The D. S. of A

What if our state and federal legislators were held to this standard?

What if our state and federal legislators
were held to this standard?

Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 4:39  .  .  .

At a time when a high school education is so often woefully inadequate for success in a global, interconnected world, where old time manufacturing skills have given way to computerized everything and where millions of employers are frustrated because they’re unable to find people with the proper training to do the jobs they have open, Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin continues to slash support for the formerly wonderful state universities in Wisconsin.

Rick Snyder, Republican Governor of Michigan, headed the drive to allow the state to take control of any municipal government in Michigan that the geniuses in Lansing deemed was in financial distress, the sanctity of the municipal voting ballot be damned. That led inexorably to the poisoning of the children in Flint, MI due to the diabolical economic decision to change the source of the drinking water for that city. Instead of the safe Great Lakes water they had used for a century, the Lansing imposed Flint dictator decided to provide water from the Flint River, water which is corrosive, and that resulted in the city drinking water becoming laced with lead. Nobody knows the human toll or the financial cost that ingestion of lead will exact over the long term, but it will be enormous. Snyder and his Republican legislature in Lansing are doing a tap dance around accountability and as of this moment they are still dragging feet on fixing their mess. Meanwhile, the residents of Flint are trapped in a water quality disaster and an economic squeeze of Rick Snyder’s doing.

Sam Brownback (R-KS) promised Kansans that if they elected him governor that he would slash taxes and that would magically result in increased revenue for the state because of the dramatic economic expansion that lower taxes would induce. So, they elected him governor. Instead of the results he promised, his plan resulted in way lower revenue for the now nearly bankrupt state and a depressed economy across Kansas. Who might have even guessed that reducing the state’s income might reduce the state’s income?

Bobby Jindahl is the Republican governor of Louisiana. His state is a financial disaster. It is ranked the worst in the nation in educating its children. There’s lots more – and none of it is pretty. Let’s just move on.

Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) is the titular head of the state with more real estate in peril as the oceans rise than anywhere else. The streets of Miami Beach are often under water and much of south Florida is at or only slightly above sea level, so it doesn’t take much of a wave or much of a rise in sea level to flood it. And Rick Scott, a former fossil fuel homie, denies global warming and the human imprint on it, so he does nothing.

And, of course, right here in Illinois where we have a bottomless pension debt, our governor is so out of touch that we’ll call him Bruce Rauner (R-Pluto). He hasn’t offered a thing to fix the pension crisis and he continues to govern by refusing every attempt to establish a budget. Yes, that’s right: Illinois has been operating without a budget for well over a year and Governor Rauner seems to think in the way of Ted Cruz, that if we just shut down the functions of government that somehow all the best things will happen. That hasn’t work out too well for Illinois college students, as threats of shutdown of entire institutions were imminent, nor did it work out for our mentally ill who, because of the governor’s draconian methods, were not even getting their meds. Let the games of the rich continue, because they aren’t affected by their restrictive policies, even as those who are most needy continue to suffer.

These are the D. S. of A, the Disaster States of America, although not all of them. The Republican leaders in these states proudly and self-righteously thumb their noses at our bloated federal government and the over-taxation of the public. Yet, oddly, as they fail their states, or their states face crises, like Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, they expect the federal government to bail them out of their catastrophes. Either that or they just do more of what doesn’t work and declare victory.

How are you feeling about that? Keep that in mind as you vote for your state legislators on November 8.

Thanks to Steve Sheffey for pointing out this video.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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6 Responses to The D. S. of A
  1. John Calia Reply

    Once again, you have done your audience a disservice by your bias. How is it that all the disasters you have analyzed have been created by Republicans and Democrats bear no responsibility?

    Like all Div. 1 football schools, the U of WI is a bloated bureaucracy. The cuts that Walker has imposed can be easily absorbed by any capable leader, a commodity in short supply in higher education. Their game is to pass on the pain to their customers.

    Michigan’s (and Flint’s) problems can be traced to the collapse of the Big 3 auto makers who mismanaged their corporations to the detriment of their communities, their state and our nation. Their plight was exacerbated by the acceptance of union contracts (particularly the GM contract in the early 90’s) that rendered their cost structure globally uncompetitive. Snyder inherited a tax base that had been decimated by this industrial failure. The specific water problem you point to was created largely by two CYA bureaucrats who are being criminally prosecuted.

    I take a dim view of Brownback’s cuts in KS. However, it’s noteworthy that he was reelected in 2014. Maybe Kansans don’t feel quite so depressed as you make them out to be. Like many states in the Great Plains, their economy has been affected by the drop in oil prices not by failure of state government.

