Welcome to Our Reality

July 27, 2011

If anyone outside of Michigan wonders what the current set of proposals to lessen the national debt by “reducing the size of government” might mean to their town, Detroit is a preview, and the coming attractions are not pretty.

Detroit has borne the brunt of deficit reduction plans from both the State and National levels. In an era of unprecedented national growth during the Clinton Administration, Michigan’s State government (dominated by conservative Republicans) created a budget deficit, primarily by lowering Corporate and property taxes. At the same time, the State reduced the “size of government” by reducing or eliminating State-run public health services, such as mental health institutions. Once the Clinton budget surplus (achieved with a combination of reducing expenditures and raising taxes) were wasted by conservative republicans in the US Congress, local Michigan governments were hit with a second round of revenue reductions.

The result of deliberate efforts to reduce the size of government by starving it of government revenue is that, in Michigan, on the local level, government is much smaller – and the quality of life is much worse. Schools are not only much less effective in teaching students, the buildings are literally falling apart. Roads, water and sewage lines and other forms of infrastructure are, in places, worse than third world countries. Whole Fire and Police Departments have been defunded and disappeared, although crime has not lessened significantly. The lack of State mental Health structures has caused the streets and local jails to become flooded with the homeless, costing local governments far more than government-funded hospitals. Oh, and all those tax breaks for Corporations and the so-called “job creators” has resulted in an unemployment rate among the highest in the Country.

Conservatives complain that Michigan is the victim of a terrible National economy because the Federal Government spends too much. The reality is that when the National economy was booming in the 80s, Michigan created its own deficit by giving away tax breaks and eliminating investments in infrastructure, R&D, etc.

I distrust government when it comes to regulating my personal liberties, but government has a real and important function when it comes to matters of public safety, infrastructure and education. I guess there is my difference with the Tea Party Conservatives: they want to take the government out of building the country and into regulating the bedroom; I think government should stay out of my lifestyle and repair a few bridges and roads (at least). Rachel Maddow has a commercial that makes the point: there was no compelling profit motive for a private company to build the Hoover Dam and, none would build one today. However, the Hoover Dam has resulted in an economic boom and health service that has benefits all of us greatly since.  That is the proper role of government.

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Fiddlesticks and GOP…

July 26, 2011

You know the old saying “Nero played the violin while Rome burned”? That’s exactly what the GOP is doing now. They made a political decision to politicize the raising debt ceiling – a process that had been automatic under the Republican-controlled Congress under George W.

That political decision is now creating a financial crisis (another financial crisis) and instead of working to solve problems, they engaging in political symbolism like Tuesday’s  “Balanced Budget Amendment”.

Most of the current deficit is the result of GOP policy makers – the “temporary”  Bush tax cuts and the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of cleaning up their own mess, the cowards have made yet another political decision to cede their responsibility to President Obama, just so they can make yet another meaningless vote to object to any increase of the debt ceiling.

Mitch McConnell, in a remarkably frank moment, said that his most important job as Senate leader is to make sure that Obama is a one term President. He has been true to his mission, even at the cost of the welfare of our Country. What is it about President Obama that has so blinded Republicans (mostly Southerners) and the overwhelmingly white-person Tea Party that they would rather put our Country at risk than work with him?

I am reading a book called “Red Summer” which is an historical study of the widespread race riots of 1919. One interesting point that might relate to the vitriol being directed at President Obama, was that leaders of the civil rights movement in 1919 (just two years after the Bolshevik Revolution) were called “Socialists” and often accused of being foreign agents and not US citizens. Sound familiar?

Most of all of the policy disagreements with President Obama are ideological, but the extreme hostility and blatant racism of many of his critics makes it clear that the malignant disease racism (our nations’ “curse” as one Founding Father put it) is alive and well.