Monday, March 9, 2015

The Reverse New Deal: Arizona reduces funding for education, and jeopardizes medical care for low-income residents, to please corporations

(WPA poster advertising free classes. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Yesterday, Arizona legislators cut $99 million (or more) from the state's higher education budget, reducing "funding for the state’s flagship universities, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, and eliminat[ing] state money completely for several community colleges." In response, an Arizona graduate student correctly noted, "These [legislators] are anti-tax people, but they’re going to tax Arizona students, because they’re going to have higher tuition and more fees to pay and more loans to take on because of these cuts. These anti-tax people are tax people in another name." (See "Arizona Legislature Passes Deep Cuts To Public Universities," Huffington Post, March 8, 2015)

Arizona legislators are also seeking to "save $37 million by cutting the rate at which Medicaid providers are reimbursed for their health-care services...The loss of that money punches a big hole in the economy and has prompted some of the providers to question whether they can continue to work" ("Legislature OKs $9.1 billion budget after overnight marathon," AZ Central, March 7, 2015).

(WPA nurses prepare to make house calls in New Orleans, 1936. New Deal policymakers created jobs for unemployed health professionals to help low-income Americans with their medical needs. They thought it was important that people (a) work in their chosen profession and (b) receive health care, regardless of income. Sadly, such thinking is falling by the wayside today, as politicians keep catering to their super-wealthy campaign donors. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

As Arizona legislators have been making deep budget cuts that will hurt their middle-class & poor residents, they've also handed out gargantuan tax breaks to corporations (see here, here, and here), so that the governor's office can now say, in response to deep budget cuts, "We can’t spend money that doesn't exist and that we don’t have" ("Arizona Legislature Passes Deep Cuts To Public Universities," Huffington Post, March 8, 2015).

"We can't spend what we don't have." "We have to live within our means." These are the biggest and longest-running jokes in America, and many voters keep falling for it. The Republicans come in to power, hand out lots of tax breaks to their super-wealthy buddies, and then throw up their hands and say, "Hey, we can't spend money that we don't have!" And, in instances where they do want to raise revenue, they do it through an array of regressive taxes, tolls, fees, and fines at the state & local level. For example, to help balance the budget, and preserve tax breaks for the wealthy, Republican Governor of Arizona Doug Ducey wanted to increase car registration fees by 100%. Car registration fees are regressive revenue mechanisms - meaning, the lower your income the greater your burden. The political right LOVES to implement regressive taxes, tolls, fees, and fines - to pay for all the tax breaks that they hand out to their super-wealthy campaign donors (see my blog post "Ten Ways The Political Right Is Vacuuming Money Out Of Your Wallet With Their Trickle-Down Economics. Welcome To "The Great Right-Wing Revenue Switcheroo.")

Instead of tax cuts for the wealthy and pain for everyone else, wouldn't it be great if Arizona could have a New Deal? Check out my blog post tomorrow to see what the New Deal did for Arizona.

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