The Nation writer Sasha Abramsky asked Ferguson about his recent report on the decline in state funding for education, the shrinking role of government, and the shift in Idaho politics Ferguson noted during his tenure as chief state economist.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Economics is intimately tied in with politics, of course. What’s happening to Idaho’s politics?
There’s a hardening of positions. During the 1980s, Idaho had pretty difficult economic challenges. We had a very severe recession in the early ’80s, as severe as the Great Recession. From 1983 to ’87, Idaho increased its corporate income tax, personal income tax and sales tax—and that allowed public services to continue uninterrupted. From the late ’80s to the early 2000s, Idaho had some spectacular economic performances. I’m not suggesting tax increases created a vibrant economy, but it certainly didn’t impede it. Now the storyline goes that we need to cut taxes in order to get Idaho’s economy out of the doldrums. And the evidence doesn’t really support that notion.
Why does it carry so much traction?
I wish I knew. It’s often guided more by emotion than it is by actual analysis and fact-based information. We’ve seen the rise of the Tea Party, and that’s had a lot of traction in terms of influencing public policy, both nationally and at the state level. There is a distinct bias against the public side of the ledger. We have things like the GSA scandal that reinforce the notion that government’s incompetent. But you can find those sorts of things in the corporate world, and nobody’s suggesting we eliminate the private sector. In my mind, what’s missing is a balance, the idea that some things we do collectively as a society are done through the public sector, and other things are done through the private sector.” – TheNation.com