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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

 
Human sacrifice economics

by digby

Following up on Tom Sullivan's fascinating post below, I also note that Sam Brownback's having to deal with with the mess he's made:
Fresh off a re-election bid that he nearly lost because of the disastrous impact of his massive income tax cuts, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback now says he regrets his triumphant prediction that the tax cuts would be a “shot of adrenaline” to the state’s economy.

“I probably would have chosen words better at different times, because you go through a campaign where you’ve got to eat the words you inartfully said,” Brownback told the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Besides his “shot of adrenaline” sound bite, Brownback also regrets calling the tax cuts an “experiment.”

“The objective was the same — to get growth happening where we hadn’t had growth in 35 years as a state — and we’d gone from six congressional districts headed down to four headed to three if we don’t change these trajectories,” he said.

Brownback’s post-campaign contrition comes as dire new figures will force the governor to make some painful budgetary choices. In order to close a projected $280 million revenue shortfall by a June deadline, Brownback has reduced state contributions to Kansas’ pension fund — already one of the worst-funded in the nation — and cut highway funding. In an ironic twist, the vociferously anti-health reform governor is also relying on Obamacare to help fill the state’s budget gap; Brownback is transferring $55 million in revenue from a Medicaid drug rebate program expanded in the Affordable Care Act into the state’s general fund.

But those measures won’t suffice to make up Kansas’ budget shortfall, and with education and health services already cut virtually to the bone, Brownback may have no choice but to rethink his tax cuts.
Unfortunately, they voted him back into office knowing full well that he was an overwhelming failure.

It's probably true that the economy will improve a bit soon, barring some new calamity. And when that happens, his "experiment" will wrongly get the credit. All the suffering, the long term degradation of services for the needy, the ongoing economic insecurity will be lost in the celebration of improving numbers that are happening in spite of Brownback's nihilistic philosophy rather than because of it.

This is the essence of our problem and goes right back to that famous quote by John Maynard Keynes. He was responding to the assurance by economists that in the long run everything would work out:
But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task, if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us, that when the storm is long past, the ocean is flat again.
In a capitalist system, it's the upheavals and dislocation in the short run ("the tempestuous seasons") that destroy lives and consigns some people to great poverty even as it rewards others with great wealth. The result is often an unstable society and tremendous pain for many people. Keynesians believe the role of government is to try to even things out, prevent and mitigate undue suffering for humans as the system goes through its destructive cycles.

I like Tom's kudzu metaphor for capitalism. I think that captures it nicely. Conservatives like Brownback, on the other hand, see capitalism as a sort of sacred, supernatural force and believe that their angry market God requires human sacrifice in order to be appeased. When the suffering abates, as it does eventually, they will feel sanctified emerge with their beliefs in suffering (for others) as a purification ritual intact. "See, I told you it would work!"

I think we need to find a way to deal with that cycle of credit and blame before we will ever be able to deal with the larger cycles of capitalism in any rational way. Somebody's got to inform the human sacrifices that these high priests of capitalism are charlatans.



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