Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- Last fall, when Republicans took complete control of their governments in a whopping 20 states, we knew things could get out of hand very quickly. But no one saw this type of right wing extremism coming at a time when American working families are being tossed around like pawns in a chess game.

Anti-worker Republican governors like Scott Walker and Rick Perry—backed by GOP-controlled legislatures—have gone on a right-wing binge, with more than 60 new anti-choice laws, unprecedented attacks on workers' rights, deep budget cuts that are pushing us toward a double-dip recession and laying off thousands of public sector workers.

There was a time when Republicans would have at least pretended their tax cut obsessions would help the middle class. Now, Wall Street executives just boldly defend their righteous dignity saying that, “rich people are just maligned and deserve all the tax breaks they can get.”

As we wallow in one of the worst economic times in American history, for the majority of Americans that is, the GOP continues to push for reduced government spending and even more cuts to vital services before this election cycle is over. In states across the country, Republicans are calling "special sessions" to ram through even more budget cuts and partisan redistricting plans that will lock in their dominance for years to come.

Most sane economists will tell you that government intervention during times of economic crisis is necessary-- spending money on infrastructure projects, continuing unemployment insurance for those out of work and stabilizing vital public services that keep American communities working are all critical to a growing economy.  Tax breaks for the super-rich do not create jobs, period.

With so much at stake, the labor movement needs its rank-and file members to wake up and smell the coffee-- and focus on a major effort to bring grassroots muscle and Internet organizing to state capitols all across this country.  We need to shift the national narrative away from the GOP tax-cut plan and start talking about what really matters to the American people-- a very bold job creation plan that resembles FDR's New Deal.

photo:  Ove Overmyer
The Tea Party Republicans have already done enormous damage already, and public opinion is slowly turning against them now that the majority of Americans know that their policy ideas are flawed and are wreaking havoc on our economy. But, in the meantime and with more than a year till the next presidential election, we need to redouble our efforts to stop the next wave of budget cuts and far-right social policies driven by a minority of super-rich conservatives.

It’s time to take our message to the streets—we do not have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem. The super-rich need to pay their fair share, and it’s up to the middle-class to make that happen.  America's working families have already sacrificed enough, and now its time that we even out the tax codes and make the mega-rich responsible citizens.

According to a recent report authored by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 23 states have made identifiable cuts in support for public schools. In many cases, these cuts undermine school finance systems that are intended to reduce disparities between high-wealth and low-wealth school districts, so the largest impacts may be felt in communities that are least able to compensate for the loss of funds from their own resources.

States are closing shortfalls with service cuts, new taxes, or reserves

To meet their balanced budget requirements, states must close their budget shortfalls, as they have in the last three years and in previous recessions. The question for states is how to accomplish this while doing the least damage to the economy, vulnerable residents, and necessary public services. States’ main choices are to draw on reserves, raise taxes, cut spending, or use a combination of these approaches.

In the three years since the recession began, states already have imposed cuts in all major areas of state services, including health care, libraries, services to the elderly and disabled, and K-12 and higher education. New York is cutting total Medicaid spending from all sources by $337 million, or 1 percent, relative to 2011 levels.

At least 38 of the 47 states that enacted 2012 budgets plan major cuts in services in the 2012 fiscal year, on top of cuts already implemented in all those states in fiscal years 2009, 2010 and/or 2011. In more than four-fifths of the 44 states for which the necessary data are available, states will spend less next year than before the recession hit, after adjusting for inflation. On average, those 37 states will spend 8 percent less than their states spent before the recession, adjusted for inflation.

Some states have enacted tax cuts, forcing even deeper cuts to services

For the first time since the recession caused state revenues to plummet, lawmakers in some states have enacted large tax cuts-- mostly cuts to taxes paid by corporations and other businesses-- in a misguided attempt to spur economic activity.

Twelve states that faced FY12 budget shortfalls have enacted major tax cuts that would reduce revenues in the coming fiscal year. Some of these states, as well as several others such as California, Maryland, and New York also allowed major tax measures to expire or phase out, losing significant revenue and causing further cuts in spending.

Spending cuts have weakened schools, reduced access to medical care and cost us American jobs

Since states spend more of their budgets on education and health care than anything else, lawmakers imposing large spending cuts are hard-pressed to avoid cutting back on these essential public services. Many states also will lay off state employees or cut their pay and benefits. These actions, coming on top of deep cuts that states have already made over the last three years, place a drag on the nation’s economic recovery.

New York State cut education aid by $1.3 billion, or 6.1 percent. This cut will delay implementation of a court order to provide additional education funding to under-resourced school districts for the third year in a row. Beyond cutting the level of education aid in FY12, the budget limits the rate at which education spending can grow in future years to the rate of growth in state personal income.

We at the Voice Reporter are completely puzzled by the fact that during the deficit reduction debate, the Republican position of using no revenues to balance the budget was supported by only 26 percent of the American people. How can the Republicans maintain that they are in any way acting as representatives of the people when they are taking a position that is opposed by over 70 percent of the people?

We also put the blame of our squeamish economy squarely on the GOP majority in the House-- who has not introduced ONE jobs bill since they took over the majority in January. The thought of a conservative Republican in the White House in 2012 should scare the crap out of every working American-- regardless of their party registration.

Simply put, the American people are hungry for our leaders to restore a vision for a national future founded on the premise that social justice and material prosperity are not competing values-- that they can co-exist and are necessary to each other for a healthy, sustainable and growing economy. The sooner we recognize that, the better.

-Ove Overmyer

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