Monday, April 06, 2009

Let's Make Fun of the Washington Policy Center

A lifetime ago, in February, the Washington State Budget and Policy Center rounded of a group of economists and had them sign a letter stating that they believed raising taxes in this economy was preferable to throwing people off of health care and ruining schools.

This was promptly discerned to be a load of horsecrap by the Washington Policy Center, which is totally a different group than the Budget and Policy Center. Using extensive internet research Google they made the claim that a lot of the people passing themselves off as "economists" in that first letter weren't actually economists, but instead were a ragtag assortment of hippies, undesirables, and others who suckle at the sweet teet of the government wasting YOUR tax dollars.

So anyhow, time passes and the baseball season opens up and ohmygosh what's this? It's a letter from the Washington Policy Center, in response to the other letter, and this one is a bunch of economists, all of whom thing that raising taxes is the wrong way to go!

Fascinating! Let's see who these folks are.

  • First we've got ourselves a Dr. Richard Zerbe of the University of Washington, which makes him a state employee. How fun! Dr. Zerbe does indeed have a by-God doctorate in economics, which he's used to great effect at the UofW where he was an econ prof for a whole year, back in 1990. Since then he's spent most of his time in civil engineering and public affairs.

    The UW--where a 14% tuition hike is just good public policy, but raising the taxes that pay for the financial aid that allows families to pay for that tuition hike? Oh hell no, can't be done, wouldn't be prudent.

  • Next say hello to Douglas Wills, an associate professor at the University of Washington in Tacoma. Focused on the "dismal" aspect of the dismal science, the good Dr. Wills has focused his career on the history of economics, which is a concentration that oozes a special kind of boring. For the full skinny let's ask someone who took his class last quarter:
    This is lets it be known that he hates teaching and is only there to do research for the school and that his class averages a 2.6 gpa. Time in class is worthless better be a great studier and learn everything on your own! The teacher is of no help at all except to tell you how crappy the us government is and how much of an up hill climb you have.

  • The name Thomas Cook sort of sticks out on the originating letter, because it just lists him as an "Economics Instructor, Seattle" when everyone else has an institutional affiliation to go along with their bio. One wonders if it's because Dr. Cook's institution is North Seattle Community College. Why do you hate community colleges, Washington Policy Center? He at least has published regularly, like this great economics treatise on why birth control goes against God's will.

  • The last Washingtonian on the list is Peter Saunders of Central Washington University, whom no one likes because of his bad hair-do. He's written about welfare, but his bona fides on taxation are sketchy, at best.
So of the four people from the state, one is an engineer, one is a historian, one publishes extremely rarely and on welfare, and one would actually fit the definition of what people would consider an economist.

This post is snark, and I make no apology for that. Trick is that when the Washington Policy Center says things like this:

In addition, nearly all the letter signers have a vested interest in urging the public to accept a higher tax burden to support larger government budgets; they either are directly employed by tax-funded institutions, such as a public university or community college, or they otherwise gain from public spending.

It is not unusual for people to promote public policies that benefit themselves, that is standard lobbying, but lawmakers should not give special weight to a letter claiming to give expert economic advice that does not come from economists.

.....while not acknowledging that every single 4-year institution is looking at double digit tuition increases, an option that social services and the public schools don't have, that's intellectual dishonesty at its most bald-faced and obvious.


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