Feathered Bastard

Jan Brewer: Herbert Hoover in High Heels and a Pantsuit

Separated at birth? According to economist Paul Krugman, it's possible.

Will soon-to-be Arizona Governor Jan Brewer repeat the mistakes of Republicans in the midst of the Great Depression, specifically those of President Herbert Hoover?

It seems likely. With a GOP-led legislature intent on "starving the beast," as they call state government, Brewer & Co. are likely to swing an ax at any government programs or employees not tied to the floor.

See, much of the state budget is held in place by voter-approved mandates. And unlike the feds, Arizona must balance its budget, which means increasing revenue, cutting where possible, coming up with some creative accounting, or some combination of the three..

And yet, as economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently argued in his Times op-ed, "Fifty Herbert Hoovers," the risk of doing what Hoover tried to do in the face of the depression could be tragic, and end by lengthening and deepening the crisis we now face.

"No modern American president would repeat the fiscal mistake of 1932," writes Krugman, "in which the federal government tried to balance its budget in the face of a severe recession. The Obama administration will put deficit concerns on hold while it fights the economic crisis.

"But even as Washington tries to rescue the economy, the nation will be reeling from the actions of 50 Herbert Hoovers -- state governors who are slashing spending in a time of recession, often at the expense both of their most vulnerable constituents and of the nation's economic future."

Brewer has stated that a tax increase is on the table, and presumably, she wants to get elected in 2010, so cutting the state's budget like she's a serial killer in a slasher flick and thereby worsening the effects of the recession on her fellow Arizonans should be a no-no. But the legislature is full of Laffer Curve Lemmings, rock-hard supply-siders who never met a tax cut they didn't like, or a government program they didn't want to end.

Problem is, if Reaganomics really worked, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in. The Bush administration preached tax cuts when the economy was good, and tax cuts as an incentive to spur growth as times have grown increasingly worse. So if trickle down economics is the answer to all ills, why aren't we all sitting on piles of gold doubloons right now? Um, hear those crickets chirping?

That leaves us with what governors should do to face the yawning crevasse of recession. For an answer, Krugman turns to Ohio's governor, and the sort of pump-priming economist John Maynard Keynes espoused:

"Ted Strickland, the governor of Ohio, is pushing for federal aid to the states on three fronts: help for the neediest, in the form of funding for food stamps and Medicaid; federal funding of state- and local-level infrastructure projects; and federal aid to education. That sounds right -- and if the numbers Mr. Strickland proposes are huge, so is the crisis."

Still, I can't see Jan Brewer dusting off her pom-poms and rah-rahing the feds to dole out more cash to the states, even if that's what's needed to help lift us out of the hole. Count on the state GOP to keep shrinking the local economy, and increasing the suffering of everyone who lives here, as they rush us right over the cliff.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons