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Dire States

State budgets in crisis. Out of money. Running out of time. Painful cuts ahead. Maybe tax hikes. We’ll check-in around the country.

Rally protests budget cuts at the Illinois State Capitol, Springfield, Ill., April, 2010. (AP)

Rally protests budget cuts at the Illinois State Capitol, Springfield, Ill., April, 2010. (AP)

Across this land, cities, towns and states are wrapping up their fiscal years and trying to nail down budgets for 2011.

And it’s an ugly time in state houses and city halls in Albany, Trenton, Raleigh, Sacramento, Phoenix and more.

Huge budget shortfalls in forty-six states. Federal stimulus money is drying up at the worst possible time. That means closed libraries, fewer teachers, firemen and cops. Most of the fat was trimmed long ago. Now, the real meat of good government is on the chopping block.

This hour, On Point: The dire financial straits in American towns, cities and states.
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Guests:

Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. of Colorado will join us from the Western Governors’ Association annual conference in Whitefish, Montana.

Aaron McLear, spokesman for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California joins us from Los Angeles.

Nicholas Johnson, Director of the State Fiscal Project at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities joins us from Washington, DC.

Mayor Chris Bollwage of Elizabeth, New Jersey.

John Micek covers Pennsylvania state politics for the Allentown Morning Call newspaper and joins us from Harrisburg, PA.

And later this hour, remembering West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Ellen Dibble

    It seems to me some towns will have lost lots of jobs, have lots of foreclosed homes, and the wise citizen will pick up and move. Other towns, perhaps by better planning, will be doing better. I expect to hear: How mobile are we? How able are we to reconfigure populations?
    Mayors will talk about attracting new industry, weasling their way to state funding, but sometimes the need is now.

  • Bryan

    Every time a state budget “crisis” comes up, we hear stories of how firefighters/cops/teachers are goign to lose their jobs if we don’t raise taxes.

    What about the rest of the bureaucrats and social welfare programs? Our priorities are out of whack.

  • Jim in Austin

    Texas is facing an $18 billion budget deficit (see link below) in the upcoming fiscal period. Cuts are happening in education. In Austin there have been cuts in public transportation (the local system of mini buses downtown, called Dillos, were eliminated).

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/side/7040207.html

  • Jeff Burton

    The biggest problem that states and municipalities face is that they have made promises they cannot keep to their employees. You would not have to fire teachers or turn off street lights with a few simple measures. Imagine if you benchmarked municipal employee pay and benefits schemes to similar jobs in the private sector. Government employees would have to give up their generous pensions and enter 401 K plans, retire at 65 rather 55, contribute to their health care plans, receive lower wage increases. If you took those actions–I suspect that these state and local shortfalls would immediately disappear. This is a spending problem above all else. I believe revenues for states are only down 8%–how can you have a 300B shortfall at the state level when your revenues only fall 8%. Deal with the employment costs!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Firefighters/cops/teachers, at least in my state, have unions, and those negotiations can be pretty high profile. I don’t know what percentage of total state/local taxes go to those professions, but locally when we talk taxes, we talk “one-third of a teacher” versus a new piece of road equipment or a roof over this or that building that is caving in: long PowerPoint showing the disintegration of facilities. Versus one class of kids.

  • Marc

    Agree with Jeff and Ellen

    From what I remember, California had a budget mess before the recession. Same with New York.

    One of my relatives teaches in the UC community college system. He had a bachelor’s with almost no experience in the field he taught, but he knew people on the faculty. Short hours during the school year, summer’s off, really nice salary, great benefits and a pension (yes, I’m a bit envious). The public sector has sunk Greece and are sinking New York, California, Massachusetts and many others.

    Naturally, the governments will blame the recession (which is one factor) and drop the programs that hurt the most while protecting the unions and insiders as much as they can.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Even with somewhat plumped-up pay, some seem to go into state government in order to milk the system. Something is always making the news; consider Blogoyavitch (sp?). To the extent that a state appointment is often suspect of being a plum appointment for having supported some elected official. And as posters here suggest, those will be the last to be cut. It’s as much a problem for the investigative reporters as it is for the Budget Committee.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Sunday night the big news on the networks was that “Obama lost the argument in Toronto” at the G-20, and the other countries are going to reduce their deficits, while Obama was encouraging more stimulus. The result, sooner or later, is American goods will not be sold as much, and a double-dip recession is likely, or at least a much slower recovery.
    Already, the lower levels of government are paying the price. The bill that failed to extend unemployment benefits that fell last week. Apparently a big chunk of money that was coming to my state was voted down in the Senate.
    Cutting the budget is going to be a long haul. Last year, towns and states were not thinking in terms of a 10-year famine. Now, maybe we should be.

