Where’s The Money? In Wisconsin and Elsewhere

I recently overheard a group of young people chatting about the best places in this area to live. One young man, who admitted he was a Maryland resident, asked a member of the group who lives in the District of Columbia, why she wouldn’t want to live in Virginia. After all, he pointed out the taxes there are lower…

I remembered the time when George Allen was governor of Virginia. Rep. Bobby Scott, a brilliant member of Congress from the Commonwealth, pointed out to me that his governor had embarked on a clever plan.

Back in the “New Jack City” days when drugs and crime were among the main concerns Rep. Scott told me, Gov. Allen set about to build a number of new prisons, even though there was no real overcrowding in the state’s existing jails. His strategy was to commit the state government to having to staff and maintain those prisons, forever, and ever, and ever, amen.

Voila! That budgetary obligation would oblige the state for decades to come, and would mean less money for everything else, especially for social programs that might prevent people from turning to crime in the first place.

Fast forward to 2011. The state of Wisconsin is crying broke, and is not only balancing its budget on the backs of its public sector employees, but at the same time, is stripping the workers of their future collective bargaining rights.

Dozens of other states have the same fiscal headache, and see their own government workers as ripe for the budget axe.

The federal government has a similar problem, and President Barack Obama’s first step was to freeze federal workers’ pay. Sadly, that is not enough, and Republicans who swept into power in the House of Representatives in the 2010 election cycle see it as their calling to gut the federal workforce and eliminate federal funding and programs for everything except the military.

Funny thing about that solution. It doesn’t take into account, what happened to the money in the first place.

President George W. (for Worst in history) Bush came into office inheriting a budget surplus from the Bill Clinton administration, with a singular idea: cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and cutting services for the rest. Surprise! Along came two wars.

The first war in Afghanistan was ill-advised, not to mention being un-winnable. (Just check back on the history of Alexander The Great and his attempt to conquer Afghanistan…remember the Soviet invasion of that country?) The war in Iraq was illegal, immoral, and unjust, and should never have been fought.

Both conflicts continue till this very day, costing the United States literally trillions of dollars. For what? For nothing!

Then came the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, with the promise that they would invest in the economy, resulting in boom-times. With deregulation of the banking and financial industry, that happened for a time, as speculation and Ponzi Schemes–some of the illegal, most of them legal–drove the economy over a cliff.

And now, here we are. The average citizens have no money. The government has no money. Only the wealthiest individuals, the banks, the oil companies, the pharmaceutical manufacturers–the oligarchs–only the richest Americans have any money, and they’re not spending it, they’re waiting for the price of labor to fall in the competitive economy so they can make even more moolah, from the exploited under priced labor pool.

So where did the money go? It went to tax breaks for the wealthy and for immoral wars which cost the lives of tens of thousands, bankrupted the economy, and didn’t buy the country one minute more security.

Ironically, those are the very subjects which are not even being discussed in the what-to-do-about-the-deficits-debate. Military spending is off the table. The Congress just extended tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans who each receive an average of a $100,000 per year smaller tax bill.

What a scheme. Instead of building prisons to bankrupt the government, just give money to the wealthiest people who don’t need it. The same goal is accomplished. The government is bankrupt, and legislators are forced to slash programs–not the military–in order to make up the shortfall.

And our typical Generation-Y2K young adults can contemplate the place to live where the taxes are lowest, voting for candidates who promise them “something for nothing,” only this time the proverbial “chicken in every pot” is a lower tax bill, with no consequences except pain for those undeserving government workers, and no more “government cheese” for those undeserving ACORN-pimps living off the dole in public housing. And who cares about those folks anyway?

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