Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Era of "The Era of Big Government is Over" is Over

Republican politicians who argued against federal infrastructure investment in the recently passed stimulus bill are either out of touch with economic reality or are deliberately sabotaging government.

It's been 28 years since the conservative movement took control of this country with Reagan's declaration that government wasn't the solution, it was the problem. For nearly three decades the Republicans in Washington have made sure of that by racking up public debt and slashing funding for government programs. Anyone who has faced a household budget with shrinking income is familiar with some of the ways we struggle to get by, and their consequences down the road. (And unfortunately, thanks to conservative rule, there are more families in this situation every day)

The first thing most people do in that situation is cut out luxury spending. Most of us have a certain amount of luxury spending we can cut without much pain. When the government agencies responsible for vital public services make cuts like this, conservatives celebrate the success - and then demand more.

But after the first round of easy cuts have been made, there's rarely anything left to eliminate before it starts to hurt. At this point most folks stop spending money on things that aren't day-to-day or week-to-week necessities. Home maintenance and replacing old clothes or appliances make way for rent and bills. You may be able to keep your head above water for a surprising amount of time this way - until your last pair of shoes wears out.

For 28 years we've kept our heads above water, acting like a first-world country using this strategy. But our public infrastructure, which makes our American lifestyle possible, is on its last pair of shoes.

We've been deferring maintenance on all of our infrastructure (even our "roads and bridges," those sacred cows of our autocentricity) because it saves a few million dollars a year. Well, now that the true cost of that practice is coming due - and $787 Billion is just the beginning - it doesn't seem like a good idea anymore.

It is insulting and false to say that spending this money is wasteful. If the obstructionist Republicans don't like the price tag they shouldn't have gotten us into this mess, but we're here and we need to make this investment.

People who don't get this should shut up while they figure it out.

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