Giving Money to the States: The Mad Biologist Is Still the Punditiest Pundit EVAH!

A recent Washington Post op-ed that has been making the rounds asks:

Instead of more top-down stimulus with another emphasis on “shovel-ready” jobs or Washington pet projects, President Obama should appeal directly to the nation’s 50 governors by proposing a direct grant to each state to spend as it sees fit.

A state-directed recovery initiative would be the quickest, easiest way to reduce unemployment and get the economy moving again. Congress would simply distribute money to the states, based on population and with no strings attached. Each state could use these funds however it chooses, whether by cutting taxes on small business and families, or by investing in education or infrastructure. This is far simpler than the Obama administration’s proposed American Jobs Act — which, despite many attractive features, reads like a laundry list of federally inspired programs.

Leaving aside the twaddle about “federally inspired programs”, it’s a good idea. And one I proposed over four years ago:

What would help is if the $300-$1200 per household [of a proposed tax refund] were split between the muncipality and the state in which that household resides.

Most local and state governments are suffering from budget shortfalls due to property tax revenue decreases and lower sales tax revenues. Most also have outstanding deferred maintenance problems. If given the money, they will spend it–all of it.

As the op-ed notes, some of it will be spent stupidly, whether on bridges to nowhere or tax cuts for the wealthy (the latter basically do nothing to get more money into circulation). But some of the money will be spent–or at least used to offset further cuts.

Why this wasn’t obvious four years ago mystifies me, although I think many economists and other commentators just don’t give a shit about unemployment. More importantly, it’s tragic.

This stuff isn’t rocket science. Hell, it’s not even microbial genomics. Just find a way to spend the fucking money, I beg you.

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4 Responses to Giving Money to the States: The Mad Biologist Is Still the Punditiest Pundit EVAH!

  1. The bigger problem is that assholes like Rick Scott will turn down the money to score political points for the GOP. But at least we could help out the states whose governors aren’t complete morons.

  2. Sure it’s simple, but it won’t fly because too many of the people in power (ie, the GOP) regard this as a Moral Problem, and giving Hard-Earned Tax Money away to those Lazy Slackers who didn’t earn it properly is intrinsically a Bad Thing. This is simply an emotional position, since there is no actual basis in reality for it, but this actually makes it harder to fight. Faith cannot be challenged by Logic. The fact that this Dog-in-the-manger-ism hurts Republicans far more than it would help ‘them T-bone-buying Inner-city Bucks and their cadillac-driving Welfare Queens’ isn’t important. As long as you hurt your enemies, even if only imaginary ones, it’s OK to bring down the world around yourself. The GOP leaders are well-paid to make sure that the country will burn if it has to, in order to destroy their Hated Enemy. It’s what we humans do best.

  3. Kaleberg says:

    It’s a pretty inefficient approach. Any money going to the states is going to wind up in a few well connected pockets, private or corporate. It’s just too easy to turn it all into corporate tax cuts or grants to corporations. You want to get the money into the hands of the non-rich who are simply going to spend it. You either want to do a George McGovern and give each man, woman and child a flat $1000, because that will all get spent, or you want to make up a list of things to buy, road improvements, solar power plants, extra kindergarten hours and all the money will get spent that way.

    • I don’t disagree, but I would rather build some bridges to nowhere, than do nothing. I have no doubt Bobby Jindal will do something stupid, if not corrupt, with the money. Other states, though, will spend much of it in productive ways. Personally, I would rather take the ‘list’ approach too. But that’s not going to happen. Of course, nothing will happen until the election….

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