  • Jim in Austin

    Looking at the pay of municipal employees is needed, but that’s only a small percentage of the problem. The bigger issue is on the revenue side. The recession has choked off the incoming stream of tax revenue. When businesses and individuals make less, and when property values plummet, tax revenues disappear. The focus needs to be on improving the economy and preventing the kinds of “bubbles” (especially in real estate) we’ve seen that caused the problem in the first place.

  • Jeff Burton

    BI think it is important to remember that the private sector, not the public sector, is the key driver of economic growth. If public sector spending were the secret to economic health, Japan (debt 200% of GDP) and Greece would be economic titans. Less spending by government means lower taxes or lower borrowing–both good things long term for the economy.

  • Steve J.

    For a direct positive impact on virtually all budgets, institute a deposit on ALL containers — plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, etc. based on the recyclability of the container with the proceeds divided between supporting a recycling industry, local, state and federal governments.

  • jeffe

    We should be prepared for what is now seeming like a long depression with rising unemployment and long term unemployment for many. How this will play out is anyone’s guess.

    One thing is fore sure from where I sit I see the government propping up the banks and wall street and not doing much for the rest of society. Seems to me that our country is owned by the banks.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Mandated inspectors — where I live, towns pool together and share a public health person and so on.
    Collaborations are under way. There is a elementary school shared by several towns that is closing, turning into a home-school building, funded by parents who have now hired one of the former teachers to run it. Is that “home-school” or private?

  • Ellen Dibble

    Cuts in public transportation. Use it or lose it. Where I live, there has been much pathos about please bring the buses here or there, and then nobody much rides that route, and there is $500,000 wasted.
    It would help the planet to support public transportation, and save us money for those of us who can manage without cars. Instead we’d be paying the bus fare, not the car companies. (Sorry GM)

  • http://gmavt.net Judy Larson DiMario

    This is no surprise: what else will happen when we have Free Trade, NAFTA and globalization??

    Corporations will fight it, but it’s our jobs that are off-shored, and when we get out of it our economy will be on the rise — as will the economies of the European countries, and others, that are in it with us.

    Easy? No, especially with the thousands of lobbyists that’ll fight our getting out of it. When it came in in the early 90s, I said “There go our jobs”!

    Well, big surprise? Not to me!

  • Steve

    It seems that all the “solutions” offered consist of “stop spending money on them”.

    As long as we are a society of take from them and give to me, we will continue to spiral into oblivion.
    We MUST figure out how to build a society and civilization that considers the quality of all lives. There will always be individuals who are better or worse off than others but we need to focus on the whole rather than fight over the parts as a matter of SELF preservation.

  • Judy

    In response to the gentleman who called commenting upon the “over pay” scale of state employees; My daughter is an attorney for Child Support Enforcement, in one of MA’s county divisions of Department of Social Services. Her salary, in no way, approaches the much higher pay scale of a private sector.

  • informed American

    I thought Barack Obama’s 787 billion dollar stimulus package (which he and the democrats jammed through congress) was supposed to prevent this from happening. It looks like Obama sold his gullible stooges another bill of false goods.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Informed American, it looks like you still have internet service (constant efforts at the federal level to keep that safe), and your town probably still has electricity. You could be going solar, but it is not required. Basic services are still in place. Those who have lost jobs, those who have lost homes, though there are throngs and throngs of them, have not taken out their machetes and gone after bread and water from their neighbors. Well, I think of that because we did have just that the other day. You come home and find a woman with a machete, claiming there is a hostage being held, and helping herself. She leaves willingly. There is still luck left.
    No, we did not have a total meltdown in 2009.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    If capitalism requires constant growth, then it is a cultural cancer.

    Socialism is such a dirty word in these supposedly individualistic United States, but unless we want to die from right-wing fiscal chemotherapy, we’d better all learn how to curse.

