The conservative argument of the last 30-40 years boils down to this: “Hey look at this big pile of seed corn. Let’s eat it!” Almost 30 years after the “Reagan Revolution,” our infrastructure is crumbling around us. Since the Reagan-era tax cuts, we have been deferring maintenance of (and never mind modernizing) our infrastructure, and as a result have become less competitive in the world economy.
Meanwhile, our economic competitors, countries like China and India, have been building infrastructure like crazy. Other countries are investing, educating, improving public services because they know these things make the economy explode later. A major component of China’s stimulus was infrastructure and public services – including public welfare – because of the economic benefits that come later.
Now, for those countries, it is later, while for us, it’s just becoming too late. Their investment is paying off while we’re having trouble paying off the accumulated Reagan/Bush tax-cut debt.
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How Did We Get Here?
Public infrastructure is the roads, courts, education etc. that enable an economy to prosper. We got ourselves out of the Great Depression with a big investment in public infrastructure. The government taxed the wealthy and built or improved modern roads, bridges, post offices, courthouses, shipyards, schools, and other public structures that enabled business to take off.
And, then, business took off. The idea was, of course, that business would give back some of the returns to keep that process going. But, instead, the big companies and wealthy families funded a conservative propaganda machine that convinced people to let them just keep it. Look at this chart from 14 Ways A 90 Percent Top Tax Rate Fixes Our Economy And Our Country:
You can clearly see that the money that should have been invested in maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure instead has gone to a few wealthy people at the top of the food chain. (We’re the food.) And, of course, we all can clearly see the results of this in today’s economy. They ate the seed corn; America is crumbling.
Now, here we are later, and we are seeing the result of the Reagan Revolution. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card estimates that we are $2.2 trillion behind just on maintaining the existing infrastructure, never mind modernizing. Please click through and explore what ASCE is saying there. (Conservatives – there are lots of pictures!)
What Do We Do?
The answer is obvious. It is called public investment. Ask the big companies, the banks and the wealthy to pay back some of the incredible amounts of money they have been piling up as a result of the past investment that “We, the People” made in building that infrastructure that enabled the economy to boom. Use that money to invest in maintaining and modernizing the infrastructure so that the economy can again thrive for all of us.
We can employ the unemployed and bring our infrastructure up to par at the same time. There is a lot of work that needs doing and we have a lot of people out of work.
The payback will be enormous. The economy will explode. And we can build sustainability into the process this time.
What Is in the Way?
The problem now is that the corporate/conservative propaganda machine has gone way past talking people into cutting taxes for the rich and cutting back on public spending for infrastructure and our people. Now, they have become very extreme, convincing a number of people that government spending – “We, the People” spending on the common good – and government itself – “We, the People” making the decisions for ourselves – is the wrong approach. They believe that any government at all is “socialism” – run for the benefit of all of us – and that all public services must be “privatized” – meaning run for the benefit of a few. They believe it is wrong, even immoral, to have public schools, public transit, public health care, regulations that restrict what companies can do to consumers or the environment etc.
They have the megaphone because they have the money. We have to confront this head on.
More to Come!
This is another story of a wealthy few selling off the country’s people and future. This is another story of gains for a few at the expense of the rest of us. These stories are becoming all too common. This is the Reagan Revolution coming home to roost, and I will continue to write about the terrible price we are paying and will be paying for a long time for the failed experiment in conservative ideology.