    The pension crisis in IL was created largely by Democrats who negotiated sweetheart contracts with the state’s unions and who simultaneously ran up huge deficits rendering the state with a budget crisis unparalleled in the US. Perhaps Rauner doesn’t have a solution because high tax states have difficulty attracting employers.

    LA has been devastated, first, by Hurricane Katrina which ultimately caused the population of its largest city to be reduced by 1/3. More recently, the state took a huge hit from the drop in oil prices. Meanwhile, the New Orleans school system — destroyed by hurricanes — has benefited by one of the largest shifts to charter schools in the nation.

    It is likely that rising sea levels will deprive our 22nd Century descendants of Florida vacations. Scott didn’t cause climate change and addressing its impact will require drastic measures like moving the entire city of Miami (no, I am not indulging in hyperbole). Do you know anyone with a solution to that problem?

    You close by suggesting that you and your readers become catalysts for making things better. Yet, you have done the opposite. Our voting populace is deeply polarized, in no small part, because of one-sided, divisive pieces like this from the extreme left and right.

    It’s time for you to take responsibility for the damage you are causing. The future will be what we make it. If you truly wish to be a catalyst for making things better, you can start by taking a more balanced view.

    I am optimistic about America’s future. However, I decry voices like yours as they only serve to undermine our progress.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      Thank you, John, for your comments. You said quite a bit and I want to respond to one point in particular, as it’s near and dear to me. You may even agree.

      Decades ago the state workers in Illinois (and particularly the horribly underpaid teachers) at last had had enough and demanded increased pay. Everyone thought they should be paid more than a subsistence wage, but there was a problem inherent in increasing their paychecks: the money had to come from somewhere. Since this was government, it had to come from some form of increased demand on the wallets of the citizens of the state in the form of a fee or increased taxes. Inherent in that calculus is politicians having to go to their constituencies and inform the people that they would have to pony up more of their money to pay their kids’ teachers. No politician wants to do that, as doing so has a way of forcing politicians to look for another line of work, so they came up with a fancy way to deal with the situation. They told state workers that they would not get a bump in pay now, but the state would give them a pension when they retired, thus relieving workers of having to save for retirement. It was essentially a deferred comp program.

      But there was a kink in this plan, too: the pension money would have to come from increased taxes on the people. Even though the deferred nature of the expense to the state was lower than an immediate pay increase for workers due to the compounding of pension fund money over time, the new plan still needed a yearly cash infusion from the citizens. Refer now to the above paragraph about how politicians don’t like to bring the message of increased taxes to the people, as doing so would likely result in those same politicians having to learn a new trade. The result was a perpetually underfunded state pension system which, like compound savings, grew every year compoundedly (yes, that is now a word).

      What is described above has been the status quo for generations – not years, generations – in Illinois and – John, you’ll probably like this part as it evens the score a bit – it’s almost entirely due to the cowardice of Democrats, as they’ve run the state for all that time. It is also the mechanism of the demise of pension plans in all the states that have a pension crisis, regardless of whether they are run by an R or a D. Proudly I proclaim, though, that Illinois’ pension crisis is the biggest.

      It is quite fair to say that Governor Bruce Rauner does not have a plan to deal with this, the biggest financial issue in the state. I know, because I asked him three times face-to-face and he offered only political blather. Since that time he has refused to work with the Illinois legislature on virtually anything that is within sight of a dollar bill. I know that because I am tight with 3 of the state legislators – very reasonable, level-headed people – who have informed me of their efforts and how they have been rebuked at every turn. I’m speculating here, but it just might be that Bruce Rauner has the same problem that generations of pols in Illinois have, that they want to refuse to the people the truth.

      All of which is to say that these messes are not solely of one party but they are solely of politicians refusing to tell the truth. Sam Brownback didn’t tell the truth to the people of Kansas, however well meaning he might have been. He proposed a state version of Reaganomics – “voodoo economics” – and got a state version of the results. I don’t suggest that Kansans are depressed, but I do say that the state’s economy is depressed. The numbers are there for all to see and my understanding is that they are dramatically worse than any neighboring state.

      Finally, to be clear, it’s easiest to pick on the Republicans now, as they run roughly 37 states. And they’ve done some great harm. Just ask the voters in North Carolina about access to voting for young people and minorities. Same for Mississippi, Texas and elsewhere where courts have not yet struck down draconian laws ostensibly designed to prevent the nonexistent scourge of voter fraud.