    Sorry for the mixed metaphor. Not sorry for the sentiment.

    And one more thing, something so obvious that it never gets uttered in these discussions:

    MONEY IS ILLUSORY!

    Things and knowledge possess the only value in this world. If the world fell apart, I’d happily trade any number of useless gold bars for my library of books.

  • loninappleton

    @Joshua Hendrickson

    Right wing fiscal chemotherapy is an apt metaphor. But amputation is their goal.

    There is no questioning on anyone’s part in these comments or in subject matter for On Point itself on the idea of perpetual growth. From small towns to large cities it is part of the vocabulary and the catechism of both government and business alike. Anything contrary to it is considered heresy.

    Leaving the cancer metaphor aside, managed contraction has been proposed to reverse all the waste: “better not bigger” is one catch phrase used in this context.

  • Ellen Dibble

    A lot of people think MONEY IS SECURITY. You don’t ask a friend or family; you pays for what you wants. You certainly don’t expect the government to provide security. Those of us heading into years of diminishing capacity (age about 65) think money — or maybe an asset like a house which could be converted into money if necessary — represent our best hope for being able to keep contributing, in the ways older people can.
    Things that are of value today might be worthless tomorrow. Books are one example.
    And knowledge of many sorts becomes superannuated.
    The skills that are most constantly useful are those deployed in the service of others, whether directly, in helping moderate the way through crises (the “interpersonal”/”emotional” skills), or less directly. The more ad hoc skills, the many skills we pay for, once were lifelong and even intergenerational. Now yesterday’s expert is today’s dinosaur, sometimes. A fisherman is now a bird-cleaner, for instance.

  • TomK

    The root of this problem is so obvious. Ever since Reagan’s election in 1980 we have been cutting taxes and following class-warfare economics that has shifted all the wealth to the upper brackets, say the top 1%. As the rich get more, we tax them less. Taxes have become taboo, but most Americans don’t seem to connect the declining tax rates with their declining standard of living. We no longer say, “we’d like a good school, let’s get together and pay what it costs”. We still have our wish lists, but we want everything for free. Well, sorry, but a “commonwealth” is not free. If we won’t pay for a developed society, with law enforcement, schools, state universities, roads, water, sewer etc etc, we won’t have one.

  • CG Chicgo

    Used to work for the public sector. Gave it up. It was dishonest. I did make “less” than I do now in the private sector, but not PER HOUR. (My job was supposedly 40 hours a week but I found myself actually working 10 far too often…had many associates in the same boat).

    Interesting discussion on Private Worker vs. Public Worker pay:

    http://reason.org/news/show/public-sector-private-sector-salary

  • CG Chicago

    In Chicago we spend about 300 Million more than we need to on garbage collection.

    That isn’t chump change…even in Chicago.

    Link is here: http://chicago2ndward.com/uncategorized/chicago-garbage-collection-an-expensive-archaic-system/04

  • William

    It is amazing how the Civil Service has become so corrupt over the last 30 years. It is pure greed on their part. Ronald Reagan was right that government is the problem.

  • TomK

    Let’s see, bankers are getting multi-million dollar bonuses for making scam financial “instruments” that don’t benefit anyone but gamblers, the middle class is sinking as voodoo reaganomics transfers all the wealth to the top, and the big concern is greed and corruption in the civil service. ROTFL

    BTW, the right has been in charge for the last 30 years. I can’t think of a liberal with real power since Tip O’Neil. You got your tax cuts and deregulation. The Civil Service certainly isn’t what it was. With righty pol after righty pol telling gvt employees that they are losers and tax cut after tax cut, surprise!

  • peter nelson

    Imagine if you benchmarked municipal employee pay and benefits schemes to similar jobs in the private sector

    Oh my god!! You better check your data. Although some public-sector jobs, like police and fire, don’t really have exact private sector equivalents, there are plenty that do: doctors and other health workers, scientists, lawyers, computer professionals, and various administrators and managers. And in general most of these are paid way less than they would be in the private sector. Generous benefits are an attempt to make up for this so we can attract some talent to taxpayer-funded jobs, but when you add it all up they still fall short.

    IMO your proposal would cost taxpayers a fortune.

  • twenty-niner

    “If capitalism requires constant growth, then it is a cultural cancer.”

