If you have been listening to the ideas coming out of Congress recently, you have heard something I’d like to call The Great Scramble. Now that the party of NO has been given another chance to actually do what they’ve always said they wanted to do, here comes the dragon of "fiscal restraint."
The first iterations of the scramble include cuts to just about everything that affects the general public. Social Security and Medicare have been targets of frustration for Republicans since the programs began in 1933.
Now they want to reduce Medicare and Social Security benefits and extend retirement age to 69.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered a second bill of rights in his last State of the Union speech in 1945. They included rights to a job that paid a living wage, health-care assistance, elimination of discrimination for any reason and a quality education for all.
After Harry S. Truman became president, we dropped the bomb, ended the war, enacted the Marshall Plan and generally set about rebuilding a war-ravaged world. FDR’s six rights were shelved and never heard from until the Johnson Administration in the 1960s.
In a separate but pertinent piece, a radio pundit said the present moment of sanity about economics has actually driven Libertarians and Liberals closer together philosophically. I noticed right away that both labels start with the same five letters, so maybe this guy was on to something.
The Constitution says that government is there for the general welfare of the people. Our government provides funding and infrastructure for educating the masses, requiring a savings account for the golden years of our working people, unemployment assistance for those finding themselves out of work, a medical safety net for wildly expensive health-care necessities, protection from overcrowded airways and airwaves, the strongest military force in history to protect us from invaders, a federal highway system second to none, a national park system second to none, law enforcement at many levels, fire protection/fighting services for our property and national forests, regulation of labor exploitation, pollution, waste, fraud, unsafe working conditions, dangerous imports, dangerous products we make and a military manufacturing complex that is larger and more productive than in World War II.
How’s that for general welfare? Are we all willing to pay for these things? These provisions, and many others, have contributed to our greatness and our pride in the United States of America.
The following is a brief summary of current financially driven events caused by budget crises at state levels where their Constitutions require a balanced budget.
The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 4, 2009, page 1: California, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island and Colorado have "shuttered" most state offices one day per week. Detroit cut family services for foster kids. Seven thousand state jobs were eliminated in Washington; 27,000 teachers were laid off in California; Maine families cannot apply for food stamps or Medicaid; Georgia has 25,000 state employees facing furloughs; lawyers there have trouble finding government personnel with whom to file papers at the State Court of Appeals. Five million Americans work for state governments; many of their jobs are no longer secure.
Budget cuts are forcing police around the country to stop responding to fraud, burglary and theft calls as officers focus limited resources on violent crime.
Public employee layoffs and service cutbacks enacted by these states amount to an anti-stimulus program that dwarfs the size of the federal government’s stimulus program (The Week, July 16, 2010, page 4).
There’s no relief in sight.
Sooner or later, every tier of this society will hurt. Even the rich need a functioning traffic system. Even they need clean water, bridges that stay up, dams that don’t falter, and firefighters and police with the capacity to respond.
Infrastructure has no politics. It either works or it doesn’t. A nation that lets its infrastructure crumble will wake one fine day to find itself completely crippled.
There are about 15 million people out of work. The fastest and most practical way of regaining fiscal balance is for corporate America and its banking friends to get off their piles of cash and start putting people to work.
Working people pay taxes. If we were fully employed maybe the rich could justify their craven tax cuts.
Turner is a retired teacher and industrial engineer who lives near Marble Falls. He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company.