Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Me Bloviating About Economic Policy and COVID-19

So yesterday was there was a big giant protest at the capital about Governor Whitmer's various executive orders and my initial reaction was. Ehem.


But then I calmed down. And realized once you scrape away the trumpisms, and confederate flags, and the guns, they do have a point.

Not being able to work for a lot of people means not being able to pay your bills and that sucks. I want to be clear. I'm not talking about the cult of work where people just want to "get back to normal" and start "doing stuff again". I mean folks where the disruption caused by COVID-19 will have serious life-altering consequences. Folks who can't buy groceries. Folks who might lose their cars. Folks who are worried about their kids dealing with permanent losses to their educational attainment.

The best way to mitigate that is finding ways to essentially "pay people to stay home." For a lot on the right paying people not to work is anathema. So I doubt we're going to get the response we really need to encourage the types of behaviors that would create optimal public health outcomes. But I can think about it.

I can think about UBI. I can think about paid sick leave (without the loopholes). I can think about college debt forgiveness. I can think about medicare for all. I can think about paycheck protection. I can think about a national moratorium on utility shutoffs and evictions.

And I want to be clear a lot of these things this pinko scum supported before the pandemic.

But then the question always becomes how do you pay for it.

Increasing the National Debt 
My feelings on the national debt have been chiefly influenced by the 2008 financial crisis where a lot of economists I trust have stated that due to the politics of the era politicians didn't go far enough when it came to using public spending on programs to fix the crisis. There were lots of reasons for this but one of them were of debt hawks.

This is 2020 not 2008 and thus far I haven't really heard much from anybody on that front but generals always fight the last war. The real risk of national debt spending has nothing to do with moral imperatives but rather the risk that interest payments will crowd out other government spending in a death spiral that collapses the public sector.

To that end increasing the national debt to mitigate a larger or more immediate economic crisis is a good investment and just common sense.

Cutting Spending
...I live in Michigan. The last decade of public policy in this state has been robbing Paul to pay Peter. I honestly believe that there are not many more places to cut money from both the federal and state budgets that will not be felt. If not immediately eventually.

This is going to be a long crisis. The government is going to have to do a lot. And I have a fear that eventually to get anything done the representatives in both levels of government are going to ask for spending cuts in other areas. And I'm going to hate it. I'm going to hate it so much.

Raising Taxes
I have a firm belief that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. At the same time. A lot of people are hurting right now. Time for some wealth redistribution.

So I am in favor of essentially progressive tax reform (and a UBI) that would lay the burden of paying for this emergency on the people most able to do so without harm.

But I am also aware that those people are the most capable of utilizing and mobilizing the systems of economics and government to not do that.

Furthermore, the last few years have turned me into a jaded cynical bastard. We are not a society of self-sacrifice for the greater good. I wish we were. We are not.

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