A Cruel Twist of the Knife: The GOP Shuts Down Government

Like a killer twisting the knife in the heart of his victim, the Republican goal of drastically cutting budgets and opposing taxes is finally achieving the party’s long-sought goal of downsizing government and eliminating social programs.

This abstract ideology is having a practical impact across California and the nation. In the face of a budget crisis, Governor Schwarzenegger ordered massive layoffs and unpaid furloughs of state workers. Over 238,000 employees are being forced to take off two unpaid days a month, beginning in February. Over 10,000 were fired this year and thousands more could lose their jobs.

The city of Watsonville closed its offices until January 5 in an effort to save $561,000. Many city services, such as the public library, will simply lock their doors, while so-called essential services-police, water and garbage-will continue to operate.

California suspended $4 billion in highway, school and other infrastructure construction projects. Nationwide over 5,000 transportation projects are being put on hold. These cuts only worsen national and state unemployment. California’s joblessness jumped to 8.2 percent, the third highest in the U.S., and reached 9.5 percent in L.A., threatening a long and deep recession.

The California Republican minority adamantly opposes raising taxes to provide state services and urges deep cuts in education and social programs, such as mental health and children’s funds. They advocated cutting legislative pay 5 percent but welfare payments 10 percent. GOP minority leader Mike Villines of Clovis, denounced efforts to begin what he calls “an illegal tax increase package that is a blatant attempt to silence California voters.”

Such thinking is typical. A recent letter to the New York Times calls government schools, roads, hospitals, research, loans and housing “excesses.” The writer denounces, “a gigantic, bloated government,” and calls for a return to “America’s founding principles: individual rights, property rights and the pursuit of happiness, with government only in the form of military, police and courts.”
The GOP’s 2008 Platform declares, “government should tax only to raise money for its essential functions” and not “as a tool for social engineering.” Their goals include making permanent Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, passed in 2001 and 2003, and ending federal income taxes. Social services and charities are left to “the vital role of religious organizations,” which are also chartered to promote “patriotism.”

Facing the worst financial crisis-which many economists blame on the Bush Administration-since the Great Depression, Congress and the incoming president are calling for a massive financial stimulus. Even Bush demanded the hasty signing of a $700 billion bailout for over-leveraged banks. The basic problem of balancing budgets stretches across 44 states and the federal government and, while presidents and their parties are not always in agreement, GOP party stalwarts appear to be on a path to destroy all government.

Eliminating social services for the most needy and monies for California schools, which already rank near the bottom nationally for funding per pupil, is not only shortsighted, it’s cruel and inhumane. Elected in reaction to high budgets of the Davis Administration, Schwarzenegger failed to control the GOP legislature and primarily cut funding to balance the budget.

This scenario is playing out across the country, although Republicans, stymied in cutting necessary social services, are inventing a new way to finance government–selling off or leasing state assets. Across the country, states are selling or leasing the public domain so politically friendly private businesses can profit. Minnesota is contemplating selling the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the state lottery, to bring in $3 billion. Massachusetts may put the Massachusetts Turnpike up for sale, and New York is considering putting the Tappan Zee Bridge, the lottery, toll roads, and public golf courses, parks and beaches up for sale.

Where will this trend end? Indiana leased its toll road to an Australian-Spanish partnership for 75 years. Chicago wants to lease the Midway Airport and the Chicago Skyway toll road, parking ramps and parking meters to private business. Pennsylvania leased its turnpike and Texas is proposing a private toll road system. Water, sewers, libraries, schools, unused properties and other public assets are also being considered for privatization. By selling off or leasing assets, states will allow private companies to cut employees, raise prices and increase profits, providing the states with one-time revenue while raising the costs for citizens.

Similar to the bank bailout plan, privatizing public property socializes risk and privatizes profit. Decisions about expansion, hours of operation, staffing and maintenance will be left to for-profit businesses–the very opposite of publicly owned, controlled and operated facilities. Business argues that they can operate more efficiently but anyone who subscribes to cable TV knows the power of a business monopoly.

The only way to stop the destruction of government appears to be to defeat Republicans who march in lockstep as solidly as the Nazi or Communist parties in America’s former enemy states. The old mantra of “no taxes, small government” is frayed, out-of-date and cavalier when applied to public services. This is a time to rededicate America’s future to cooperation, problem solving and controlling private greed for the benefit of the public.

Don Monkerud is an California-based writer who follows cultural, social and political issues. He can be reached at: monkerud@cruzio.com. Copyright © 2011 Read other articles by Don.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on January 1st, 2009 at 4:38pm #

    preservation of the planet, preservation of the planet, preservation of the planet
    This is a time to rededicate America’s future to cooperation, problem solving and controlling private greed for the benefit of the public man you can say that again.

    There is a profound disconnect between actions that policy circles are considering and what
    the science demands for preservation of the planet. A stark scientific conclusion, that we
    must reduce greenhouse gases below present amounts to preserve nature and humanity, has
    become clear to the relevant experts. The validity of this statement could be verified by the
    National Academy of Sciences, which can deliver prompt authoritative reports in response to
    a Presidential requesti. NAS was set up by President Lincoln for just such advisory purposes.

