Politics & Policy

Calling Out Progressives’ Dubious Economic Predictions

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during an event to introduce his “Medicare for All Act of 2017” on Capitol Hill, September 13, 2017. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Now more than ever, we must highlight the negative consequences of left-wing policies.

One of the great drawbacks of our 24/7 social-media-preoccupied world is the volume of news produced and consumed on a daily basis. I am old enough to remember when a major news story could own the front page for weeks, one learned of “breaking news” on the evening broadcasts or in the next day’s paper, and the average person had time to consume, digest, and interpret what were generally agreed to be the big stories of the day. The notion of news breaking every second on every broadcast would have been laughable back then.

Nowadays, social media, wall-to-wall cable-news coverage, and talk radio produce numerous big stories on the hour. As a result, the shelf life of important stories is cut short, which hinders our ability to hold leaders accountable for their actions.

The public used to be in the habit of comparing the performance of a program, agency, initiative, or tax to what its author originally promised. After a sufficient amount of time had passed, a moment of truth would arrive when politicians held their breath if they’d failed to deliver, and smiled expectantly if they’d succeeded.

The ceaseless tide of today’s daily news cycle has made it harder for voters to arrive at these moments of truth, but doing so is just as important as it ever was. Understanding the consequences of public policy still matters. This is especially true in cases where the facts prove inconvenient to a popular narrative or the end result is contrary to what the media want you to believe.

All of which brings us to a number of policy issues playing out in a most inconvenient way for today’s uber-progressive social engineers. To wit:

‐ Tipped workers in Seattle have rebelled against that city’s incremental march to a $15 minimum wage. It seems that their employers predictably reacted to increased labor costs by cutting back on their hours. So they, the alleged beneficiaries of the wage hike, requested exemption from it, telling the do-gooder City Council to mind its own business.

‐ Any Econ 101 graduate could have predicted that small businesses would turn to automation when and where government drives labor costs to unprofitably high levels. Such is now the new reality for many fast-food and other small-business establishments in locations with an artificially high minimum wage. Here, however, progressives are fighting back: A member of the San Francisco Board of Examiners is sponsoring a California ballot measure that would tax businesses that utilize workplace robots.

‐ Elsewhere, the Left’s familiar suggestion that marginal tax rates have little to do with growth or an individual’s/corporation’s choice of venue is being disproven. The reader will recognize this as a favorite argument of class-warrior types. Admittedly, these practitioners of income envy recite their lines effortlessly: The “rich” have more than they need, it is their patriotic duty to pay their “fair share,” etc. But recent IRS reports reflect significant wealth flight from high- to low-tax states. And the former invariably face disappointing revenue projections and resulting budget deficits. Indeed, states that pass so-called millionaire taxes invariably suffer a significant loss of millionaires. My home state of Maryland passed a millionaires’ tax in 2009. A mere one year later, we experienced a 33 percent decline in the number of resident millionaires. The resulting budget shortfall was a shock to all the progressive analysts who insist that wealth is static rather than mobile.

‐ Space does not permit a regurgitation of the dire economic predictions issued by left-wing economists in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency. But a sufficient snapshot is supplied by renowned Princeton economist Paul Krugman, who foresaw “very possibly . . . a global recession with no end in sight.” To be fair, the good professor may indeed have been at least partially prescient: There seems no end in sight to increasing job growth, employment, consumer confidence, and the markets.

I could go on, but you get the idea: It is essential that we revisit the failed economic predictions of the past and identify them as such. It’s called accountability, and it remains a noble exercise even in our hectic world of 24/7 news cycles.


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— Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. served as the 60th governor of Maryland from 2003 to 2007.


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