Saturday, February 02, 2008

Carcieri's Magical Mystery Budget

Tom Sgouros always says it far better than I. Repeatedly the Guv blames a Democratic Lege for budgets with any resulting problems while rewarding himself with backpats at the same time. The yearly balance he submits to the Lege for approval always has contained "creative" budgetry:

The structural deficit in Governor Carcieri's first budget was $24 million for
the first following year. In his second year the same number was $69 million,
then $99 million, $135 million, and $379 million, which is for next year.

It was then left up to the Lege to plug-in these holes. The Guv was then free to assail whatever they did when, in fact, he never actually balanced his own budgets. Ignored or forgotten in the onsuing polarized political discussion is that budgetary problems never has been solely a R.I. problem in good times or bad.

To totally turn a blind eye to what is increasingly becoming a nationwide problem is to miss the point; e.g., missing the forest for the trees. The almost total destruction of the societal safety net of use to everyone coupled with federal policies encouraging outsourcing resulting in the arterial bleeding of both skilled and non-skilled jobs is pushed aside. A once strong and vital middle class, along with the promise achievable hope that a better life was offered to everyone is teetering.

This once strong middle class ($40,000-$120,000, appx. 60% of population) didn't appear suddenly on the scene like Topsy who just "growed and growed." It was carefully nurtured through policies which redistributed wealth from the very top of the income strata. This was done beginning with FDR's New Deal policies after the depression and continued after WW II. This process wasn't advocated only by Liberal Democrats,but was considered mainstream and continued under Republicans Eisenhower & Nixon.

The rise of the state college/university (GI Bill & 1965 Higher Edc. Act.) bolstered with community colleges and "trade schools" with the attitude that more education is good for everyone, rises in the minimum wage, job and environmental protections, governmental sponsored mortgages which provided affordable high-quality home ownership, expanded public healthcare, expanded public infrastructure and a strong union movement (profit-sharing, penions, healthcare) proved to be good for almost everyone. Federal legislation also expanded the middle class to non-whites & women by ensuring fairness of opportunity & income. The economy expanded and unlike today's unprecedented expansion, proved that, in fact, a rising tide did raise all boats.

To even further erode the safety net which one was welcoming to all who needed it (as the Eurpoeans still provide) and to totally ignore any formalized process for job expansion remind me of the ostrich burying its head in the sand. The Guv has abdicated his role of even attempting to improve everyone's life with firings, increased and expanded fees, while crossing his fingers that Union membership will asssist him to accomplish their own blood-letting. While suddenly divorcing himself from any gambling discussion (like expansion of hours), he's leaving it up to the Democratic-controllege Lege to clean up his mess while providing himself with plenty of elbow room to increase his finger-pointing ability.

A responsible budget would not demonize certain groups- immigrants, the poor, and unionized state workers. The current budget solution is a program designed, not only on the state level but a national one, to enable the rest of us, even encourage us, to blame these groups for our woes. A responsible budget would have a plan/process to expand our economy from the bottom up, rather than the top down. A responsible budget would spread any cuts to be made from the top down.

A responsible budget would:

1. Increase/maintain access to health care.

2. Increase/maintain affordable housing

3. decrease personal debt- we need to restore some of those old usury laws.

4. (From Projo's John Kostrzewa) Make Providence the hub of a cluster of collaborations among the state’s universities, hospitals and innovative companies to research developing technologies that will create start-up companies and jobs.

5. Focus on life sciences, the industry that is expanding with new products, drugs and services to sell to an aging U.S. population (hello, URI). Again, thanks to John K.

6. research continued development at Quonset & renewable energy project (utilize URI again)

7. Focus on developing/expanding alternative forms of energy (whatever happened to solar?)

The candidate who acknowledges this [middle class anxiety] and comes up with ways not just to stimulate the economy but also to boost wages - through, say, a more progressive tax, stronger unions and, over the longer term, better schools for children from lower-income families and better access to higher education - will have a good chance of winning over America's large, and increasingly anxious, voters.
(Robert Reich)

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