Eugene T. Paslov: Are we broke?
We are one of the richest, most prosperous nations of the world. We have abundant natural resources. More importantly, we have a deep pool of intellectual and creative talent virtually unseen in the history of modern humankind, much enhanced by the character of our multi-national/culturally diverse population. We are in a recession and we’re recovering.
Our deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product is close to 35 percent, but it’s been higher (close to 90 percent).
President Reagan told the country not to worry about deficits because our economy was robust and we would grow out of the problem.
During the George W. Bush administration, Vice President Cheney told us not to worry about deficits. We always pay our bills.
President Bush created additional debt which President Obama has had to deal with.
Apparently, deficits are not a problem when Republicans are in charge. But the country is going broke (say Republicans) when the Democrats take over. Political nonsense. The good faith and credit of our nation is not in question.
We’ve had economic problems before and have always survived and prospered. The financial panic of 1819 caused by widespread foreclosures, failing banks, and huge unemployment rates was one of the earliest. We recovered and grew. The financial panic in 1837 attributed to a lack of confidence in paper money. We recovered and grew. The panic of 1857 (life insurance and trust companies failures) caused another economic decline. We recovered and grew.
We’ve experienced recessions every 20 or 30 years since the since beginning of our country. Recessions are part of an economic cycle in which there are dramatic adjustments in employment, spending, borrowing, and trade/business conditions. Dramatic, complicated but not nation-
New Republican governors have an ideological agenda, and use the recession as a tool of fear. They envision smaller government, diminished services for the middle class – education, health care, social services, collective bargaining, and even public radio. Sacrifice for all but wealthy corporations.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was the first Republican governor with the new narrative. “My state is broke and everyone must sacrifice,” except the wealthy – spoken sotto voce.
He blames public service unions, teachers, the poor, and immigrants, for all the states’ fiscal problems. In his state, the public employees have agreed to take responsible cuts. But they don’t want to give up their basic rights.
We are not broke. It will take bipartisan agreement, but we can make adjustments – wage/benefit cuts, health care cost containment, new taxes, and government/governance reforms. We remain fiscally vibrant and quite capable of solving problems without Republican governors attempting to destroy our social fabric with “we are broke” rhetoric.
• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.