    (2) Rising price on carbon emissions via a “carbon tax and 100% dividend”.
    A rising price on carbon emissions is the essential underlying support needed to make all
    other climate policies work. For example, improved building codes are essential, but full
    enforcement at all construction and operations is impractical. A rising carbon price is the one
    practical way to obtain compliance with codes designed to increase energy efficiency.
    A rising carbon price is essential to “decarbonize” the economy, i.e., to move the nation
    toward the era beyond fossil fuels. The most effective way to achieve this is a carbon tax (on
    oil, gas, and coal) at the well-head or port of entry. The tax will then appropriately affect all
    products and activities that use fossil fuels. The public’s near-term, mid-term, and long-term
    lifestyle choices will be affected by knowledge that the carbon tax rate will be rising.
    The public will support the tax if it is returned to them, equal shares on a per capita basis
    (half shares for children up to a maximum of two child-shares per family), deposited monthly
    in bank accounts. No large bureaucracy is needed. A person reducing his carbon footprint
    more than average makes money. A person with large cars and a big house will pay a tax
    much higher than the dividend. Not one cent goes to Washington. No lobbyists will be
    supported. Unlike cap-and-trade, no millionaires would be made at the expense of the public.
    The tax will spur innovation as entrepreneurs compete to develop and market low-carbon
    and no-carbon energies and products. The dividend puts money in the pockets of consumers,
    stimulating the economy, and providing the public a means to purchase the products.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20081229_DearMichelleAndBarack.pdf

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20081229_Obama_revised.pdf

  2. The Angry Peasant said on January 1st, 2009 at 7:25pm #

    It just goes to show once again, the Republicans are evil. And the Democrats, really. And I don’t care what any of the haughty, self-righteous commenters in DV say. Socialism is the only way to save the American people.

  3. lichen said on January 1st, 2009 at 7:34pm #

    Plenty of democrats also subscribe to poverty creation/privatization/neofuedalism/corporatism, too. They all need to be stopped, republican or not. And states/the federal government would have it’s money if they only fully funded the enforcing of the tax law, forcing the very wealthy (bush tax cuts or not) to actually pay up. Especially in California! Tax those stupid fucking ‘stuporhero’ films.

  4. Tree said on January 1st, 2009 at 7:47pm #

    The less government the better.
    Republicans didn’t force Americans to max out their credit cards, mortgage their overpriced homes to the hilt and not have any savings. There’s plenty of blame to go around these days and while I loathe Republicans and Democrats, they are hardly the only ones responsible for this mess.

    The whole system is breaking down.

  5. The Angry Peasant said on January 1st, 2009 at 8:05pm #

    I agree, Lichen. I was reading an article recently by an economist who claimed that the bailouts and partial government takeover of some investment firms is a sign that things are going to pieces, quickly. The article opened my eyes a bit, saying that this government intervention is not about bailing out the rich (which is just a happy side-effect), but about a system trying to save itself. Indeed, I’ve heard many an expert intimate that what is happening to our economy on the grandest scale is a definite indication that the very existence capitalism itself in America is now threatened.
    A systeic change is needed. In the meantime, to cure our immediate ills, I think we have to finally start taking the wealth from the overly-wealthy. If they don’t mind taking some of our freedoms away because a couple planes hit some buildings, surely there shouldn’t be a pressing moral issue in claiming the super-surplus of wealth sitting in Bel-Air attics. If it is indeed true that the government is trying desperately to save its failed system, then let it take all necessary steps. It seems ridiculous that so many people in California now are facing all-out poverty while Hollywood sits atop a mountain of money.

  6. Willy Sierens said on January 2nd, 2009 at 4:09am #

    Taking the wealth from the over-rich is easy and requires no violence. The poor should simply decide to stop serving them. No more servants on luxury yachts!!

  7. Hue Longer said on January 2nd, 2009 at 6:13am #

    That’s why the rich have the middle class (the 20 or so percent…NOT the working class who have been convinced they are middle class because their fingernails are clean) who manage the wealth of the ruling class and the slaves in the working class. Those folks will hold onto the system as long as they can because they enjoy the table scraps too much. The machine has a way of portraying the middle class in an obtainable way that gets everyone in the working class blaming themselves for their own misfortune if their credit cards and refis suddenly stop making their lives look equal to the perfect families on TV.

  8. Jackie said on January 2nd, 2009 at 9:46am #

    Wow way to narrow an article down to just one group of people. This is something that has been happening long before the Bush Administration, it was just a matter of time before the USA went into recession. The everyday person needs to know how to “handle” their money that they work hard for and not “waste” and want for things they can not afford. The world has come to be very selfish and this is why we are in this mess, from the top (very rich, elite) to the bottom (poverty stricken) and all in between. Everyone needs to come together and stop looking out for “themselves”.

  9. The Angry Peasant said on January 2nd, 2009 at 9:49am #

    Exactly. This “Middle Class” myth needs to be extinguished. For too long the poor, as you said, have been indoctrinated to think that all their problems come from a lack of character in themselves, rather than the tyrannical, unjust system they live under. That’s why both the poor and middle class buy into this bailout travesty, which is actually the upper class declaring war on them.

  10. kalidas said on January 2nd, 2009 at 10:12am #

    The phrase “American poor” was unique, don’t you think?

  11. HR said on January 2nd, 2009 at 2:18pm #

    Apparently Californians are happy with their mess. I have heard nothing of any initiative movement to repeal Article XIII B of the state constitution, which allows a minority of one-third in the legislature to block all tax increases. Nor have I heard of any initiative movement to repeal the 1930s legislation in California that allows a minority of one-third to block passage of the annual state budget. Seems to me that if people really wanted change, they could have it fairly easily. One two-sentence initiative could break the roadblocks set up by existing minority-rule laws. But no, it seems that the main concerns of Californians center around same-sex marriage and other bigotry.

  12. lichen said on January 3rd, 2009 at 3:45pm #

    Yes, the ‘middle class’ myth is a stupid lie, and I hate how it is talked of as an ‘acheivement’ after the IMF/World Bank impoverish some part of the world that previously had more equality. So is this ‘small government’ nonsense; I want a big, giant government personally; direct, decentralized democracy in every area of civic life backed up by a strong new constitution garunteeing equal rights for everyone; a government so big it includes everyone! Otherwise the warlord-capitalists take over.