working conditions and the quality or its members work.
C. Be sure that businesses doing contract work for the state go bankrupt
• Using a strategy that claims a state budget is balanced but which relies on not paying bills owed to private businesses is effective politically and in terms of creating an unstable environment for businesses that have agreed to contracts with the state.
• Lowering reimbursement rates not just for a single year but for multiple years to economically squeeze mental health, medical, residential and out patient care providers is an additional effective strategy.
• Long term freezes in state purchasing and construction are ideal strategies for reducing economic activity and driving many segments of the economy into decline.
D. Repel Businesses Seeking to Move into Your State
• Be sure your public schools rank last in the nation for per pupil spending, class size and adequacy of school facilities, course offerings, text books, lab supplies and equipment and materials essential to teaching.
• Create an environment of political extremism to clearly establish that the majority of those who might choose to re-locate businesses or families into the state would feel unwelcome or unrepresented.
• Ensure that premiums charged by insurance carriers are unregulated and that affordable health coverage for small business is unavailable.
• Underfund your regulatory agencies so that getting permits and compliance assistance with basic health, safety and water quality standards takes a long, long time.
• Provide no anti-discrimination job protections for gay people. Technology companies are full of gay employees. Even if a company provides its own job protections, a state needs to project a hostile enough atmosphere to guarantee that other family members seeking jobs or educational opportunities will face discrimination in employment, housing and education in any given town across the state. Companies avoid states like these and high wage workers or business owners will often leave such states in search of safer places to live and do business.
• Ensure state leaders talk as much as possible about large predatory animals decimating wildlife populations and killing domestic animals.
• Even if you can not pass such a law, at least claim you will enact Arizona-style immigration policies so that employees and business owners with darker skin or names like Martinez or Perez will fear eminent racial profiling, detainment or arrest. The out migration of skilled agricultural labor, small business owners and families will assist in achieving objective 1C above.
2. Increase Costs to Families
A. Force Families into Crisis
• Increase class sizes so struggling students fail to get help and those facing depression and suicide are less likely to interact with a teacher who has the time to notice their struggles.
• Reduce access to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment. Long treatment waiting lists are helpful but eliminating the waiting lists and just failing to provide treatment is also effective and creating crises.
• Reduce services and in-home supports for seniors and people with disabilities. Independence is less costly than dependence. Children without adequate therapeutic interventions will be far more costly to families and state taxpayers.
• Fail to fund or develop a network of low cost health clinics. The fewer options families have, the more likely they are to fail to access preventative care and fall into costly medical crisis and personal bankruptcy.
• Stop funding water quality monitoring, refuse to extensively regulate day care facilities and provide as few counseling services as possible in local schools to ensure an adequate supply of physical and mental health crises statewide.
• Ensure that parole officers and health and welfare case workers carry case loads far exceeding national standards so that minimal supervision and assistance is provided to Idaho individuals and families. The added stress on the case workers themselves can create additional pressures to achieve this goal.
B. Make Education More Expensive
• Eliminate public Kindergarten. Make sure your state's children start out behind the rest of the nation.
• Fail to provide text books, paper, pencils, field trips, lab supplies, transportation and other basic materials in public schools.
• Force parents to pay fees before their children can attend certain public school classes or participate in sports, arts, field trips or other enrichment opportunities. Ensuring poorer children never participate is helpful in ensuring a state continues to have a high poverty rate, a high rate of need for public services, a greater level of of need for crisis medical care and higher need for tax increases.
• Increase class sizes to increase failure rates, decrease social and emotional support for students and increase alienation and drop out rates in upper grades. The cost to families of addressing remediation, tutoring and juvenile corrections court costs and incarceration can effectively weaken the economic stability of tens of thousands of families.
• Require public schools students take on-line classes in order to graduate. Decreased teacher interaction and the lack of support for those who struggle can be highly effective at wasting years of college tuition as students fail classes or need extensive remedial coursework. The impact on families of students with disabilities can be impressive as those with certain learning styles have higher failure rates and are more likely to fall into cycles of dependence later in life should support in these early years be inadequate.
• Fail to fund higher education so that college tuition and fees continue to increase. Making a college degree too expensive for most college graduates also helps achieve goal 1B above.
C. Remain Dependent on Fossil Fuels
• Deny local communities the ability to fund public transportation. In urban areas this guarantees tax dollars are sucked rapidly into perpetual freeway widening projects which produce few jobs but expend state revenues on raw materials. A lack of public transportation also directly increases costs to families who struggle with with car maintenance or gas prices or for those commuters who waste time in traffic during their commute.
• Make sure not to create state level car fuel efficiency standards or electric utility renewable portfolio standards. Being vulnerable to high oil prices or out of state coal generated electricity ensures that business and residential consumers pay high prices and remain vulnerable to world political strife.
D. Increase User Fees for Everything
• After all these are not taxes. Increasing costs to families and businesses through fees works just as well to fund the costly crisis care that is sure to follow a lack of adequate tax payer funded preventative care services.
• Get creative. Fees on prisoners or parents of those in the Juvenile Justice system work really at creating additional stressors for families already in crisis. Asking the general population to help fund government by paying taxes will only give those leaving prisons a chance at economic stability and ruin an opportunity to push them into a lifetime of crime and costly incarceration.
• Ensuring failure of your public school system can help bring on privatization and a stratification of the quality of educational opportunity available to families of differing incomes. User fees in education are not a new concept. They are a bridge to stratification and ensure that some kids will not be able to reach the same levels of academic attainment that the more wealthy do. This perpetuates poverty and assists in achieving goals 1B and 2A above.
3. Keep State Government in Perpetual Fiscal Crisis
A. Turn away federal matching funds or any form of money paid to the federal government by taxpayers in your state.
• Cut medicaid and with each $3 million reduction in state spending, presto $7 million in federal dollars will also be lost.
• Violate federal laws so that your state faces sanctions. Refusing to enact federal health care reform for example may well result in the state losing all federal funds for medicaid --meaning a loss to health providers, businesses and families of nearly a billion in federal dollars.
B. No matter how well the national economy is recovering, predict doom for your own state.
• Keep revenue projections artificially low so you can cut government services across the board again and again.
• Call any revenues over the low projections a "surplus" and use those to fund tax breaks for large corporations and the most wealthy. (Do not restore funding for jobs, purchasing, construction or to fund schools, classrooms, mental health treatment, substance abuse prevention or disability services.)
C. Create Political Strife.
• Make sure the super majority of your Republican party fights with itself so any moderates who happen to be re-elected in any given year will be forced to live in fear of actually voting as moderates and thus will ensure the perpetuation of your disaster.
D. No Matter How Much Things Fall Apart, Don't Raise Taxes.
• Don't think about what Jesus would do. Not raising taxes ensures that all of the above policies seem like necessary if not critical budget cutting measures.
• Raising taxes might ease the conscience in the short term as the morale of state workers improves; schools again begin to meet the needs of more fragile students; seniors, the poor and those with disabilities stop losing their homes, entering institutions and dying of preventable disease or untreated mental and physical aliments. But, in fact, raising taxes creates an expectation within a state population that government can do positive things.
• And we all know that's silly.
4. Reduce The State's Population
A. Nothing says economic disaster like death and out migration.