Economy

The 10 Craziest Economic Policy Ideas Of 2011

The economy continued to struggle through 2011, with persistently high unemployment, a foreclosure crisis that kept on burning, and banks behaving badly in a whole host of ways. And there were plenty of ideas from economists, lawmakers, and pundits about what to do about it. But some ideas were, shall we say, more…unique than others.

Here are ThinkProgress’ nominations, in no particular order, for the ten craziest economic ideas of the last twelve months. Think we missed a good one? Let us know in the comments below:

Florida State Rep. Proposes Ending Ban On Dwarf Tossing To Create Jobs: In October, Florida state Rep. Ritch Workman (R) filed a bill to end the state’s ban on dwarf tossing — the practice of “launching little people for the amusement of an audience.” Workman may not condone throwing little people across his lawn, but he introduced the bill because he wanted to remove a “Big Brother law” that would create jobs: “Well, there is nothing immoral or illegal about that activity,” Workman said. “All we really did by passing that law was take away some employment from some little people.”

New Jersey Gives MTV’s ‘Jersey Shore’ A Film Credit Worth $420,000: Despite Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) unapologetic hatred for the MTV series Jersey Shore, the state Economic Development Authority awarded the series $420,000 in taxpayer funds to pay for the show’s production costs. Not only does the credit fail to create virtually any long-term, stable jobs, the EDA offered the credit without even considering the show’s content. The Jersey Shore cast, however, did succeed in producing rare a agreement among Democrats and Republicans to veto the credit, a veto Christie happily delivered.

Kentucky Provides Tax Credit To Build Theme Park Modeled After Noah’s Ark: In May, Kentucky gave a Bible-themed amusement park — replete with a model Noah’s Ark and Tower of Babel — a $43 million tax break, even as the state was cutting social services. In August, the state went even farther, giving the Ark Encounter theme park a 75 percent property tax discount for the next three decades (the tax break, it turns out, will last 10,580 days longer than the Great Flood itself). The justification for the tax breaks? Ark Park officials say it’ll create 900 jobs — based on a study Ark Park officials did themselves and never showed state officials.

Virgina Bill Provides Tax Credit For Blasting Cremated Remains Into Space: A Virginia state representative proposed a bill that “would provide a state tax credit of up to $8,000 to those who agree to have their cremated remains loaded onto a rocket and blasted into space,” in an attempt to bolster Virginia’s nascent space industry. There’s just one catch: Virginia’s lone spaceport doesn’t actually offer space burials. The bill is scheduled to be debated in January.

Newt Gingrich Proposes Jobs Plan For Poor Kids To Be Janitors: The idea factory that is Newt Gingrich produced a gem of a jobs plan this year when he called for firing all school janitors and replacing them with poor students. Believing child labor laws are “tragic” and “stupid,” the presidential candidate repeatedly touted the idea, asking “What if they became assistant janitor and their jobs were to mop the floor and clean the bathroom?” The tireless child labor advocate did finally concede that some jobs weren’t necessarily suited for children: “Kids shouldn’t work in coals mines; kids shouldn’t work in heavy industry.” Instead, he thought these children might do better as “apprenti” to business mogul Donald Trump.

Alaska Rep. Proposes A Tax Deduction For Donations Of Wild Game Meat: A bipartisan group of representatives led by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) proposed a bill this year that would have given a tax break to anyone who donated wild game meat. After introducing the bill, Young, who once refused an award from the Humane Society, predicted it would have strong bipartisan support, only to see it shot down in committee. In a year where Republican talking points centered around closing tax loopholes, it turned out there wasn’t much love for a bill that would have given people money for shooting Bambi.

The GOP Presidential Candidates’ Tax Plans — From 9-9-9 To The Tax Break For No One: One plan either came from a video game or off of a pizza box and its author, former pizza magnate Herman Cain, said it could fix just about anything. Mitt Romney’s plan centers on a middle-class tax cut that doesn’t cut taxes for most of the middle-class. Two of the plans — from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Speaker Newt Gingrich — are supposed to be flat and simple, but aren’t actually either. Several of the plans propose tax breaks for the wealthy that are so huge it takes absurdly long charts to accurately characterize them. And they all blow humongous holes in the budget. 2011, it would seem, is the year for comically bad tax plans from those campaigning for the highest office in the land.

House Republicans Call For Blocking Job Killing Python Regulations: Reacting to a proposed Interior Department rule that would have limited trade in the sort of exotic snakes that are causing significant problems in Florida, House Republicans claimed that such regulations were job killers. “The effect of this regulatory action on small businesses could be devastating,” the House GOP claimed. As Politico put it when writing up the GOP’s response, “snakes alive!”

Goldbugs Return Across The Country: Goldbuggery — the belief that the U.S. should go back to using the gold standard — made a strong return to the country in the last year, from Georgia lawmakers proposing a bill that would force taxpayers to make state transactions in only gold and silver to Utah legalizing the use of gold and silver coins for just about anything. And Republicans piled on, deriding the U.S. dollar as “fiat currency” and attending goldbug conferences. Nevermind that most mainstream economists agree that linking the U.S. currency to a rock that comes out of the ground never actually worked and would have disastrous consequences if embraced again.

South Carolina Offers Tax-Free Weekend To Buy Guns: Amidst continued teacher layoffs and surging violence, South Carolina lawmakers thought it’d be wise to keep in place a sales-tax-free weekend for gun purchases. Created several years ago, the tax-free weekend for guns costs the state $250,000 in revenue each weekend it’s in place. The effort prompted one Democratic state senator to convey a message he heard from his constituents: “Have ya’ll lost your mind? Why would we want to give people a tax break to buy guns? Crime’s going up. What are we we doing? We’re providing tax breaks for people to buy guns.”