Glenn Greenwald has a depressing, but probably prescient, post up called “What collapsing empire looks like.” Among other things, he points to an article in the New York Times about what city and state governments are cutting because they have no money —
Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation.
Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.
Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.
The United States came into being officially in 1781, with the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, which of course were replaced by the Constitution in 1788. At the time, conventional wisdom in Europe was that republics might work OK in a small country, but U.S. needed the strong hand of a monarch to govern it. There was no way, they thought, that a people scattered over such a large area could govern themselves through elected representation. It wasn’t until after the U.S. successfully pulled itself back together after the Civil War that Europe stopped expecting the U.S. political system to crumble apart at any moment.
In the years after the Civil War, the U.S. enjoyed a remarkable degree of political stability given the diversity of our people and regions. Federal and state governments managed to function more or less as they were designed to, in spite of the usual elements of corruption and idiocy common to all human enterprises.
However, the system does seem to require that some critical mass of elected officials be adults, emotionally as well as physically. Some critical mass has to be able to keep their natural larceny and self-delusion within accepted parameters. Some critical mass has to be observant enough to know chickens from toasters.
What we’re seeing is what happens when we lose that critical mass.
idiot children Republicans are squawking about job losses in June and July. Matt Yglesias writes, —
The new unemployment report highlights the fact that the economy remains lousy and John Boehner is going to be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. Ironically, it also demonstrates the bankruptcy of Boehnerâ€™s way of thinking. The new conservative orthodoxy has been that somehow teachers, police officers, guys who repair street signs, bus drivers, librarians, etc. donâ€™t have â€œreal jobsâ€ and that police departments, roads, trains, buses, libraries, etc. donâ€™t contribute to economic growth. In those terms, the unemployment report was actually fineâ€”the private sector added 71,000 jobs, which isnâ€™t the greatest number in human history but itâ€™s okay.
The big losses were government jobs, and that was both predictable and preventable. We just have to have the will to pay for those jobs. While a big chunk of the job losses were from laying off the temporary census workers, we see that essential jobs, as well as services, are also being cut for lack of money. We’re essentially choking ourselves to death because we’ve developed a phobia about paying taxes.
Republicans seem to think that the money required to run police departments, schools and libraries come from the Good Money Fairy. Or maybe it grows on trees. If we Believe hard enough, the money will just be there, and we can go on as we always have taking a basic level of infrastructure and services for granted. Matt continues,
But because in the Senate a minority of members can get their way, action wasnâ€™t taken. Consequently, we have a horrible jobs number. Which would be bad enough, but the way the American political system works, the minority party that prevented the majority from addressing the crisis will accrue massive political benefits as a result of the collapse.
Conservatives wonâ€™t admit it today, but what weâ€™re looking at is a major breakdown of the logic of the American political system.
I’ve said before that America was able to coast for a long time on the investments in people and infrastructure made during the New Deal and during and after World War II. Well, we ain’t coastin’ no more. We have stopped. And we can either find the will to re-invest, or we can let the country rot. It’s our choice.
Righties like to tell us that freedom isn’t free, meaning that they require the blood sacrifice of other people going to war for their freedom from time to time. Well, folks, little about a nation is free. Roads aren’t free. Police cars aren’t free. Armies aren’t free, for that matter. National parks and monuments aren’t free. Schools, from kindergartens to universities, aren’t free.
This nation still has wealth, natural resources (most of ’em, anyway), and a reasonably skilled workforce. There is no natural reason why the economy is this bad. The righties can argue whether nature or mankind causes global warming, but there’s no question nature didn’t screw up the economy. We did this to ourselves, but we did it to ourselves because movement conservatives sold Americans on the fairy tale that we can keep the same prosperous, stable and safe America we’d come to expect in the 20th century but not have to pay for it.
Righties can argue all they like about how their tax-cutting, supply-side economic theories aren’t to blame, and the fault belongs to “tax and spend” liberals. Never mind that the historical evidence says otherwise.
Paul Krugman has a must-read column today on the allegedly innovative economic ideas of Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. However, “Mr. Ryan isnâ€™t offering fresh food for thought; heâ€™s serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce,” Krugman says. It’s the same old, same old — just relieve the rich of their tax burdens, and everything will work out.
Oh, of course, we’d have to dismantle Medicare, but that’s OK. We’ll give the old folks vouchers they can take to insurance companies to buy their own insurance. Of course, if the health care reform act is repealed the insurance companies will refuse to insure old folks anyway, so the vouchers would be worthless, but at least the old folks will die knowing that their corpses will be buried in a land where the free market prevails.