Trickle Down Conservatism Infects America
April 27, 2007
Rick Perlstein is a blogger for the Campaign for America's Future.
When your job is documenting how conservatism has failed America, the newspaper looks different. Take Wednesday's USA Today —specifically, that silly page no one reads with a tiny news item from every state. Fifty dots, ones never intended to be connected into a common tale, except the one entitled, "Here's Some Stuff that Happened on April 25, 2007."
SOUTH CAROLINA: Columbia - State lawmakers have started debating two spending plans that could shave pennies off grocery bills or trim income taxes for wealthier residents. The grocery tax cut would save shoppers $1 for each $100 spent and eliminate the tax in the future. Gov. Sanford contends that reducing the state's income tax for top earners would spur the economy.
The bottom line, in other words: Save a couple of bucks a week on groceries if you're an ordinary Joe or Jane. Save tens of thousands a year on income taxes if you're a "top earner." Madness. But entirely consistent with conservative "philosophy," which claims that helping ordinary people might make them lazy and indolent, but that "reducing the top marginal rate," something that effects only rich people, makes the world a better place—the "trickle down" theory that one of its very architects, Reagan budget director David Stockman, admitted actually created "fiscal catastrophe."
Did someone say fiscal catastrophe? Travel with us to neighboring Tennessee:
TENNESSEE: Chattanooga - The rising cost of oil and the strong demand for concrete have slowed some state highway projects. Costs have climbed 24% from 2004, officials said. To combat the problem, officials are using a thinner application of asphalt in some projects. A dozen road construction projects have been delayed, but none were canceled, according to state Department of Transportation.
Commodity prices sometimes increase sharply and without warning; that's a fact of life. But before conservatives got hold of them, governments practiced a radical notion: socking away spare money for just such unexpected emergies in "rainy day" funds. When politicians started claiming the most noble thing they could do was cut—or never, ever raise—taxes, this is the natural result: thinner applications of asphalt, even as streets around the nation have started opening up and swallowing cars because the pipes underneath them are rotten.
The federal government used to help much more. Now, thanks to federal tax cuts, they can't. And as I pointed out before, Bush tax cuts lead inevitably to tax hikes in municipalities. Travel with me to lovely Fresno County, California:
Meanwhile, here's what won't be showing in the Show-Me State:
MISSOURI: St. Louis - The Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park will not be open this summer because of damage from the Taum Sauk Reservoir collapse. The move could hurt a region economically dependent on tourists. Johnson's Shut-Ins was devastated in December 2005 when the reservoir failed and sent water rushing through the area. The park, partially opened last year, must shut down entirely this season so repair work can begin, said state Department of Natural Resources Deputy Director Kurt Schaefer.
OK. So we know what consevative government has destroyed—a nation in which we can count on our reservoirs holding and our streets not swallowing up our cars, one where budgeting is based on something other than fantasies about the magic of tax cuts for the rich. But what has it built?
Come with me, dear reader, to Vermont, where USA Today's "Across the USA" page for April 25 takes us to the state's flagship college campus:
VERMONT: Burlington - A dozen University of Vermont students are staging a hunger strike to seek higher wages for the university's lowest paid employees. Based on year-old figures, 256 UVM employees were paid less than $12.28 an hour, the amount considered a livable wage in Burlington. The students, who began the hunger strike Monday, are promising to consume only water and fruit juices. UVM President Dan Fogel says the school offers some of the best wages and benefits in Vermont.
Don't you just love the flacking? Some people at the university get good wages, so that negates the fact that others receive so little they can't survive. It's hard to write about how badly conservative governance has degraded us as a nation because, well, it has so degraded us as a nation: They have managed to make us forget once-sturdy pillars of our national morality. University presidents used to be high-minded civic leaders. Now they've become flacks like everyone else, all in service to a fatter bottom line.
Well, at least conservatives have restored the honor afforded to our brave officers of the law, who work so hard to keep us safe. Conservatives love police, right? Even the strictest libertarian agrees enforcing laws is the bedrock function of government.
Last stop, the Pennsylvania statehouse, and the ascendence of the anti-law enforcement right:
PENNSYLVANIA: Harrisburg - Hundreds of gun-rights advocates packed the state capitol Rotunda as some lawmakers, most of them Republicans, pushed for proposals aimed at expanding those rights. Several participants mentioned their particular opposition to a bill to require annual registration of most guns and a $10 annual fee on firearms. GOP Rep. Daryl Metcalfe wants to eliminate a gun-sales database maintained by the state police.
In just one day, six dots to connect across the country about a great nation laid low by the conservatives we mistakenly let govern us, even though they abhor government.