The lights are going out all over America — literally. Colorado Springs has made headlines with its desperate attempt to save money by turning off a third of its streetlights, but similar things are either happening or being contemplated across the nation, from Philadelphia to Fresno.Go read the rest of his article. It is a devastating indictment of the government -- not just Bush or the Republicans, but Democrats and Obama.
Meanwhile, a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.
And a nation that once prized education — that was among the first to provide basic schooling to all its children — is now cutting back. Teachers are being laid off; programs are being canceled; in Hawaii, the school year itself is being drastically shortened. And all signs point to even more cuts ahead.
We’re told that we have no choice, that basic government functions — essential services that have been provided for generations — are no longer affordable. And it’s true that state and local governments, hit hard by the recession, are cash-strapped. But they wouldn’t be quite as cash-strapped if their politicians were willing to consider at least some tax increases.
And the federal government, which can sell inflation-protected long-term bonds at an interest rate of only 1.04 percent, isn’t cash-strapped at all. It could and should be offering aid to local governments, to protect the future of our infrastructure and our children.
But Washington is providing only a trickle of help, and even that grudgingly. We must place priority on reducing the deficit, say Republicans and “centrist” Democrats. And then, virtually in the next breath, they declare that we must preserve tax cuts for the very affluent, at a budget cost of $700 billion over the next decade.
I believe a very simple statement: you get the government you pay for. Americans obviously don't want a funcational government. They are happily marching off into some Dark Ages where each home will be a "castle" because the streets will be rife with armed gangs because nobody wants to pay for police. But you have a very hard time "enjoying" your wealth if you can't get out and spend it. This should make lights go off in Americans' heads, but obviously it doesn't. They suffer the "Marie Antoinette syndrome". They think they can have some kind of "government" without paying for it.
Americans think they are "overtaxed" but just 55 years ago the rich were paying 92% in taxes and the economy boomed, the Interstate highway system was built, new schools were built for the bulging baby boom generation. There was lots of infrastructure spending as suburbia grew like weeds. People back then had less than half the real income of today, but you didn't hear them crying that "taxes are too high!" The adults of the 1950s had lived through the Great Depression and WWII and they knew the value of government, especially an activist government that spent to lift up the children of the poor and disadvantaged so that everybody could get a fair chance to succeed and realize the American Dream. That's been replace by a "I got mine" dog-eat-dog view of society.
Here's how Krugman ends his op-ed. It is a very sour note. But hopefully it will rouse Americans to stop their slide in a third world country status:
How did we get to this point? It’s the logical consequence of three decades of antigovernment rhetoric, rhetoric that has convinced many voters that a dollar collected in taxes is always a dollar wasted, that the public sector can’t do anything right.If you think Krugman is over-dramatizing things, try reading a right wing publication like the Financial Times which has an article entitled "The Crisis of Middle Class America":
The antigovernment campaign has always been phrased in terms of opposition to waste and fraud — to checks sent to welfare queens driving Cadillacs, to vast armies of bureaucrats uselessly pushing paper around. But those were myths, of course; there was never remotely as much waste and fraud as the right claimed. And now that the campaign has reached fruition, we’re seeing what was actually in the firing line: services that everyone except the very rich need, services that government must provide or nobody will, like lighted streets, drivable roads and decent schooling for the public as a whole.
So the end result of the long campaign against government is that we’ve taken a disastrously wrong turn. America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere.
“I have this gnawing feeling about the future of America,” says Spence. “When people lose the sense of optimism, things tend to get more volatile. The future I most fear for America is Latin American: a grossly unequal society that is prone to wild swings from populism to orthodoxy, which makes sensible government increasingly hard to imagine. Look at the Tea Party. People think it came from nowhere. While I don’t agree with their remedies, most Tea Party members are middle-class Americans who have been suffering silently for years.”