    Capitalism per se doesn’t require constant growth. To maintain our standard of living, the economy must grow at least at the rate of the population.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Capitalism as it’s practiced by Goldman Sachs may demand growth in order to keep the kitty stable, in order to keep dividends flowing, but it should be possible to design the incentives — sector by sector — to benefit contractions as well as expansions.
    For instance, in the health insurance mode, we could reward hospitals that use less costly technologies, something along those lines, rather than making it most remunerative to the providers always to use the most costly.
    That’s the medical model of the problem, but you can superimpose that idea onto the tax situation (with the government as the hospital/provider). Currently, there are higher taxes on costlier cars, and higher property taxes on costlier houses. The government does better when people are living the costliest lives.
    If you could had a financial model that would give tax benefits to municipalities (or states, or the federal government) for efficiencies in lifestyle, how would that be? More taxes from the not-so-well-off? In order to encourage the government to encourage people to be not-so-well-off? (In order to provide more revenue?) You know what? We have that. (Now my thread of thought goes off the rails a bit. So what else is new…)
    I’m not sure how to design this sort of shift away from Bigger is More Capitalist, but it seems to be basic to getting to what my community calls “sustainability,” i.e., growth or contraction, whichever is most beneficial, but orderly continuation.

  • TomK

    Sherlock Holmes is called in to solve the mystery of why states can’t afford basic services anymore. Dr Watson notices an article in USA today:

    “Tax bills in 2009 at lowest level since 1950
    By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

    Amid complaints about high taxes and calls for a smaller government, Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman’s presidency, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data found….

    Federal, state and local income taxes consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.”

    “I say, Holmes, do you think this might offer a CLUE???”

    Well, it’s not just a clue, it’s the answer, but for some reason the right are still whining about being “born free, taxed to death”. What hope is there to reclaim our middle class society when the very people whose standards of living are being destroyed by elitist righty economics think the problem is civil servants?

    Because of unions and contracts, some civil servants without MBAs have the decent wages and benefits that middle class Americans used to have before reaganomics. It’s too bad that the right reacts by targeting an isolated and shrinking pocket of the middle class for what they’ve managed to hang onto, instead of wondering why more Americans can’t live the way their parents did. To think that before reaganomics it was a given that the children would be more prosperous – how sad.

  • Ellen Dibble

    There was a time when a person’s prosperity could be seen as a badge indicating his or her value to the community: Pillar of the Community.
    Nowadays, I would be inclined to see someone’s prosperity as a sign of their being a parasite on some community, maybe overseas where someone else’s environment is being despoiled, maybe here by some other method. This is also sad.
    I’m thinking of a care and protection trial where a judge is trying to understand why a young mother repeatedly forms relationships with perpetrators of domestic violence, drug pushers, criminals. Didn’t you know the signs?
    Consider a judge inquiring of someone from another echelon altogether, Don’t you know how to distinguish a Parasite from a Pillar? Don’t you know the Signs? Don’t you know when someone is careless about money it might be that they come by it recklessly? By way of preying on others?
    Only in that case, it might be accountants and not psychologists who play the lead role in the testimony. Poverty may not be a crime, but great wealth is beginning to look like a social demerit. The person has something to prove.
    Of course one always has something to prove, but the burden of proof is shifting, since about 1980, as posted by TomK et al. One has to ask the developer of the mall (who lives two states away), are you our great benefactor? or a gambler who gambled at our expense? Or the developer of dozens of condos, was that because people needed such housing? Or because those could be promoted and made to “appreciate” in a timely fashion? Looking at boarded-up windows, we think thanks but no thanks.

  • david

    “Congressional Democrats have decided it’s impossible to pass a budget this year”
    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jun/22/house-to-take-pass-on-passing-budget-this-year-hoy/

    Democrats afraid to show mounting red ink coming…
    The chickens are coming to roost.

    “Since the beginning of the recession some 7.9 million jobs were lost in the private sector while 590,000 jobs were gained in the public one. And since the passage of the stimulus bill over 2.6 million private jobs were lost, but the government workforce grew by 400,000.”
    http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MDkwMzA0YzJlNTIzMWUxZmI4MTA4YmU0YmEwOWI0ZmI

    My advice: get out of debt, stay out of debt and save every dollar you can.

