I wrote my most recent IBJ column the weekend before the election, not knowing the results, or the sorts of national policies likely to be pursued over the next four years. I addressed the looming crises of state and local government funding.
Having relied upon the polling, I was significantly more optimistic than I have been since. But even assuming the restoration of more traditional and far less corrupt approaches to governance, the victors—at all levels–will be constrained by the prevailing, dishonest political culture.
At the state level, there’s quite a bit of variance in those cultures; nationally, and no matter which party has been in charge, it has been characterized by an immature focus on immediate gratification. Members of Congress have been fixated on policies that will be perceived as positive by their bases in the “here and now”—policies that will benefit them personally when the next election rolls around. When Republicans are in control, we can see the result in such things as huge subsidies for fossil fuels (despite their environmental impact); and so far, no matter who is in charge, there has been unforgivable neglect of infrastructure (let the next guy worry about the highways, bridges and national electrical grid).
Long term, as the political saying goes, is until the next election.The pandemic presents officials with an urgent challenge to this national disinclination to connect the dots, to recognize that enlightened self-interest must be both informed and defined long-term.
Nowhere is this challenge more dire than in America’s cities and states, where tax revenues are in the toilet.
Local governments depend heavily on sales taxes, but Americans aren’t spending as usual—which means they aren’t generating sales taxes. (Transit authorities are facing similar problems.) Businesses are hurting badly, translating into lower income taxes in jurisdictions that impose them. Dramatically declining income is forcing local governments to curtail vital services, lay off employees and postpone critical infrastructure repairs.
As Ryan Cooper pointed out in a recent article in The Week, the federal government could rescue states, cities and transit authorities with only a small fraction of the money that has been spent on rescuing businesses and individuals so far. That would help the national economy by keeping public employees in their jobs, and by maintaining those “socialist” public services that everyone relies on to some degree. As Cooper says, when local governments have to gut their budgets, potholes proliferate, garbage piles up, water mains break, already inadequate transit becomes worse. When state and city workers are laid off, they become part of the unprecedented burden being placed on our already insufficient social safety nets.
Despite the Child-in-Chief’s sneering disinclination to help “mismanaged blue cities,” the current crisis is a result of the pandemic, not incompetent governance. And as Cooper points out, this crisis isn’t limited to Democratic jurisdictions. Wyoming is evidently facing a budget deficit of a quarter-billion dollars, even after making severe cuts to public services. State governments in general are facing budgetary woes that are worse than at any time since the Great Depression.
If the federal government fails to help, we will see the effects for a generation or more. Three hundred and fifty thousand teachers were laid off in September alone. Bus drivers, sanitation workers, DMV clerks, road repair crews, public health nurses, food safety inspectors and thousands of others are truly essential workers; they make the country function.
Liberal and conservative economists alike confirm that austerity during a depression is the definition of insanity. Failure to shore up city and state finances, like failure to pass another pandemic relief bill, will be far more costly long-term.
To pursue austerity now would be childish– the epitome of penny wise and pound foolish. But don’t count on Republicans in the Senate to understand that–or to act on it if they do.
28 thoughts on “Can We Grow Up?”
In my humble opinion: One possible aid in moving forward could be to reach out to thoughtful and serious Republican Senators – Mitt Romney comes to mind. It would be extreme…but if a couple “R” Senators could choose to ORGANIZE with the Democrats….. what a powerful thing that could be. Doing what is RIGHT for America, Not blindly following their anti-progress Republican leadership. Getting past the Trump years may take some brave and novel solutions. My little dream.
“when local governments have to gut their budgets, potholes proliferate, garbage piles up, water mains break, already inadequate transit becomes worse. When state and city workers are laid off, they become part of the unprecedented burden being placed on our already insufficient social safety nets.“ “ Three hundred and fifty thousand teachers were laid off in September alone.“
Where can citizens of Indianapolis/Marion County learn of such dire events?
Wayne Moss: This is the tragedy of losing the news. Our local McPaper no longer serves that vital function.
Our maturation at all levels of government will be held in abeyance until and unless the entire current federal administration is replaced. NOT those fired and replaced by Trump with others who will support his ego rather than this country. Their leader’s 5 year temper tantrum is escalating with removal of those who told him “No” and escalated powers of those who can block progress in the vitally needed transition period by our President Elect Joe Biden. This includes much needed information regarding intelligence, defense and the economy and ending the lack of cooperation to legitimize federal level regulations to at least slow the Pandemic escalation.
