The Long Cons

« June 2015 »

Memo to the Trickle-Down Twins: YOU ARE DUMB.

A funny thing happened in Kansas and Louisiana. They elected Republican governors and Republican legislators deeply committed to the Grover Norquist school of economic policy, which is if you cut taxes enough, revenue drops enough that you can eliminate programs you don't like in the name of fiscal responsibility.

And they sell that scheme via old-school Reagan-era "trickle down" economics, which says that when you cut taxes for the rich, they hire the poor, causing the tax cut money to "trickle down" through the economy, boosting tax revenues enough to more than make up for the lower tax rates. This, of course, is bullshit. There is some question over whether or not Kansas' Sam Brownback and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal -know- it's bullshit or not, though.

Back in the day, trickle-down was scam disguised as dogma. We show people the Laffer Curve, we tell them it'll work, and when it doesn't, we'll blame... well, usually black people. Nowadays, the old dogma scams are frequently held as actual dogma, so who knows. What we do know is that it doesn't work, because Louisiana and Kansas (and Wisconsin and Illinois and... but who's counting?) are facing deficits so huge that cutting spending to close their holes would actually affect average voters and make them notice that the government was doing something useful for them.

But they can't raise taxes, because they pinky-sweared to Grover Norquist that they totally wouldn't, no matter what, and that pledge is super-important because Grover Norquist has the ear of a lot of rich people who bought a lot of politicians on the grounds that they'd barely have to pay any taxes, and you don't piss off your constituents. Not your real constituents.

So, if they raise taxes, they're fucked, and if they don't raise taxes, they're fucked. The solution? Raise taxes and say you're not and get everyone to go along with it! Why leave economics out of the list of sciences Republicans can wish into the cornfield?

Louisiana's new half-billion dollars in revenue is, as far as I can tell, generated from eliminating tax credits that people actually use, and offset by new tax credits that nobody will actually use. Phantom offsets. I think. It's very, very complicated, and it's all predicated on the modern Republican ethos that the government needs money, and if you don't know where it's coming from, maybe you won't realize it's coming from you? Grover Norquist has signed off on this plan, of course, because Grover Norquist is running a long con, not a short one.

In Kansas, Sam Brownback is just going to raise taxes. He's going to raise sales taxes, of course, because sales taxes are about the most regressive taxes you can raise, but he's raising taxes. Oh, and the cigarette tax is going up, again, for much the same reason. Brownback is eschewing Jindal's complicated schemes, and resorting to something much simpler. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

“Some would have you believe this bill represents a tax increase and that is not accurate. When looked at in totality, from 2012 to 2015, as I said at the outset, Kansans are paying less in taxes and continuing to move off income taxes to consumption-based taxes.”

Sam Brownback isn't raising taxes. He's using his powers of 20-20 hindsight to retroactively lower them less than he did three years ago. Also, "moving to consumption-based taxes" is dog-whistle code for "we're only raising the taxes on the filthy commoners so don't get mad at me".

It's a shell game. A grift. A con. And people keep falling for it, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. And the worst part is, this trickle-down bullshit is just stage one of the grift. Stage two is the "flat tax", which has somehow not succeeded despite a level of national innumeracy that allows state lotteries to thrive. But it's a year before an election year, so expect to hear a lot of people trying to trick you into a flat tax being fair for the next 18 months.