As we await the next conservative-contrived crisis to confront us, a crisis that will continue to enhance the right-wing’s efforts to diminish our national domestic ambitions, shrink our collective actions and demote the general welfare, here is a snapshot of America in August of 2011, a snapshot that still reflects the economic devastation wrought by the Great Recession and years of governmental neglect:
♦ GDP growth is anemic—annual rate growth of 1.3 percent in the second quarter of 2011.
♦ Americans continue to lose their homes in record numbers, some wrongfully, and many are underwater on their mortgages; and those who own homes have seen their equity fall—according to the AP, “the average homeowner now has 38 percent equity, down from 61 percent a decade ago.”
♦ Unemployment remains unacceptably high. There are more than 14 million folks without jobs—nearly half of them without jobs for almost seven months or more. And many people—almost nine million—are “involuntary part-time workers,” and an additional three million people are what the geeks call “marginally attached to the labor force.” Many of them have given up looking for jobs.
♦ Young folks are trading sex for money to pay off their student loans.
♦ State governments, starved of cash and without the will to ask taxpayers to help, are furloughing and firing teachers and policemen and firemen, essential components of civilization. They are cutting their judicial budgets and delaying justice to their citizens.
♦ Our nation’s infrastructure, another essential component of a civilized society, is, well, not worthy of our great country. The American Society of Civil Engineers in 2009 estimated that $2.2 trillion was needed over five years to upgrade our infrastructure to “satisfactory.”
♦ The anachronistic 18.4-cent federal tax on gasoline no longer pays for current highway spending.
♦ According to the Department of Transportation, there are around 600,000 bridges in the U.S. and about 160,000 (27%) are either “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete.”
♦ There are more than 85,000 dams—average age: 51—most of them under the jurisdiction of financially strapped state governments. There are thousands of them “deemed unsafe or deficient” and states simply do not have the resources—some because of tax-cut fever—to properly monitor dam safety and enforcement.
♦ Our airports are deteriorating—heck, part of the FAA has been shut down and is losing $200 million dollars a week in ticket taxes—which money is going into the coffers of the airlines—largely because Republicans hate unions.
♦ And there’s this, from the ASCE:
The nation’s drinking-water systems face staggering public investment needs over the next 20 years.
The annual shortfall is $11 billion, the group says, and that amount “does not account for any growth in the demand for drinking water over the next 20 years.”
♦ We remain dependent on dirty fossil fuels while green technology is ripe with both jobs and independence for the picking. But there is little will, beyond President Obama’s vain attempts, to pick them.
Perhaps this would be a good time to inject this: We are spending $10 billion or so every month in Afghanistan.
Or this: Closing offshore tax havens would bring in an estimated $100 billion a year and help stop the job-leaks to foreign countries. Think about that. We just had a fight over how much to cut the government over the next ten years, and, well, I’ll let Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, tell you about those tax havens:
This is one trillion dollars in revenue over the next ten years that is low hanging fruit for Congress and the President to pick for deficit reduction. That’s what we should be doing right now, not taking an ax to programs in the federal budget that strengthen our economy and help create jobs on Main Street.
How about this: Hedge fund and private equity managers only pay 15% on the enormous income they receive in the form of fund management fees they collect. Millions of dollars in income taxed just like it were middle class income. The Obama Administration claims that raising the rate hedge fund managers pay to the top rate of 35% would add $400 billion in revenue over the next ten years.
This is just one snapshot, taken on the day we are watching one of the most embarrassing political episodes in modern American times come to an end.
And after this episode ends, our members of Congress will take a long vacation, scattering far and wide across a much diminished and, if Republicans have their way, a diminishing America.