  • Richard Johnston

    New York State public employees have been totally protected from reductions in staff or salary or benefits cuts; they are even receiving raises. This privileged status is in addition to generous pensions and lifetime health care in retirement. The utterly inept, dysfunctional, gutless legislature has just made things worse, as they are 3 months late passing a new budget for the year that was due on April 1. Even in the current budget crisis as the governor is cutting services to the infirm, the elderly, the afflicted, no one is talking about touching state workers, and it is shameful.

  • Harvey Wallbanger

    Public sector employees in NYS are innoculated against economic downturns. The sick time and vacation time can be accumulated each year and then cashed in when it is time to retire. Some retirees have received tens of thousands of dollars in unused sick time and vacation time. In the private sector, you use it or lose it. The salaries, pensions, benefits, and compenation far outstrip the private sector. The guest who declared that public sector employees are paid equal to what is paid in the private sector is dishonest, corrupt, and misrepresenting the facts. The NYS pension system is a defined benefits system. It is not a defined contribution system. Some NYS public sector employees pay no health insurance premiums, and no co-pays. Their health insurance, dental, and optical care are free. Some public sector employees receive longevity pay which can be as much as $2500 per year or more. These systems are collapsing on themselves. There is no moeny to pay these levels of compensation. During the last 3 years of work in the public sector in NYS, the employees pad their salaries with massive amounts of overtime, since their pension is based on their last three years of compensation. These benefits and pensions are unconscionable and unsustainable. 48 of 50 states are in deficit. There is no more money.

  • loninappleton

    I mentioned managed contraction earlier. Perhaps I should clarify and say that managed contraction is necessary for both the public and the private alike. What goes on in the private sector is well-known. The managed contraction in the public sector such as city government would be a reduction in the use of consultants, making foolish but tempting investments, removing the public private partnerships which result in “Lemon Socialism” wherein the municipality gets little or nothing and the private partner has everything to gain. This often turns up in overpriced housing and building ventures used as a specious draw for new residents. The TIF program comes to mind here immediately.

  • informed American

    R.I.P. Maywood, California
    A California sanctuary city (for illegal aliens) has gone bankrupt. Two and a half more years of Obama and the democrats, and the rest of America is going to look like Maywood, California.

  • kevin kriss

    You heard the guest state that the private sector and the public sector earn the same wages. Now read the truth from the US Labor Dept. from September 2009: Employer costs per hour worked:

    Civilian: benefits: $8.90; wages & salaries: $20.50

    Private industry: benefits: $8.05; wages & salaries: $19.45

    State & local gov’t.: benefits: $13.60; wages & salaries $26.24.

    The guest had no facts. He was uninformed. He misrepresented the truth.

  • jeffe

    For a person who calls goes by the name of informed American you seem pretty uninformed. First off California’s budget crisis was in play during the Bush years. States are hurting due to the deep rescission we are now in. This started on Bush’s watch with the Republican’s in charge of both houses. Now I’m not cutting Obama any slack here as I think he’s just a tool of the special interest as are most of the Democrat’s.

    I just take issue when people on the right try to blame one party for what is basically the fault of both.

    If things start to get worse it will get ugly in this country. If California cuts all social services for the millions that need them it might start to look like some kind war zone with tens of thousands of economic refugees pouring into other states. Maybe it will look like the Great Depression in reverse, with economic migrants moving East and South. Who knows what will happen. There will be violence and a huge upsurge in homelessness that’s a given.

  • jeffe

    For a person who calls goes by the name of informed American you seem pretty uninformed. First off California’s budget crisis was in play during the Bush years. States are hurting due to the deep rescission we are now in. This started on Bush’s watch with the Republican’s in charge of both houses. Now I’m not cutting Obama any slack here as I think he’s just a tool of the special interest as are most of the Democrat’s.

    I just take issue when people on the right try to blame one party for what is basically the fault of both.

    If things start to get worse it will get ugly in this country. If California cuts all social services for the millions that need them it might start to look like some kind war zone with tens of thousands of economic refugees pouring into other states. Maybe it will look like the Great Depression in reverse, with economic migrants moving East and South. Who knows what will happen. There will be violence and a huge upsurge in homelessness

  • joshua

    Why is it we never hear about upstate new york–the forgotten state–most people dont even know there is an upstate new york beyond the Catskills or p’kipsie. New York is more than NYC and Long Island. central Ny, the north country is dying-has been for years–dead dead dead!

