Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Trickle Down Exists, Just Not as Commonly Supposed

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Trickle down economics is the phrase that has often been supplied to describe whatever current flavor of economics theory being propounded that says cutting taxes for the well-to-do is the quickest path to an economic nirvana. Supply-side is just one of the variants of this from over the years.

While what I just described is the most commonly used version of "trickle-down," we are now seeing examples of true trickle-down, i.e., the trickle-down of pain through the economy from all the various budget cuts at all levels of government. The past two days the Tampa Tribune has had articles showing the affects of cuts. First up is this one from yesterday on cuts for caregivers of the disabled:

The state Agency for Persons with Disabilities needs to slash about $90 million in services this year to meet its budget. The cuts not only affect contract workers like Davison, but employees in group homes who coordinate training programs, community outings and other activities for the disabled.

About 33,000 people in Florida with developmental disabilities like Cherta go through the agency to find companions who will not only care for them but also find ways to make them a part of their communities.

The agency serves about 50,000 people with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and intellectual disabilities.
Today was this article on cuts to child services providers in Hillsborough County (Tampa):
The Children's Board funds 97 nonprofit organizations that focus on health, welfare and education of children and families. Much of the agency's funding comes from a voter-approved property tax.

Overall the Children's Board budget will drop from $42.4 million this fiscal year to $34.9 million in fiscal 2012 if approved by its governing board. The agency is looking a reduction of $1.3 million in property tax collections because of lower property valuations in the county. Board officials have decided not to tap reserves this year as they have in the past.

The board will discuss the cuts at a workshop Thursday from 11:30-3:30 p.m.

This will be the fourth straight year the Children's Board has seen a reduction in the property tax it collects as an independent special taxing district.
Since I'm in Florida, the ability of the National Weather Service to accurately predict hurricanes is something I very much appreciate. I'm sure folks in the plains states appreciate as much of a heads-up on tornadoes as they can get as well. The NY Times had this blog post from Friday on the nine (and counting) weather disasters so far in 2011 that have had costs over $1B each. How much worse would these disasters have been without the warnings provided by the Weather Service? We may well find out as the Washington Post had this report yesterday on how budget cuts and program delays may hamper the forecasting:
In this year of extreme weather and a contentious budget climate, federal officials are warning Congress that funding cuts and program delays will create a gap in weather satellite coverage starting in about 2016. That’s when a key polar-orbiting satellite is expected to exceed its design lifetime, with no ready replacement.

The gap could last as long as a year or more, depending on final funding levels, the condition of other satellites and additional variables, officials say. The key question is what effect it will have on weather forecasts.

Meteorologists and emergency managers warn that it could significantly reduce the accuracy of three- to seven-day weather forecasts, the kind that gave the first hints — five days out — that a major tornado outbreak would take shape in the Southeast this past April, for example.
Last Wednesday, McClatchy had this article on cutting of police grants in California. Now, I admit to having mixed emotions about this as I know some of the law enforcement programs do not lead to strong civil rights actions but it will be interesting to see the responses when Republicans get painted as "soft on crime."

Sunday's Boston Globe had this article on economic inequality in Massachusetts:
The study paints a stark picture of two commonwealths, in which the gap between rich and poor, east and west is growing. For example, the inflation-adjusted median income of affluent families in Greater Boston has grown 54 percent since 1979, to $230,000 from $150,000 a year, largely due to high-paying technology jobs.

In Berkshire County and the Pioneer Valley, where decades of plant closings have left hollowed-out economies, the inflation-adjusted median income of the poorest families fell 24 percent, from $21,000 a year in 1979 to $16,000 - on par with some of the most impoverished parts of Appalachia.
The personal story the Globe uses in the article is rather heartrending yet it is all too common.

There is this article yesterday from Reuters, also dealing with the working poor:
Genna Saucedo supervises cashiers at a Wal-Mart in Pico Rivera, California, but her wages aren't enough to feed herself and her 12-year-old son.

Saucedo, who earns $9.70 an hour for about 26 hours a week and lives with her mother, is one of the many Americans who survive because of government handouts in what has rapidly become a food stamp nation.

Altogether, there are now almost 46 million people in the United States on food stamps, roughly 15 percent of the population. That's an increase of 74 percent since 2007, just before the financial crisis and a deep recession led to mass job losses.
Finally is this post from NPR about how we, as a nation (or at least through the prism of the TradMed) view the poor.

And because I can:

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