Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Decades Ago, Robert Kennedy Explained Something that Trump Still Doesn’t Know About the Economy - by Joe Romm

RFK and MLK together (Credit: Abbie Rowe, National Park Service) Click to Enlarge
Donald Trump is running on the erroneous belief that ending regulations, particularly environmental ones, is the key to faster economic growth.  Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY), who was assassinated June 6, 1968, explained just how misguided that view was just weeks before he was killed.

U.S. economic growth has emerged as a major issue in the presidential campaign.  Donald Trump has many untenable ideas, as the Washington Post explained in an April piece headlined, “There is math, there is fantasy math, and then there’s Donald Trump’s economic math.”

That article quoted an economist at the Tax Foundation (who helped model Trump’s tax plan) saying, “It’s not consistent with historical experience.  It’s more consistent with a world where we’re hiring butlers for our vacation homes on Ganymede” [Jupiter’s largest moon].”

I wanted to zero in on one of Donald Trump’s fictional strategies for boosting economic growth: As he explained last month to CNBC, “we’re going to be getting rid of a tremendous amount of regulations.”

In particular, when Fox News’ Chris Wallace pressed Trump in March on how he’d cut the federal budget, Trump answered “Department of Environmental Protection [sic].  We are going to get rid of it in almost every form.”

In reality, slashing regulations, particularly regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, would be very counterproductive, as a 2015 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report to Congress made clear.  The OMB found that ten years’ worth of major Federal regulations provided annual benefits to the nation (in 2001 dollars) of between $216 billion and $812 billion, while the estimated annual costs were only between $57 billion and $85 billion.

Of that, EPA regulations delivered the majority of benefits ($132.5 to $652 billion) but only about half the costs ($31 to $37.5 billion).

Of course, lots of those benefits were things like reduced health care costs because the air got cleaner — and those benefits don’t show up in our primary measure of economic growth, GDP. Indeed, reducing sickness and death actually lowers GDP.

Who can doubt that our wildly unsustainable global economic system is now the biggest of Ponzi schemes — where the economy appears to grow faster the more we burn fossil fuels and destroy a livable climate?

Robert F. Kennedy explained why GDP is a useless measure of economic well-being back in the 1960s.

Robert Kennedy was one of the few national politicians ever to challenge our monomaniacal pursuit of GDP to the exclusion of true economic well-being.  In Detroit on May 5, 1967 he pointed out: “Let us be clear at the outset that we will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods.”

Weeks before he was killed, he spoke on this subject at the University of Kansas, March 18, 1968 — in what President Obama called “one of the most beautiful of his speeches.”

We have the audio of his remarkable words:

Read more at Decades Ago, Robert Kennedy Explained Something that Trump Still Doesn’t Know About the Economy

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