We have heard for months of the soon-to-be-available vaccine; they have now suddenly escalated that to a 90% effective level in the 3rd stage. My little old Irish mother always told me “Consider the source!” What are the details of the testing and what symptoms and/or infectious protection and prognosis for continued protection can we expect from the vaccine? The current administration has denied and ignored medical sources and we are now supposed to accept their promise of 90% effectiveness from their Pandemic Task Force leader who wants to end our health care and force his religious beliefs on this country before January 20th. By the way; what is the situation with Kodak’s transition to coronavirus testing facilities and our $750 MILLION to accomplish this?
“Can We Grow Up?” We need to know we are going to survive the Pandemic and the current administration’s dictatorship based on Trump’s ego before we can work on growing up.
“If the federal government fails to help, we will see the effects for a generation or more.”
How long have they been talking about infrastructure? why in this country would you have Bridges collapsing and killing citizens going to work or the store? Why do we have railroads that feel like you’re on a roller coaster as they Cruise across the country? When roads are repaired, why aren’t they done with a permanent or long-lasting fix? Instead of asphalt that has to be torn up every five or six years? (The fossil fuel lobby) Why are major cities using inadequate water treatment facilities, inadequate or non-existent sewage treatment, dumping pollution into the great lakes and our rivers? Why on Earth would a president say that windmills cause cancer? It doesn’t even make any sense! Why do we have a political party rolling back parts of the clean water act? Just 50 short years ago, does everybody remember the Cuyahoga River burning? Or the Chicago River where you could walk across without a boat? Well I do!
The list could be at least a footlong on this thread but the point is, if there is a concern, people need to take the time to research the issues themselves! You can’t depend on picking up the newspaper in the morning and reading thoughtful nonpartisan articles that explain the perils of the times we live in. Hyperbole and hyperbolic writings serve to bolster conspiracies and insane politicians! Most newspapers in this country have truly become rags! News radio, except NPR, is usually schizophrenic.
But it doesn’t take any of these things to find out what’s going on, especially if you just walk around with your eyes and ears open. Everyone can glean enough information to get the gist of our state of affairs. And, I might add, it ain’t good.
Science and logic is a good start, but, if politicians don’t quit clowning around, there won’t be anything left to rebuild. There should be an immediate executive order for a national public works program that would repair all roads, bridges, railways, harbors, airports, and the like. Privately held could be docked a certain amount in taxes to help pay for this massive program. The bloated defense budget would be a good start on how to reallocate the public funding for the public good. Also, closing tax loopholes for corporations, eliminate the ceiling for wealthy contributing to social security, canceling corporate welfare as we support the fossil fuel industries. Billions upon billions of dollars could be flooded back into infrastructure and energy R&D!
Make these corporations relocate manufacturing facilities and such into areas of this country which have been devastated and become corporate deserts. The rural south, the inner cities, need to be connected, get Elon musk to start building tunnel systems in the cities to connect all regions and quadrants so that there is no isolation. The same with the extreme rural areas, High-Speed rail to start. If we can manufacture and produce in countries across the big pond, we can do it here in this country.
When the body is strong, it can fend off disease like we’ve seen in the past 4 years. If the body is weak, it can never recover, it’s slowly dies and ends up on life support.
The past four years is just an example, look at the demonization of the social safety net, somehow it’s been labeled as evil. But the corporations always have their hands out for their socialized bailouts! That’s okay I guess. Because it’s obvious these wealthy corporate types are more important than the average American citizen!
While the Trump Administration will take credit for the vaccine, the truth is that Pfizer turned them down when they tried to “fund” that company’s research. Instead, Pfizer teamed up with German company BioN Tech to pull off this monumental feat in R&D.
I’m looking forward to next summer when we can all enjoy our lives, travel without fear, and attend public gatherings. Meanwhile, wear your mask and social distance.
John, not sure what diet you’re on but keep eating it. 😉
As Sheila’s post points out, when the blue states struggle with their high income-producing residents, what does that say for the red states who rely on their income?
Talk about trickle-down economics!!!
