Hey, remember when Vermont was ranked third in the nation by Politico magazine as a place to live?
Well, here comes the flip side, courtesy of none other than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), that overflowing cascade of Kochian “economic liberty” bushwa. It ranks Vermont #49 in “economic outlook,” which is a very interesting way to put it. Because what they are ranking is not actual, tangible economic health — it’s how the state is poised for intangible future prosperity. And it is measured in terms of taxation and regulation.
But wait, it gets better. The lead author of the ALEC report is none other than Arthur Laffer. Yep, the guy behind the Laffer Curve, the absolutely unproven bit of dogma that claims you’ll create more revenue by cutting taxes, because the tax cuts will stimulate a cornucopia of prosperity.
Well, not only is it absolutely unproven; when it’s been tried in the real world, the results have been dismal. The Laffer Curve isn’t a coherent, evidence-based economic practice; it’s the money shot in a right-wing porn flick.
In case you think I’m overstating my case, let’s look at a state deemed praiseworthy by ALEC.
Yes, Kansas, the state led into ruin by Governor Sam Brownback, a Laffer dogmatist of the highest order. He imposed massive tax cuts upon taking office, and the results have been catastrophic. Huge losses in revenue leading to huge cuts in services.
And the promised boom? Nowhere to be found. The Kansas economy is lagging behind the nation and, more tellingly, behind neighboring midwestern states. At the beginning of last year, What’s worse, a longer-term statistical comparison shows that Kansas was doing just fine until Brownback took over; that’s when the state’s economy began to lag. It’s gotten so bad, that Brownback’s own Council of Economic Advisors has stopped publishing its quarterly report because the findings were so grim.
One more thing: in his 2014 re-election campaign, Brownback set himself an ambitious goal of 25,000 new jobs each year throughout his second term. Because thanks to his first term, Kansas was poised for a boom.
Well, now we’ve lived through the first year of Brownback’s promised boom times. How’d he do in 2015? Not so good:
Overall, Kansas gained a total of only 6,900 jobs from December 2014 to December 2015.
That’s a puny growth rate of .5 percent, year over year.
So how did Kansas fare compared with the U.S. job growth rate over the same period?
Not well: U.S. employment expanded by 1.9 percent from December 2014 to December 2015 — almost four times faster than in Kansas.
Still, ALEC heaps praise upon Brownback, arguing that Kansas is “primed for strong growth.” No matter that it shows no sign of happening — it’s just around the corner. Just have faith and keep on slogging into the wilderness; soon we will reach the legendary Golden City.
Because that’s the ALEC “economic outlook.” It’s not a measure of strong fundamentals and real progress; it’s a faith-based exercise in wishful thinking. Its only critique of Brownback is that he hasn’t cut spending enough, or done enough to kill local schools by capping property taxes.
See, we’ll reach the Golden City sooner if you-all stop complaining and pick up the pace.
And let’s not presume that our own Phil Scott-led Vermont Republicans are a different breed. They constantly tout ALEC’s ranking of Vermont, which is an implicit endorsement of ALEC’s worldview.
Also, when Donald Trump was about to descend upon Vermont, party leaders took pains to distance themselves from the Carnival-Barker-in-Chief. In the process, they expressed their faith in the voters and the primary process to produce a better nominee from “our very diverse group of candidates,” in the words of party Executive Director Jeff Bartley.
But if you look at that “very diverse group” in terms of economic policy, you see nothing but the ALEC playbook. All the candidates are touting tax cut plans that would make George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan blush.
How bad are they? Well, The Economist, that paragon of free-market thinking, labeled the candidates’ tax plans, as a group, “exorbitant” and “hugely expensive.” The tax-cut plan of alleged moderate Jeb Bush “would cost $6.8 trillion, or 2.6% of GDP, over a decade,” and give the highest-earning 1% “a 12% increase in after-tax income.”
The Economist’s lead editorial on the Republicans’ tax-cut plans was entitled “Be Serious.”
That’s how the magazine views this “very diverse group” of candidates that makes Jeff Bartley proud to be a Republican.
The Republican Party, as a whole, is in thrall to the Lafferian doctrine of ALEC, an unproven “theory” designed to fit on a bumpersticker. It’s no way to run a government, as proven by Sam Brownback; and it’s no way to measure the “economic outlook” of a state.