      I still think of myself as an Eisenhower Republican. The problem is that extremists have taken over the party and now Eisenhower couldn’t get elected. Neither could Nixon. Or George H.W. Bush. So, yes, I pick on Republicans, because as Bob Bogert said in his anti-Goldwater ad in 1964, either they aren’t Republicans or I’m not.

      • John Calia Reply

        Jack, I would not presume to suggest that I know more about the details of Illinois’ crisis than you. My point was that politicians of both parties created the problem and that neither party has solved it. Your post endeavors to pin all of our woes on Republicans.

        You are correct to point out that most states have Republican governors; however, you fail to see that many are well governed: OH, SC and MS for example have attracted employers with a low tax, less regulated business environment.

        On the other hand, my forever-blue home state of NY continues to lose jobs and population because its business climate reflects the opposite: high taxes, overregulated, etc. Here, politicians take your money, destroy the local economy and then bring hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars back in the form of government projects that provide employment. They do so with great fanfare, convincing the public that they are doing wonderful things for the community they serve.

        I would prefer they simply leave the money in my pocket.

        You can’t paint a picture of disaster in Republican led states without pointing out the disasters in Democrat led states. You can’t paint the opposite picture either.

        Well, you can but you won’t convince anyone but an extreme partisan.

        I am shocked that you call yourself an Eisenhower Republican, as you are presumptively liberal in your assessments. Ike was a moderate and counseled compromise in all matters. Yet, I agree with your assessment that the party has become more extreme.

        However, once again, you fail to recognize the same extremist trends in the Democrat party. Sanders, Wasserman-Schultz, Schumer and, of course, Obama are all extreme left-wing liberals. The party wouldn’t nominate Bill Clinton today if he ran on the same platform as he did in 1992: free trade, welfare reform, etc.

  2. Jim Altschuler Reply

    The future possibilities of these states is mind-boggling and extremely scare-y since those “Typhoid Mary” legislators, especially the newly elected ones, can and will most certainly infect other legislators from other states and, thereby, infect the entire already-crippled Federal financial condition.

    Good GOD!!! How is it possible that the American people don’t see these disastrous policies for what they are? How can they not recognize that reducing the income will definitely NOT improve their states’, of the Fed’s, economy or their ability to pay for those things whose payment is already in arrears? Didn’t they learn anything from the failed policies and practices of President Ronald Reagan?

    On the other hand I absolutely loved the early voting video. Whoever wrote it is genius.

  3. dominickpalella Reply

    Jack, most American voters have no idea of how their government works, and fail to understand that they are ALWAYS voting against their own interests. This is because we continue to elect people who have no obligation to listen or respond to us (SCOTUS: 465 U.S. 271 1984). Our US Constitution grants autocratic authority to our elected representatives. This undeniable fact appears to be accepted even by smart and informed voters, who are sadly lacking in critical thinking skills.

    If we want to do something about the autocratic conduct of our elected officials, we must start challenging political propaganda. This includes foolish concepts like politically defined “accountability”, policy positions and plans. Our political problems cannot be solved by elections and protests, if we have no influence over the decisions of our representatives. For example, those belonging to one or the other of our corporate funded private political parties, which occupy 99% of all elective offices.

    If we have no control over the decisions of a Democrat or Republican in office, do we really have a representative form of democracy?

    Visit to learn how our political system should work in the 21st century.

  4. Joni Lindgren Reply

    All these governors think that lowering taxes are the answers to all our ills, but YOU CAN’T PAY TODAY’S BILLS ON YESTERDAY’S BUDGET!! When service providers up their fees for say, fixing the roads, just how are we supposed to pay that bill fully when these governors fail to raise taxes??

    The worst part is that there is always money to just hand over to the corporations in the form of tax incentives. For what reason? Because they exist? No, these tax incentives have to stop. That would free up a lot of money.

    Here in Illinois, we have a regressive income tax. We need a progressive income tax based on your income….specifically, for those with incomes of and above $250,000 a year, need to have a higher tax rate.
    The Democratic governor of Minnesota passed a bill such as this and they now have a surplus in their budget….along with passing a bill that would increase the corporate income tax rate!! Worked for them……but, in the states Jack mentions and including Illinois, they cut programs, destroy unions, and make absolutely no attempt to enact bills that would improve our lot! The Republicans will go to any lengths to protect corporations and their rich buddies, even if it means the rest of the citizens are scorched and burned! What sorry souls these governors are who Jack mentioned!! I would add one more to his list: Chris Christy! Hope he goes to jail, but politicians seem to be immune to that too!