The States: Healthcare and 2018
Jeremy Borden

I’ll posit an answer to your closing question re: state budgets. At this point I think “The economy” is only getting better in broad and extremely abstract terms, and a lot of these indicators can be entirely decoupled from whether states can be reasonably sanguine about their budget expectations.

If you judge “the economy” based on GDP growth, the U3 (oft-reported 4.X% these days) unemployment rate and stock indices, then OK. There’s been a pretty good recovery in the last 8 years. However I think those indicators are in fact pretty detached from what should, ideally, drive state budget solvency. Or, at the very least, state governments as institutions do not reap the proceeds of said indicators in a reliable or particularly robust way.

Indices (the vaunted DOW ooOOOooo) especially strike me as divorced from revenue modeling for a state budget, given that states are even more vulnerable to incorporation and banking dodges for capital gains on private citizens, and have strict rules regarding what classes of investments in which they can stash their pension funds etc. You can at least assume that with an expanding employment base you’d have a larger income tax pool to draw from as well as theoretical trickle-down increases in consumption and property taxes.

However, it’s necessary to dive deeper into that assumption because “employment” is defined as a discrete value (yes/no) in the official statistic, without any qualitative characteristics. And those qualitative characteristics are what you’d be modeling revenue expectations off of: average salaries and theoretical disposable incomes that can be spent on goods, comfortable housing market growth. THAT picture sucks right now. It sucks for (I’m sure you’re aware) people in the job market. It sucks for people who are employed as their incomes haven’t grown commensurately with their expenses in 40 years. The chart in this article:–7 is incredibly telling of that fact. Working 2-part time jobs just to make ends meet ticks the “employed” box, but doesn’t expand the tax base much.

As state governments trundle down the ol’ Brownback Road of increasing privatization and tax cuts for the wealthy, from whence can they derive revenues? Much less STABLE revenues if they resort to Arizona tricks of leasing back public property for proportionately tiny lump sums to balance a given year?

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