Joseph Stiglitz is waving economic warnings about COVID causing extreme pain and disruption due to the policies that already cause substantial income gaps and wealth gaps. Trump’s administration and the two political parties underwhelmed us with their bailout package. We learned nothing from 2008.
I’m not going to share the crazy on the Twitter universe because it would make you lose your collective minds. One share I have to make is from Dinesh D’Souza:
“There is a great shift under way. We are, all 70 million of us, and our families, going to make our exit OUT of liberal institutions of indoctrination. This means schools, universities, media, entertainment. This won’t happen overnight, but it’s happening already. We’re outta here”
The leading thinkers of the right are braindead.
Do you seriously want to unite with these folks? I swear if Joe Biden ditches progressives this go around to align with Mitt Romney and John Kasich, we are toast.
I read a report last night on global educational attainment, and the USA isn’t in the Top 20. We are failing despite spending billions on education, and Dinesh wants 33% of Americans to become even dumber.
Those two senatorial races in GA are looking huge, but Barr is still working on a coup via DOJ.
No wonder the world is looking in awe at the USA!
Too many people (and conservatives, generally) think the principles of economics are the same no matter the scale: individual, family, company, government. They are not. Most especially, government economics is not at all like the others. Everyone needs to read people like Mark Blyth, Richard Wolff, Robert Reich, and Stephanie Kelton. (I’m never sure if conservatives truly believe in the policies that they espouse or if it’s a libertarian bias or nod to donors or some other nefarious reason. It’s maddening that their opinions change depending on who is president, which leads me to believe their reasons are largely self-serving and corrupt.) In the end, the policies the conservatives desire do perform their intended goal: money is funneled from the masses to the rich to the overall detriment to the economy.
A strong economic base is achieved when more people at the bottom have adequate money, because they will spend it. In economics terms, the velocity of money will increase. Conservative policies that funnel money to the rich (like trickle-down economics and other Chicago crap) drastically reduce the velocity of money. The stock market may look good in this case but will be a poor indicator of overall economic health.
Creating/injecting money into the economy doesn’t necessarily lead to inflation. (Among others, Stephanie Kelton has done excellent work in this area. You don’t have to be Zimbabwe; just be smart. Aside: I have one of their 100 trillion dollar notes. Crazy.) The stimulus packages over the last year are good for the whole country. Infrastructure work can be seen similarly. You guys down there should definitely take this chance to make a massive investment in your infrastructure. Conservatives like to say tax cuts pay for themselves. They don’t, of course they don’t, but for a practical evaluation just look at Sam Brownback’s Kansas. Anyway, injecting a huge amount of money into infrastructure will put a lot of people to work, and would have a massive positive affect on the economy. Given the current state of your economy, this could be a life saver and should be possible to accomplish without increasing inflation. In a real sense, it could actually pay for itself.
Some people are immune to truth and fact-based reasoning.
It seems clear to me that Trump, McConnell, Graham, and a host of right-wing pundits and voters are intentionally putting the country at risk and setting up the new administration to fail from the beginning. By using the delay tactic of endless lawsuits with no merit, the Biden transition team cannot receive important daily briefings on matters that are vital for national security, economic development, etc, increasing the likelihood of attack from foreign enemies such as 9/11. They have built in a tax increase on the lower classes to take effect in 2021 so the Biden administration will take the blame. They would put the country at risk just so they can blame Biden, and increase their chances of a victory at the mid-term election and in 2024.
Note to Joe Biden: McConnell is not your friend. You must find a way to turn their advantage into your advantage. Voters can help by contacting your senators and congress persons and demanding action on a host of issues, including the peaceful transition of power, and calling out the harmful actions of the Trump enablers whenever you see it.
On the bright side:
Republicans can once again pretend to care about the deficit.
I read this morning that the DOJ attorney in charge of election fraud resigned rather than let Barr’s latest coup attempt go unanswered. More people need to stand up and fight back from within.
My own Congressman called on 45 to concede.
Only 71 days until the orange nightmare is over.
We are all learning the Greek alphabet, thanks to the National Weather Service.
I found a 97 point Cabernet for only $17.99.
Keep looking for the good!
It’s the roughage man, the roughage! It’ll put a burr under your saddle so to speak, lol!