  • joshua

    Joshua Hendrickson–great comment.

    They seem to talk around the reality. And when criticism of taxes for the rich and corporations come up–its quickly skirted around. The problem is wealthy elite worth all the money dont want to pay their equal share or pull together to do what this country needs. Very very selfish–nd UNPATRIOTIC! Inhumane!

    Why are the lower middle class and poor footing the bill for everything?!!!!!!!!!

  • Tony Snyder

    I’ve just one little comment for Jane, grammarwise, see. “Impact” ain’t never no verb, see. Best just to avoid this immensely over used word, in any form, period.

  • peter nelson

    [i]Civilian: benefits: $8.90; wages & salaries: $20.50

    Private industry: benefits: $8.05; wages & salaries: $19.45

    State & local gov’t.: benefits: $13.60; wages & salaries $26.24.[/i]

    These numbers are completely [b]meaningless[/b] unless you are comparing the exact same job descriptions, because the mix of job descriptions in private and public jobs is different!

    The only way you can compare them is by jobs and years of experience, i.e., what does a fireman with 10 years of experience make in the public and private sectors? What does a 10th grade math teacher make with the same experience make? How about a social worker, subway driver, doctor, lawyer, department manager with X staff and budget oversight, make?

    I know people in the last 3 categories and in each of them the public sector worker makes FAR less than they would in the private sector.

  • TomK

    I wonder about those who are so resentful about public employees doing relatively well in tough times. Do they get just as angry at bankers who contribute nothing of value but get 100x a teacher’s wages? Do they think about how, since the right took power in 1980, the median wage has gone flat while the income going to the top 1% has skyrocketed? Do they consider that, if public sector unions can protect middle class families in a bad economy, maybe unions aren’t as horrible as the righty catechism says they are?

    The states are in dire straits because of tax cuts. We’ve been cutting taxes and deregulating since 1980. Deregulation gave us the S&L crisis as its first present to the American people, and followed up with Enron, the bush financial crash, and recently, the w Va coal mine disaster and Deepwater Horizon, armageddon in the gulf of mexico. Deregulated phony “free trade” moved our jobs offshore. Tax cuts gave us the federal deficit, the state deficits, and the deficits of cities and towns. Since only the feds can print money, there is no escaping the real world for the states: we can’t have a 1′st world society with 3′rd world revenues.

    Reaganomics has been given a long and extensive trial. The results are in, there’s no need to invoke theories from the American Enterprise Institute: it is a total failure and a disaster for the USA. It’s crazy to vote for a republican. Here’s the latest from Leader Boehner: “Ensuring there’s enough money to pay for the war will require reforming the country’s entitlement system.” Insane! And by the way, paying back the $ that middle and working class Americans have already paid into the SS trust fund is not an “entitlement”.

  • William

    I would think the fact that 45 percent of Americans don’t pay any federal income tax is a larger problem than the Reagan Tax Cuts.

    This quote from the Joint Economic Committee would suggest the Reagan Tax Cuts increased the amount of money in the Federal Government took in;

    “The Reagan tax cuts, like similar measures enacted in the 1920s and 1960s, showed that reducing excessive tax rates stimulates growth, reduces tax avoidance, and can increase the amount and share of tax payments generated by the rich.”

    Cut spending and getting more Americans to pay would be a more fair system for all.

  • Rob L

    Instead of all of these “public servants” asking the public for more and more money, why don’t they ask themselves how they can make our lives better so that we want to pay them? The managers of the bus companies should be asking how they can shave a few minutes off of everyone’s commute. The road guys should be asking how they can patch potholes before people need to call in, and building roads that don’t need patching. The firemen should ask themselves what useful work they can do for the citizens while they are on call. We need new management for public services, one that puts customer service first, and earns their money rather than just taking, taking, taking.

  • TomK

    William, follow the money. You’re all worked up about middle class public servants making a decent wage, while bankers and corporations rob us for hundreds of millions. You worry about low income Americans who don’t pay some small amount of tax, while we’re taxing the top 1% – who now get more of the income than at any time since 1929 – at close to the lowest rate since 1929.

