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Friday, 21 January 2011 20:34

Trickle Down Economics Lives On in Florida

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News flash! Governor Rick Scott and the legislature leadership plan to balance the budget by cutting spending, using the time honored approach of rooting out government inefficiency and waste. There will of course be no new taxes. On the contrary, Governor Scott wants to cut corporate taxes. Through lawmakers’ comments to the media, we know that the costs of budget balancing will be borne by those who can least afford it.

Services will be cut, education will be cut, infrastructure will be allowed to further decay, public institutions and properties will be privatized (always at a discount), and the costs to those who take the most benefit from the economy will be kept to a minimum. Lawmakers will characterize this business of protecting the powerful and inflicting hardship on the vulnerable as “making the tough decisions.” In his wonderful book Ill Fares The Land, Tony Judt asked us to remember an earlier definition of toughness: the ability to endure hardship oneself, not to inflict hardship on others. Tony is gone now, and maybe his definition of toughness has died with him, at least in a political sense.

What comes out of Tallahassee this session will be a continuation of the trickle down economics that has served us so well for several decades. It’s not news that Tallahassee has a taste for the trickle down kool aid. Why not, after all? They and their backers get to drink before the trickling starts. It is useful to think of trickle down economics as a septic tank system. One group of people at the top of the economy gets first crack at the resources, above the drain field where they are plentiful and clean. The poorest of the poor - and their ranks are growing daily - take their drink after the drain field, where resources are scarce, pollutants are high, services are limited and access to them difficult, life’s quality is worse and its duration shorter. Those of us in the middle tend too often to think that not raising our taxes is a good thing, and fail to recognize the harm we all suffer when we enable government to neglect its weakest citizens.

Unfortunately, this is the only kind of government we can have until we find a way to rescue our political system from complete domination by private and corporate wealth. So far, the only system that seems capable of limiting the power of wealth over politics is the public financing of elections, such as the Clean Elections systems run by Maine, Connecticut, Arizona, and other states. We have a long road ahead of us, but SCPA is working to bring public campaign financing to Florida.
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