Lol, sometimes it’s a small things?
If you get a chance, research the campaign buttons for the GOP concerning social security number one Medicare number two and the ACA number three. From the 1920s to 2010, they are almost identical except for the year.
One would have to inquire, why the social safety net is evil? Well, it is not evil, it’s christian! When people can get an education, when they can have access to health care, when they have access to nutrition, when they have access to decent affordable or subsidized housing, when the minimum wage is actually a livable wage, when the least advantaged are given a hand up, when the wealthy are made to pay their fair share in comparison with everyone else, when corporations are also made to pay their fair share, the tide will lift all boats!
What’s wrong with that? Well, the GOP realizes, if people are doing well, if they feel satisfied, if they feel they’re being treated fairly, then people will always want that for themselves and their children.
That’s something that the Democrats offer, so then the GOP must demonize! Conservatism is a joke, and it’s always been a joke, because they’ve used conservatism for years, for decades, to demonize basic freedoms! To demonize movements that will equalize the playing field for all citizens. People don’t want that trickle down crumb thing! Ronald Reagan was a schmuck. And, he wasn’t much different than Trump, he just did it in a more sane and professional manner. Just take a look and search Ronald Reagan and social security. He’s the one that sent Social Security, and Medicare for that matter, on a downward trajectory! He truly was a robber baron taking from the poor and giving to the rich! On a par with the robber barons of old who fought the unions and endorsed child labor.
Let’s face it, Jesus Christ was a socialist, and all of those who claim to be Christian, act like socialism’s a dirty word. Socialism is all the things that the social safety net provides, and those things are listed above.
Socialism does not eliminate the wealthy or corporations or anything else, because the corporations are steeped in socialism for their survival, so how can it be good for them and wrong for everyone else?
The GOP wants to keep them dumb, stupid, poor, ignorant, in denial, wanting and needing, anxious, hungry, confused! If they can do that, they have control. Lemmings will gladly accept sitting at the edge of the table like a dog waiting for crumbs to fall on the floor!
Well, that’s not human dignity and that’s not human decency it’s not compassionate nor is it empathetic! And, that goes to show the hypocrisy of the GOP and their whining complaining agenda.
And concerning the comment yesterday by someone who I can’t remember, talking about policy! Well, this is the GOP policy! And it’s diametrically opposed to the Democratic policy!
The phrase compassionate conservative is an oxymoron at the very least!
I would agree with John’s post : “closing tax loopholes for corporations, eliminate the ceiling for wealthy contributing to social security, canceling corporate welfare as we support the fossil fuel industries. Billions upon billions of dollars could be flooded back into infrastructure and energy R&D!”
I would add to this Medicare for all or Single Payer.
From Todd, “Do you seriously want to unite with these folks? I swear if Joe Biden ditches progressives this go around to align with Mitt Romney and John Kasich, we are toast.”
I totally agree Romney and Kasich will act “Moderate” for now ; when the time comes they will stick the knife in the back of Progressives.
It should be very evident the GOP is still terrified of Donald Trump. Once again they follow The Trumpet into the fantasy land of vote fraud. It is difficult to say who is the biggest Boot Licker and Stooge for The Trumpet : Pastor Pence or Bill Barr, runner ups would be Lindsay Graham or Ted Cruz.
As I wrote a few days ago here The Trumpet is engaging in what is termed in warfare as “Scorched Earth”. Destroying anything of value the “enemy” can use.
For The Trumpet Biden is clearly the enemy. Mark Esper the fired Defense Secretary is apparently a person who failed to follow The Trumpet’s orders. I am confident that until The Trumpet leaves the White House he will fire more people and issue a rash of executive orders.
What I find alarming in the extreme is how really close this election was. Biden is not exactly the most exciting candidate OK – The Trumpet like a perverse Midas poisons everything he touches. The Trump Cult is puzzling to me.
It seems that many institutions are on the cusp of failing. Republicans believe that they can hasten the process for some and keep others afloat but the truth is that they can’t turn off global progress. It’s common, to put failure at an easy to understand scale, that when businesses start to fail because the goods and services that they provide have been eclipsed by other alternatives, for them to spend their waning months and years thrashing around dying more slowly but that is really transferring what value is left to the few. That is the real skill of illiberals. They can be compared to buzzards trying to survive on decaying flesh, extracting nutrition by competing with bacteria with those same skills.
