Competing budgets in the House and Senate tell you all you need to know about the difference between Republicans and Democrats.
Although Republicans claim to be the party of business, their Paul Ryan, austerity budget chokes off investment in everything that builds a vibrant economy, from infrastructure to vital R&D. For the wealthy, there are more tax breaks; for the working poor, there are only cuts in the social safety net and no increase in minimum wage – this for the very people who would spend that extra money and stimulate local businesses.
Shrinking the federal government to bathtub-drowning size may be a catchy slogan for ideologues, but its adoption as policy by the GOP is another reason the party is seen as “out-of-touch” with Americans and our historic values of shared sacrifice.
Transportation expert Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) hit the House floor this month to sound the alarm – again – about our crumbling infrastructure. Citing a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers that graded our bridges, highways, aqueducts, etc. a D+, DeFazio put the facts on the table:
“Without increased investment, over the next seven years, businesses would lose $1.2 trillion in sales and families would lose $611 billion due to delays, blackouts, brownouts and water main breaks. [This] would cost American families an average of $3,100 a year in disposable personal income by 2020.”
In an interview on “Carl in the Morning” (listen here), DeFazio said we have three choices to make up a deficit in the Highway Trust Fund, projected to grow to $7.1 billion by FY 2015. We can borrow the money, do nothing (the Republican answer) or fully fund the HTF by double-indexation of the gas tax, which would raise $177 billion over the next 10 years. The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents/gallon has not been raised for 20 years and is not indexed for inflation.
But talk of any new revenue is anathema to Republicans. Even if it could put millions back to work, upgrade our infrastructure to 21st century standards, and allow US companies to compete and win in the global marketplace. Many tea partiers advocate zero federal spending on infrastructure; just leave it to the states, they say.
Dante Atkins, blogging at Daily Kos, reports on the Krystal restaurant chain (350 stores in 11 states) leaving Chattanooga, Tennessee (where it was founded in 1932) for Atlanta. The reason? The Chattanooga Airport has direct connections with only three of Krystal’s cities, while Atlanta’s Hartsfield has nonstops to all of its markets. Plus, Krystal finds Atlanta’s rapid transit a huge plus.
Atkins sums it up:
“Chattanooga’s crappy airport and lack of rapid transit – not gun laws, state tax rates, immigration laws, or the Ten Commandments on the courthouse walls – cost Tennessee an iconic, native employer.
“Yep, we’re talking big, socialist, government-funded infrastructure projects like a larger airport and high-speed rail…that create tons of jobs when you’re doing them and keep employers in your state when you’re done. The kind of projects that build communities.”
Whatever compromise, if any, results from negotiation over the Ryan House budget and Patty Murray’s Senate version, we are, for now, stuck with the Republican-induced sequestration cuts. And contained within those are more damage to American jobs and progress.
Alana Semuels and Adolfo Flores of The Los Angeles Times filed this story on the sequester hatchet hitting the National Institutes of Health. Cutting $1.6 billion from the country’s largest supporter of biomedical research is simply horrible business.
“The federal government’s $4 billion investment in the Human Genome Project,” they write, “helped create $796 billion in economic growth from 2000 to 2010. More generally, every $1 of the agency’s funding generates $2.20 in economic growth.”
Jon Bartholomew, with the Oregon Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, and a frequent guest on our show, stresses the importance of federal grants and funding to the group’s core mission. He has lauded President Obama’s action in budgeting more dollars for a disease that affects five million Americans and 16 million of their caregivers – numbers that will rise dramatically with an aging baby boomer population. To curtail NIH research into Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other diseases now is unconscionable; losing students and scientists to other countries is unworthy of a great nation.
All private companies depend on a well-trained and educated workforce, healthy employees, efficient transportation system, clean environment, well-maintained courts and dependable public safety. From the sequester to their fundamental rejection of government, today’s “bathtub” Republicans have put vital investment at risk.
It’s as simple as Bill Clinton said. It’s arithmetic.