Bearing the Burdens of the Imperial City

On an almost daily basis, in any city or town newspaper in the country, one can read articles about how this or that state or local government service is having its budget slashed severely if not being eliminated entirely altogether. 

Now, I am not talking about non vital services like oh…  Multibillion dollar programs that seek to give money to politically connected and now semi-government-owned car companies.  I’m talking about the basics of government services like education and road maintenance. 

I’m talking about state run welfare programs. 

I’m talking about local unemployment insurance programs. 

With the country in what our mainstream press finally admitted was a recession only months ago (which is how you know we are in a depression) in full swing, state and local governments are even cutting prison inmate meals down to two a day.  Mentally unstable juvenile offenders are being warehoused in prisons for lack of funds for proper mental health care programs.  

Some localities are even putting onerous burdens on homeless families living in shelters, putting in place rules that treat these downtrodden people as if they were criminals. 

Indeed, many state and local governments are on the brink of financial insolvency. 

See, the thing is that state and local governments have these things called budgets.  These are real budgets though, unlike federal budgets.  State and local government budgets are like our own household budgets.  They must be adhered to.  If the City of Boston, for example, can’t afford something, it doesn’t buy it.   If there are shortfalls in revenue, then there must be corresponding spending cuts. 

This isn’t the case with the budget of our Federal Imperial City.  Budgets in Washington DC have almost no meaning.  

With local governments cutting the most vital and basic of services our Federal government somehow has oodles of dollars to shower down on the frivolous, the unnecessary, the preposterous, and the absurd.  Not only have the Feds not cut a dime in spending – they have increased spending, dramatically, across the board. 

Under this state of affairs, what I find the most astonishing about the current circus like Universal Health Care "debate" is that we are even having it at all.   

While my own Commonwealth of Massachusetts can’t even afford its own comparatively modest universal health care program due to budget constraints our national political and media class is engaged in a Kafkaesque tempest over implementing a sure to be wildly expensive and unresponsive national health care program.  And regardless of which one of our two fraud political parties leave their imprimatur upon it, the Republican "solution" is sure to differ from the Democratic one only in that it would have some half-assed faux "market mechanism" behind it which would amount to the same thing — federally run health care for a population of 300 million. 

State and local governments don’t have a federal reserve that allows them to create money out of thin air.  They don’t have a trillion dollar a year "defense"  budget with a far flung global military empire that allows them to "negotiate"  the value of the dollar and defray the costs of their reckless spending to the rest of the world (and in grown-up reality land that is exactly why the United State of DC can even be talking about Universal Health Care coverage at this point). 

State and local governments are dying on the vine.  The governmental institutions that are actually closest to us — that are the most responsive to popular pressure, that know best where money needs to be spent — are being throttled by the current economic conditions. 

Meanwhile, the most distant, unrepresentative, and unresponsive of governments — our federal government — throws fantasy money around to those interests savvy enough or connected enough to get it.   

How long can this state of affairs last?  The military muscle of the United State of DC can only wrangle so many concessions out of foreign countries through various convoluted financial and monetary schemes to float their unchecked spending.  The rest comes from us.  The Feds don’t care if an already floundering Boston city government has to cut teachers and policemen.  They demand their tribute from us regardless.  And they will choose what to spend the money they graciously send back to us upon, not us, and it is more often than not idiotic compared to what we are forced to cut in our local budgets.

Now, I am a libertarian.  I don’t even believe in much of what my state government does.  But I have to wonder about so called "progressives" who sit by and watch as our Imperial City spends billions upon things like "Cash for Clunkers"  and debates increased aid to Pakistan while homeless families are being turned out in the cold by strapped local governments. 

Is it only a matter of time before local politicians start to rightly point a blaming finger at the Feds?

Author: Christopher Dowd

Christopher Dowd is a Boston native and entrepreneur.