Arizona welcomes you to the future

Some time back I referred you to the article in Harper’s Magazine by Ken Silverstein (subscription required) about the dysfunctional state of things the new Republican orthodoxy has inflicted on Arizona. The orthodoxy holds that taxes, for whatever reason, may never be raised and certainly new ones may never be instituted. Moreover, any reduction, whether general or specific, must be pursued, no matter the consequence to the functions of the state, the needs of the citizens or the fairness of the resulting tax burdens among the taxpayers.

This orthodoxy has been applied with rigor by the legislature which Silverstein notes is “composed almost entirely of dimwits, racists, and cranks.” The results are of course predictable. The state’s treasury is depleted, and services are being cut drastically. This is, as they say, not a bug but a feature. The philosophy behind the orthodoxy is that the rich are more entitled to the good things of life, including education, medical care, water and other similar luxuries. If you can’t afford it, you don’t deserve it. That would be cruel enough, but as I showed, the Republicans there have jury-rigged the tax system to allow the rich to offload their private consumption onto other tax-payers: “Arizona now has tax exemptions for everything from country clubs to pedicures.” In some cases dollar-for-dollar tax credits are used to allow taxpayers to direct where their money goes (away from the state). A particularly egregious example is the religious private schools that are eligible for the money as “school tuition organizations.” And you may be surprised to learn that the legislator behind the scheme is also the principal behind one of the larger STOs, for which he receives $100,000 as salary.

You can’t keep cutting taxes or allowing citizens to use tax revenue for their private consumption for very long without something giving. And we learned recently one thing the legislature has decided to give up: Medicare benefits. Among the benefits no longer considered as important as funding country clubs or pedicures was organ transplants. The New York Times reported yesterday:

“[H]igh drama is unfolding regularly here as more and more of the roughly 100 people affected by the cuts are becoming known: the father of six who died before receiving a bone marrow transplant, the plumber in need of a new heart and the high school basketball coach who struggles to breathe during games at high altitudes as she awaits a lung transplant.”

Such stories are bound to put the country club, toe-nail-manicured politicians in a bad light in civilized places. So the GOP has resorted to a tactic that they have recently found to work well for them: they lie. In this case they claim that the cuts were made necessary by the federal health reform legislation passed this year. (Remember the death panels? The GOP knew about them because it was the GOP that was planning them.) They say this with a straight face even though the decision to cut transplants was made before the federal legislation was enacted. But when you are on a mission to take money from the poor to give to the rich, you are entitled to cut corners with honesty, I guess.

We could ordinarily sympathize with the innocent citizens of that state and then forget about it–after all, no respectable person would voluntarily set foot in that state for other reasons–except for one thing: We soon will all be Arizonans.

2010 global military spending. From The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. U.S. figure includes funding for wars and nuclear weapons. Data from Congressional Research Service, Office of Management and Budget, International Institute for Strategic Studies. Click on image to enlarge.

Republican Senators (who constitute only a minority of the body) have announced that they will march in lockstep to invoke procedural roadblocks in order to bring government to a halt unless the tax cuts for the wealthy are extended. Since we already face huge deficits, something will have to give, right? Well, the President’s Deficit Reduction Commission has helpfully listed what things are expendable: middle class benefits (such as Social Security and Medicare, sound familiar?), a tax benefit mostly useful for the middle class (home mortgage deductions) and “discretionary” spending (the military is not touched because  we have no discretion in spending 44% of the total $1.57 trillion in global spending on military). Because the wealthy are not to blame for our situation, according to our leaders, they will end up with larger after tax incomes under this proposal. That’s because their rates will be cut. No reason fat cats should be required to tighten their belt when the non-rich go without life-saving medical care. The rich probably couldn’t tighten their bloated guts with a belt only anyway.

So let me be the first to welcome you, my fellow citizens, to the United States of Arizona. Most of you will work longer (if your job hasn’t been exported, that is), because, after all, if you have to work for a living, you should. You will find the temperature a little hotter (the GOP doesn’t believe in global warming or at least doesn’t want to do anything about it), and you probably will find it less healthy (at least those of you unable to live your lives without seeing a doctor). But really isn’t the main reason most people go to Arizona in any event to die?

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  1. December 13th, 2010
  2. January 10th, 2011
  3. June 2nd, 2013

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