    That stuff about cutting taxes stimulating the economy to actually produce more revenue is just voodoo economics smoke. It actually makes sense when taxes are high, it’s crazy after 30 years of tax cutting.

    There’s a particularly obnoxious righty zealot, Grover Norquist, who advocates the “starve the beast” approach to gvt. Cut taxes until gvt can’t function anymore, then it will have to shrink to whatever tiny size he thinks is good. Congratulations, people who think like you, who have been in charge for 30 years, have starved the beast. That’s why the states are in dire straits. Unfortunately, while the righty elite don’t need good law enforcement, fire, libraries, public schools, state universities, SS, medicare, etc, and they are very happy to take their tax cuts and run to their gated communities and elite private schools, most Americans need the beast.

    At least be honest. If you’re in charge for 30 years trying to “starve the beast” and you succeed, don’t try to claim that something besides your actions starved the beast.

  • William

    TomK – I’m just using the facts from a U.S. Gov. web site.

  • Ellen Dibble

    William posted this which he quoted, in quotes, “The Reagan tax cuts, like similar measures enacted in the 1920s and 1960s, showed that reducing excessive tax rates stimulates growth, reduces tax avoidance, and can increase the amount and share of tax payments generated by the rich.”

    William, if that (which you posted) is from a government web site, I’m wondering which. When the rich are flying high, they do enhance the yacht industry, but there is less free-market-type tendency to create industries that serve those who are earning less.

    And if your datum that “45 percent of Americans don’t pay any federal income tax” is what you got from a government web site, then “those earning less” are earning so pathetically little that they couldn’t afford to buy much of anything. Then way, way too many are pinching by at $10,000 a year in order to allow the rich to build gated communities and so on. A strong society is not one that pampers the rich at the expense of the way of life of “45%” — it creates the need for those gates and private schools. It creates instability. Look at incarceration rates in this country.
    I would rather that our capitalism was geared to ensure that products were manufactured and available at reasonable cost so a better way of life could be had by that 45% — and they would be paying taxes because they would not be preyed upon by the system itself. Thus thinking it fair to carry on underground businesses (drugs, for instance) and stealing (from others by stealing or from the government by cheating on taxes); they would not take stints in jail as the price of doing business, an American way of making a go of it.

  • Francis

    Mr. Johnson essentially calling for increased taxes shows just how out of touch with reality he and CBPP are to anyone or anything outside of the beltway. What do you want to tax? The decrease in personal and household income? How about the decrease in corporate revenues? The decrease in state and local revenues is due to the fact that people and businesses are making less money in this depression/recession/workerless recovery. Thus, less tax money to collect. It is unrealistic to expect increased taxes is the answer.

    The other idea presented was that we can expect Keynesian “spend until debt is 100% of GDP” will help is baseless.

    Taxes are necessary and good in a democracy, but so is entrepreneurial spirit and the need to create and make something.

    The whole tone of this show was anti-democracy and it was obvious many of the guests either lacked understanding or appreciation for economics, history and how America came to be so important to so many.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Francis, with the amount of debt across the United States, and the home foreclosures that are “in the pipeline,” and various other factors (like the need to reconfigure the economy around renewable versus saleable energy), the entrepreneurial spirit is going to have to move with some sort of contraction, versus a sort of ongoing Ponzi scheme of eternally taking advantage of the next person down the line, who then sees a model of taking advantage of other people and so on.
    I think the American entrepreneurial spirit can rise to it, and that tax policy can be geared to encourage that. The alternative is exceedingly bleak, and not so long-term anymore.

  • William

    @Ellen Dibble – The URL you requested;

    http://www.house.gov/jec/fiscal/tx-grwth/reagtxct/reagtxct.htm

  • Larry Moore

    ——————————————————————————–
    California welfare recipients use strip club ATMs…

    Weren’t they using the ATMs aat the casinos last week in California?

    The love affair with the poor is destroying this country.

  • Tim

    Why do the liberals not understand that we should just do away with minimum wage and benefits laws. Te founding fathers did not intend for us to have any of these benefits, there is no clause in the constitution establishing a minimum wage now is it?

    The corporations could just contract with the workers to become indentured slaves if they honestly wanted to work. Most American do not want to work so they could be shipped over to Mexico in return for their workers whom the rich a willing to give jobs to.

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