Politicized Economics

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

When economists become politically active, they risk betraying their chosen academic field even as they promote their favorite political causes. “We have an inner city education crisis,” Julianne Malveaux told the audience at the Campaign for America’s Future Take Back America conference. “There is no crisis in the suburbs.”

“They have equipment.” She did not show how “equipment” would lead to higher test scores or lower dropout rates.

Nonetheless, Dr. Malveaux insists that we “put money there.” In like fashion, Dr. Malveaux, who now presides over Bennett College, believes that “we have to put more money in higher education.”

“China, India and Eastern Europe put more money into higher education than we do to train engineers.” She does not mention that the National Bureau of Economic Research found that most of these Chinese, Indian and Eastern European engineers get their degrees in the United States.

In introducing her, Roger Hickey a founder of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) assured the crowd that Dr. Malveaux’s new position would not impede her activism. That does not seem to be much of a danger for Dr. Malveaux or her peers.

Dr. Malveaux urged conference attendees to keep racial considerations at the forefront of their discussions and considerations. She pointed out that:

• According to the Community Services Center of New York, in 2003, half of all black men in the Big Apple had no jobs compared to 25 % of whites; and

• Half of all whites have retirement plans compared to one-third of all blacks.
She did not share what the 16-year-olds had learned before leaving high school or what blacks paid in social security taxes. “She has enough street cred to win over any progressive at this conference,” Hickey said.

Dr. Malveaux went on to demonstrate these bona fides. “Twenty-seven percent of African-American males cannot vote because they have felony convictions,” Dr. Malveaux said. “The drug offenders are only hurting themselves.”

“Why don’t we expunge those records and get those people back in the labor pool.” Dr. Malveaux earned her Ph. D. in economics from MIT, where Noam Chomsky teaches.

Additionally, Dr. Malveaux enthusiastically peer-reviewed the findings of her two cohorts on the Take Back America panel—the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka and EPI’s Lawrence Mishel. “Everyone who wants a job should have one,” Trumka told an enthusiastic audience that included many young women twirling their hair.

“It’s ridiculous that we get no vacations when more civilized nations get five weeks vacation,” Mishel said plaintively. He did not mention the double-digit unemployment rates and stagnant economic growth in these, mostly Western European, civilized nations.

Believe it or not, Mishel actually attacked Democratic politicians. “Democrats attack tax cuts on the wrong grounds,” Mishel says. “They attack them as unfair.”

“That’s true,” Mishel claims, “but that gets you about one-third of the people.”

“They attack them as contributing to the deficit,” Mishel says of Democratic candidates. “That’s true.”

“That gets you about 5 percent of the people.” Rather, Mishel believes the party that controls Congress should question the link of low taxes and economic growth.

That might be difficult. Last January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tallied up 7.2 million new jobs in the past four years.

Moreover, “A new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report produced at the request of Congressional Democrats confirms that tax cuts since 2001 increased the share of federal income taxes paid by the highest earners while decreasing the tax share of lower- and middle-income groups,” the Joint Economic Committee reported in 2004. “The CBO analysis, Effective Tax Rates Under Current Law, 2001 to 2014, shows that the income tax remains highly progressive, with the top 5 percent of earners paying more than half of all federal income taxes.”

Similarly, federal budget records show since 2001, federal receipts have gone up from $1.9 trillion to $2.4 trillion. Over that same time period, federal outlays rose from $1.8 trillion to $2.6 trillion.

In other words, the deficit did not come from the federal government collecting less in taxes. Rather, as is the wont of federales, public officials spent more than they took in.

Malcolm A. Kline
is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.