It’s always possible that the growing out of touch process is not reversible like with the buzzard’s lunch, but progressives are reluctant to give up, optimism being one of the traits that leads to forging ahead never giving up on human abilities to change.
Biden/Harris represent American recovery potential but only potential at this point. Can we give them enough support to fight off the vultures and catch up and keep up with the progressive world? There are no guarantees but progressives live on possibilities and not certainties, on hope and optimism.
“What if” usually leads to a question with no rational answer because of lack of information and facts. I’ll do it anyway; what if Bernie had been chosen to oppose Trump? My guess is he’d have lost bigly. I feared Kamala would bring out many more racist voters. I doubt progressives will be successful moving Biden an iota to the left. By the same margin I doubt Biden and Harris can move any of Trump’s voters to a reconciliation with “us.” McConnell, Graham, Romney and Kasich and company will not compromise.
In this time of great divide and a narrow possibility of saving our democracy, how hard would it be to drop “tribal” names like “progressive”? What’s the downside when it (whether you like it or not} turns off large numbers of non-Trumpian Americans who are tired of “ideology over country”. You “wear” and scream it and it helps zero to move forward (see AOC’s immediate attacks on moderate DEMs over the last few days). Conor Lamb is by no means the enemy…
A line by Rhett Butler in “Gone With The Wind” fits here; “There is as much money to be made from the destruction of a civilization as their is from the building of one.”
Trump is not done with his childish temper tantrums and destruction or making money from it; we are not the ones with the problem growing up. And assuming we can rid ourselves of Trump and his entire family, we will still have Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, the grown ups allowing him to continue and also making money from his destruction, to contend with.
“…assuming the restoration of more traditional and far less corrupt approaches to governance, the victors—at all levels–will be constrained by the prevailing, dishonest political culture.”
“Conor Lamb is not the enemy.” Support for the evil of fracking is terribly misguided as all who have read the science. Science for more than 50 years has warned against burning fossil fuels. I was appalled when Biden said he was not against fracking. He was wrong. He must lead us in promoting clean, sustainable energy. May Greta’s kind prosper.
Wayne; Joe Biden and President Obama have both said they would phase out fracking. Common sense — and science — will tell you that we cannot possibly simply stop depending of fossil fuels until replacement energy sources are fully in place. And doubtful we will ever entirely stop the need and use for some fossil fuels.
Congratulations to all who have suggested policies that the new administration should move to enact. But please note that the Biden campaign neither advocated nor promised any of those policies that you mention, certainly with no noticeable exuberance, choosing rather to advocate enthusiatically to promise vague programs to advantage ONLY special interest minorities, especially women but also blacks, Hispanics, LGBTQ, and immigrants.
If our DNC and our Democratic candidates had advocated policies like y’all mentioned, you wouldn’t need to mention them now.
If instead our DNC and our Democratic candidates had advocated specific policies to benefit the great majority interest group–the middle class–we would have stolen tens of millions of votes from Republicans.
But we Democrats are hung-up, like mating dogs, on the mistaken in-heat idea that you can win elections on a regular basis and govern equatibly only by patching together small minority groups; to hell with broad policy!
I suspect that Democratic leaders cannot think of a single broad, major policy that does not pinch some minority a little bit, nor can they think of a broad policy that ALSO helps minority groups; therefore, broad policy must be avoided; therefore, broad policy never gets enacted; therefore, don’t expect infrastructure programs, education reform, police reform, or any other major problem solving policy to be delivered by our Democratic leadership.
Expect instead at least one more minority group will be identified and courted with full-court press fanaticism and with ridiculously naive hopes that its addition to our stable of minorities will be enough to put the Democratic vote over the top at the next election.
But nice…and sweet…and polite…and Jesus-like!
Bernie and AOC at least advocate problem-solving policies; get that through your head.
“Bernie and AOC at least advocate problem-solving policies; get that through your head.” I can “imagine” wonderful things, too – see John Lennon…
It is another thing to make progress in a divided country with pragmatic governing that can pass on a bi-partisan basis and be viewed as acceptable and positive by a majority of the American people.
Dreaming v/s governing in our times.
