Monday, March 9, 2015

First Starve the Beast, Then Starve Education and Social Services

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2015 at 3:00 PM

It's a longstanding policy of the Republican party. First starve the beast, as they refer to the government, by cutting taxes, especially for corporations and the rich. Then cry poor when it comes time to fund government services. That's exactly what's happening in Arizona and in Republican-led states around the country.

Ducey explained his draconian budget cuts by saying the state budget is broken, so everyone needs "to tighten their belt and to live within their means." His statement about the state budget being broken skips over an essential fact. His Republican cronies broke the budget, on purpose. They've spent years cutting tax revenues to get us to this point, and they plan to continue on their budget-breaking ways by going ahead with a yet another round of corporate tax cuts instead of postponing them. Don't believe those stern, serious-parent looks on their faces when they tell us they have no choice. These folks are whistling while they work on whittling down the budgets for K-12 schools, colleges, universities and social services that benefit the poor and middle class but are of little use to the wealthy Republican backers.

This isn't a new idea. It's been standard Republican operating procedure for decades. Alan Greenspan talked about it back in 1978.
"Let us remember that the basic purpose of any tax cut program in today’s environment is to reduce the momentum of expenditure growth by restraining the amount of revenues available and trust that there is a political limit to deficit spending."
He was talking about federal spending at the time. That hasn't worked out as well as he hoped, since the Feds can run deficits. But at the state level where lawmakers have to balance the budget, cutting back on revenues guarantees cutting back on services.

Reagan spoke about the idea in 1981.
"Over the past decades we’ve talked of curtailing government spending so that we can then lower the tax burden. Sometimes we’ve even taken a run at doing that. But there were always those who told us that taxes couldn’t be cut until spending was reduced. Well, you know, we can lecture our children about extravagance until we run out of voice and breath. Or we can cure their extravagance by simply reducing their allowance.
The irony was lost on Reagan that he was patronizing people who want to spend money on government programs by referring to them as children, and it was our nation's children who have suffered most from the cuts.

Then there was the George W. Bush administration.
In 2001, George W. Bush justified his tax cut on starve-the-beast grounds, saying it would constitute a “fiscal straitjacket for Congress.” According to the journalist Ron Suskind’s book, “The Price of Loyalty,” the Bush adviser Karl Rove often invoked the starve-the-beast approach as “conservative economic theology” in White House meetings. By 2003, using deficits strategically to slash the size of government was widely considered to be party doctrine among Republicans.
And let us not forget Grover Norquist of the "No new taxes" pledge who famously said,
"My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." 
Arizona's Republican legislators have choices. They can tear up those "No new taxes" pledges most of them have signed and put our government and its services back on a sound financial footing, or they can continue to cut taxes and slash budgets ad infinitum until they bring the state to its knees.

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