Economics 101 for Social Workers


Social workers are notoriously bad about numbers, which unfortunately carries over to the field of economics, or better named, “political economy,” the critical interface of political and economic considerations, the place where policies (a “macro” arena that social workers find at least a little more friendly) are formulated.

But here’s a bit of economics every Mississippi social worker needs to know: So-called “supply side” economics – basically, the idea that by cutting taxes for corporations and the rich, the economy is stimulated and everyone benefits by new job and business growth – don’t work.  It’s on the basis of supply side economics that tax cut-happy politicians often argue that “the cuts will pay for themselves” in the form of economic growth.  But supply side thinking is just plain wrong in virtually all circumstances, and has proven itself so in virtually all instances in which it’s been applied.  Instead of prompting growth, experience suggests that it’s much more likely to provoke a fiscal crisis.

Want evidence?  Look at Kansas, where under Gov. Brownback’s leadership, taxes were repeatedly slashed, resulting in a shortfall of revenue and a protracted fiscal crisis, to the extent that Brownback is having to deal with a backlash within his own anti-tax Republican party.  The flip side is California, where despite dire predictions of economic calamity, Gov. Brown led the charge for selectively raising taxes to address critical state needs (education, health care, infrastructure maintenance), and which is enjoying substantial jobs and business growth.

Mississippi gives every appearance of going down the same dismal road as Kansas (heaven forbid that we might ever follow “liberal” California!), with the added burlesque of a series of poor revenue projections, auditing errors, emergency budget cuts, and most recently, political leaders actually bragging about “shrinking government” through cuts.