Two major intellectuals on the left are insisting we have to raise taxes during a recession. They would also insist we have to raise taxes during a boom, of course. Yet conservatives who have a low-tax approach for everything are always derided as inflexible ideologues. Go figure! Andrew Sullivan is one such hiker; he also wanted to jack up gas taxes a few years ago, utterly ignorant of the effect it would have on the economy. (People who live in big cities and take the subway everywhere often believe that goods are delivered to the city by giant ninja storks, at night.) Now Krugman takes to the pages of the New York Times to warn us that the lights are going out all over America, roads are being dismantled, public education is being underfunded so our kids won’t be learninating anymore, and it’s all because we don’t tax more. Specifically, THE RICH:
But isn’t keeping taxes for the affluent low also a form of stimulus? Not so you’d notice. When we save a schoolteacher’s job, that unambiguously aids employment; when we give millionaires more money instead, there’s a good chance that most of that money will just sit idle.
“Good chance” is a way of saying “I have no idea.” “Give Millionaires more money” is a way of saying “not taking it away from them in the first place.” (The assumption seems to be that government has a claim to 100% of your property, and when less is taken away this year than the previous year, this is a “gift.” “Millionaires” is a way of saying “anyone who makes more than “$250,000.”
Matt Welch at Reason makes a fine point about the Times piece Krugman uses as his source:
I mean, sure, we learn that Colorado Springs “shut off a third of its 24,512 streetlights this winter to save $1.2 million on electricity,” and cut its police force from 687 to 643, but aside from that down-to-the-last-digit specificity we learn nothing about the city’s (or even its police force’s) budget, and how it compares to one, two, five, or 10 years ago. We read on three separate occasions that the state of Hawaii closed school down for 17 Fridays, but the only clue we have about either the state’s or the education department’s budget is the aforementioned $110 million in stimulus money.
In other words: the Times neglected to put these numbers in context, which might be useful for readers keen to know if they’re down to Ramen and Kool-Aid at the state cafeteria. When you don’t supply context, someone might wonder why. Perhaps they feared that the innumerate wingnuts would just assume the entire budget consisted of waste and pork, and this would further embolden their support for dangerous, light-snuffing acts like this.
By the way: our lights have been going out around here for years. The bulbs regularly tick off at certain intervals, either because they’re hot, or timed to go out to save money while still providing illumination. You can’t get around my part of town with ease for the number of roads being ripped up and repaved. As for school, they’ve decided to start at the end of August, before Labor Day, which is wrong and cruel – and school goes into June, where the kids spend the last week watching movies and playing kickball.
But that’s anecdotal, and hence useless. On a macro scale, everything’s doomed. But how did this happen?
It’s the logical consequence of three decades of antigovernment rhetoric, rhetoric that has convinced many voters that a dollar collected in taxes is always a dollar wasted, that the public sector can’t do anything right.
Uh huh. “Always a dollar wasted.” Meaning, “sometimes, if it’s not addressing core needs of citizens, and isn’t being spent on building green roofs for City Hall to stop global warming.” Of course the public sector can do some things right. It’s when they do things they don’t have to do at all that some folks get a mite tetchy. Put another way: any town that has the money to send a bureaucrat around to shut down a kid’s lemonade stand because she doesn’t have the proper permit has at least one too many employees.
By the way: does Krugman believe that the money collected from the rich would actually go to turning on streetlights? Of course not, unless the Federal government has taken over that as well. He might think the government would give grants to cities to turn on the lights, but he knows the Fed would find a way to spend the money in their own special way for something we need terribly. So the municipalities would have to raise taxes, too. This would be fine, because it would be a defeat for “Antigovernment rhetoric.”
Krugman also writes:
We’re told that we have no choice, that basic government functions — essential services that have been provided for generations — are no longer affordable.
If that’s the standard – essential services that have been provided for generations – then you have to assume that what we’re doing now is the same we did 130 years ago. I suspect the concept of “basic government functions” have expanded somewhat since 1880. Just a thought. Of course, back then only big bad robber barons lived in mansions; things change. A reminder of Krugman’s personal pad: here
He can live in a house like that while others are losing their modest shacks? Of course he can; he’s earned it, and it’s not his job to give people housing money. It is the government’s job to take money from others, and his job to cheerlead the efforts.
Odd how the jobs that require you to advocate taking more money from strangers seem to pay more than the ones where you argue for taking less.Login to Listen
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