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A LIBERAL VIEW OF THINGS: Going broke in today’s atmosphere of fear

“We’re broke.”

So says E.J. Dionne in his recent article in the Washington Post. He tells us our governments at every level are selling this line to justify draconian cuts in spending on social services and mindless attacks on the very small percentage of unionized state employees. The phrase is designed to create a sense of crisis that justifies rapid and radical actions before citizens have a chance to debate the consequences.

There is one small problem: We’re not broke.

It is true there is a fiscal problem based on tax cuts for the wealthy, an economic slump resulting from runaway greed and legalized theft by the banking and investment industries. But there is no crisis. There are many different ways to fix our problems in addition to cutting by agenda-driven fiat. We have to realize we remain a very rich nation. Our unemployment rate of 8.9 percent is dropping. The stock market has crested at near-record heights. The rich are doing exceptionally well.

Two of the loudest “We’re broke!” advocates are John Boehner and Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin.

“We’re broke, broke going on bankrupt,” Boehner said in a Feb. 28 Nashville, Tenn., speech. He’s trying to justify the $61 billion spending cuts the House Republicans passed that will have negligible impact on the long-term deficit. Instead, future citizen investment programs like Head Start, student loans and a variety of other pro-person items are the targets of this Chicken Little nonsense.

Walker used the “we’re broke” canard to justify his attack on public-worker collective bargaining rights. Yet the state’s supposedly “broke” status came after he approved tax cuts to the rich and the corporations in Wisconsin. This is the worst kind of cynicism, especially when Walker told someone impersonating billionaire David Koch that “this is our time to change the course of history.”

The only history I see being changed is the replacement of democracy by a plutocracy of his rich pals.

In both cases, the fiscal issues are an excuse for ideologically driven policies to lower taxes on well-off people and businesses while reducing government programs the Republican brand has been attacking for almost 80 years. They just don’t seem to understand this is a nation of people, not money.

Boehner’s statement is, of course, wrong. As Bloomberg’s David J. Lynch wrote: “The U.S. today is able to borrow at historically low interest rates, paying 0.68 percent on a two-year note that it had to offer at 5.1 percent before the financial crisis began in 2007. Financial products that pay off if Uncle Sam defaults aren’t attracting unusual investor demand. And tax revenue as a percentage of the economy is at a 60-year low, meaning if the government needs to raise cash and can summon the political will, it could do so.”

As one might expect, Republican politicians use a phony metaphor to hijack the nation’s political conversation and skew public policies to benefit better-off Americans and hurt most others. This is not news. Republicans have been representing this big lie for decades.

Dionne continues: “We have an 8.9 percent unemployment rate, yet further measures to spur job creation are off the table. We’re broke, you see. We have a $15 trillion economy, yet we pretend to be an impoverished nation with no room for public investments in our future or efforts to ease the pain of a deep recession on those Americans who didn’t profit from it or cause it in the first place.”

Remember back to the last election cycle when Republicans campaigned on “jobs, jobs, jobs?"

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., pointed out in a little-noticed speech on the economy in December, “… During the past 20 years, 56 percent of all income growth went to the top 1 percent of households. Even more unbelievably, a third of all income growth went to just the top one-tenth of 1 percent.”

So how does anyone justify cutting taxes for the wealthy? Obviously, cutting their taxes did not create any jobs.

Franken noted “… When you adjust for inflation, the median household income actually declined over the last decade.”

So, we see those folks are going broke, yet because the Republicans tell us “we’re broke,” we can’t possibly help those who need it most.

How else do you define class warfare?


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. He can be reached by e-mail at