It is a day of bad news for various states around the country. California is so far in debt, it is starting to shut down, Kansas is keeping tax refunds and can’t pay workers Friday, and Alaska is suddenly facing a huge budget shortfall. And all of these situations have something in common. They are being facilitated by the Republican Party.
In California, the minority GOP will not vote for a budget that includes $15 billion in spending cuts, because it also includes $14 billion in tax increases. There is an argument to be made about raising taxes in a recession being a bad thing. The federal government has avoided that in the just passed stimulus package, by deficit spending. But states that can’t do that are much more limited in their responses to these things.
The Republicans in California, in a time when their state already have high unemployment rates, seem to think that shutting down the state and increasing the number of people on unemployment, from both state and private jobs, is the best way to handle things. I admit, I am not Paul Krugman, but this does not really seem like a good idea to me.
Kansas is slightly different. They actually have the money, but it is in the wrong accounts. This happens, the town I live in just had the same problem, they worked through it by passing an ordinance to use some of the money from the other places to deal with budget shortfalls. This is not a long term fix, but it will get them through this year at least, maybe long enough for things to start turning around.
But they can’t do it. The Republican legislature will not pass the needed measure, apparently in an attempt to blackmail the Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius into signing a huge bill of spending cuts that recently passed. I have no opinion on the merits of the spending cuts, and the governor has not made any statements to this point about whether she would sign it or not. Her message to state employees indicates she can’t sign it, it has yet to get to her. Again, the Republicans are putting their goals ahead of the people they are supposedly serving.
And then there is Alaska. Sarah Palin was very vocal about the money she was able to give to state residents by taxing the oil companies. Especially the extra $1200 per person she got passed. Every politician loves to be able to tell voters he gave them money when it is election time. But it might have been more fiscally conservative to save that money, for times when oil prices are down and the state is facing a budget deficit.
They are not as badly off as California, or even Kansas. They did save money for just this kind of situation, which shows some prudence. But that savings could have been larger, and the Governor would rather cut more spending rather than tap those savings. Which will again, put more people out of jobs.
Add all of these to the Congressional Republicans fight against the stimulus package and it kind of leads to one question. What is it about the Republican Party that makes them hate people that work?
Well, that is not really fair. There are actually quite a few Republicans that do not feel that way. Unfortunately, these days they do not seem to be the majority. I hope that changes over the next few years. A healthy democracy needs a healthy debate, which we do not have today.