Monday, July 05, 2010

Will Pat Robertson and Pastor John Hagee pay the way for New York and Chicago?

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/4/10

From Lou Reed to “The Office” there has been something in us which seemed to delight in the idea of falling apart. This could be our chance. Illinois’ “pension is the most underfunded in the nation,” Karen S. Krop, a senior director at Fitch Ratings told The New York Times. “They have not made significant cuts or raised revenues. There’s no state out there like this. They can’t grow their way out of this.”

For the last few years, California stood more or less unchallenged as a symbol of the fiscal collapse of states during the recession, writes Michael Powell in an article titled “Illinois Stops Paying Its Bill, but Can’t Stop Digging Hole.” Now Illinois has shouldered to the fore, as its dysfunctional political class refuses to pay the state’s bills and refuses to take the painful steps — cuts and tax increases — to close a deficit of at least $12 billion, equal to nearly half the state’s budget. Only an infusion of federal stimulus money allowed many states to deep layoffs last year.

Here is where the problem will be: Federal money, because it comes from more responsible states and goes to less responsible states. In its January 2009 update, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported that ten states had balanced their fiscal year 2009 budgets: Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming. Texas had a surplus. As one renegade in Texas wrote recently, they – meaning Washington – are starting to use Texas as a cash machine.

And now the federal dollars are nearly spent and the feckless eloi of the primarily northern cities will ask the healthy and spendthrift country people to support them. The upscale and refined, basking on Nantucket this long, hot Fourth of July weekend, quiet-yet-opinionated types who watch Charlie Rose and read Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, are asking the hearty rural pilgrims of east Texas and the gnarly Midwestern truckers and their wives who watch Pastor John Hagee and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club to pay their way.

It is not that difficult to see, said Carly Fiorina in her first televised interview after she won the Republican nomination for Senate, that the problems plaguing Greece are not that different than the ones faced in California and Los Angeles. New York, Massachusetts and Illinois, she could have added. That we call it something else doesn’t make it different.

But our historical circumstances are different. And some, like Tim Bridewater and Mike Lee, Tea Partiers in Utah, who ran in the recent primary, recall the difference. Utah was brought into the American republic at the end of a bayonet in 1857. The northern conquest followed in the South and Texas shortly thereafter.

I’m sure we are all happy to be here now, but in our situation, the rich cities in the north, including New York, Boston and Chicago, made suddenly rich and powerful by the rapid onset of industrialization, agreed to a compact to conquer the poorer, striving agrarian regions. But now that the agrarian and resource rich rurals are doing alright and some of them are flush with cash, they will be asked to bail out the deeply indebted Chicago, Massachusetts, New York and its sister across the Mississippi, California.

So maybe this ain’t over.