Here’s a hearty, secular Amen to your comments. Those very thoughts rotate around my frontal lobe like they were on a continuous loop.
My wife has a T-shirt that says, “My religion is kindness.” That pretty much covers the waterfront.
My all time favorite economist ( but with kudos to Piketty and Stiglitz) is John Maynard Keynes, who long ago laid down the rules on how to handle depressions, recessions and other downturns in the economy, and none of his nostrums had to do with austerity – quite the contrary. Here’s the rule: that during downturns of whatever magnitude you reduce taxes and resort to deficit spending, and when the recovery begins you increase taxes to pay for what you borrowed. Case closed, but trouble is that Republicans only want to follow Keynesian instructions for the first half of his instructions; they do not want to repay what they borrowed and as a result our long term deficit zooms.
Right now with interest rates on deficit borrowing at historic lows they have some semblance of an economic argument, but giant tax cuts when not in a downturn such as the Trump-Ryan giveaway in a December 2017 lame duck session which added some two trillion dollars to our long term deficit cannot be justified whatever the interest rate.
As to austerity, it has no place in our economy whether we are in a boom or a depression, and especially as applied today to desperate state and local governments whose revenues have been savaged only partly because of the pandemic and mostly because of Trump’s criminal negligence (bordering on homicide) in handling it. Consider layoffs of firemen, state troopers, city police, county nurses, school teachers et al and the massive increase in unemployment and the loss of such services to our well being, and consider that if Republicans had two trillion dollars for distribution to the rich and corporate class just recently they should be able to deficit finance state and local governments and the vital services they provide for those of us who are not and will never be in that privileged class. Pitchfork time yet?
It is my understanding that some Native American tribes thought about how their decisions would affect the tribe 7 generations from the present. Too bad we are not better at taking the long view.
I dare to believe that those who refuse to wear masks want immediate gratification.
Biden is obviously going to have a difficult transition thanks to our childish dictator who throws temper tantrums when he does not get what he wants.
In the days following the election, I could hear the great Dinah Washington’s classic, “What a Difference a Day Makes” running through my head. Hear it once again at YouTube. The first verse goes like this:
“What a difference a day makes
Twenty-four little hours….”
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain….”
It will take time to convince the current occupant that it’s over (really over). And has anyone heard from Becky the naysayer? It’s been pretty quiet from her end these days.
And Dinah’s last line in “What a Difference a Day Makes” is the most important one of all:
“And the difference is you.”
Yes indeed! It took all of us to get this victory. You may also know that the occupant is already reloading and aiming for 2024.
Read recently that inquires are being made into the dispersal of the billions that Congress appropriated for Pandemic relief. While congress was finalizing the details trump fired two IG”s who would have over seen the money. If I recall correctly, Jared Kushner was put in charge of that task? Alarm bells were going off all over the place! How much of that money went to small business, and how much went to business that was too big & didn’t qualify, but got it anyway.
I read about(it’s been awhile) an Ukrainian Oligarch that owns coal mines in (don’t remember exact State) West Virginia possibly, that got multi-millions for PPP. Seemed suspicious to me. Wonder if it was a kick-back scheme? Why would Congress want to release money through the current administration, if it’s not guaranteed to get to those in need? I sure hope there will be an investigation into the handlings of our billions of relief monies!
Lester – while I think that the rhetoric of Bernie and company are just plain stupid (Republicans know how to label a pro-pollution bill as a “Clean Water” initiative), if they went away, things wouldn’t change – EVERY Democrat will be labeled “socialist”, because it scares people who don’t understand that their Social Security is “socialism”.
Think back to Fritz Haber – Nobel Prize for saving European agriculture with his process to produce ammonia for fertilizer — then to prove he was a good German, developed poison gas for WWI and converted to become a Christian – and was dismissed from his post during WWII for being a Jew – It doesn’t matter how much Democrats spit on “progressives”, they will still be seen as “too socialist” for the new Trumpian Republican Party (although the old Republicans used red-baiting since Nixon, if not before).
patmcc – I don’t see any “thoughtful and serious” Republican Senators – except for an occasional
disagreement, you won’t find a group bucking their party – their goal is to “make Biden/Harris a one-term phenomenon”
Peggy, Where did you find the Cab? I could use some good wine about now.
Comments are closed.