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Archive for March 20th, 2010

The Ruinous Fiscal Meltdown That Is Occurring In State After State

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March 20, 2010: Bob Herbert / The New York Times – March 19, 2010

A story that is not getting nearly enough attention is the ruinous fiscal meltdown occurring in state after state, all across the country.

Taxes are being raised. Draconian cuts in services are being made. Public employees are being fired. The tissue-thin national economic recovery is being undermined. And in many cases, the most vulnerable populations — the sick, the elderly, the young and the poor — are getting badly hurt.

Arizona, struggling with a projected $2.6 billion budget shortfall, took the drastic step of scrapping its Children’s Health Insurance Program. That left nearly 47,000 low-income children with no coverage at all. Gov. Jan Brewer is also calling for an increase in the sales tax. She said, “Arizona is navigating its way through the largest state budget deficit in its long history.”

In New Jersey, the newly elected governor, Chris Christie, has proposed a series of budget cuts that, among other things, would result in public schools receiving $820 million less in state aid than they had received in the prior school year. Some well-off districts would have their direct school aid cut off altogether. Poorer districts that rely almost entirely on state aid would absorb the biggest losses in terms of dollars. They’re bracing for a terrible hit.

For all the happy talk about “no child left behind,” the truth is that in Arizona and New Jersey and dozens of other states trying to cope with the fiscal disaster brought on by the Great Recession, millions of children are being left far behind, and many millions of adults as well.

“We’ve talked in the past about revenue declines in a recession,” said Jon Shure of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “but I think you have to call this one a revenue collapse. In proportional terms, there has never been a drop in state revenues like we’re seeing now since people started to keep track of state revenues. We’re in unchartered territory when it comes to the magnitude of the impact.”

Massachusetts, which has made a series of painful cuts over the past two years, is gearing up for more. Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, told The Boston Globe: “There’s no end to the bad news here. The state fiscal situation is already so dire that any additional bad news is magnified.”

California has cut billions of dollars from its education system, including its renowned network of public colleges and universities. Many thousands of teachers have been let go. Budget officials travel the state with a glazed look in their eyes, having tried everything they can think of to balance the state budget. And still the deficits persist.

In the first two months of this year, state and local governments across the U.S. cut 45,000 jobs. Additional layoffs are expected as states move ahead with their budgets for fiscal 2011. Increasingly these budgets, instead of helping people, are hurting them, undermining the quality of their lives, depriving them of educational opportunities, preventing them from accessing desperately needed medical care, and so on.

The federal government has tried to help, but much more assistance is needed.

These are especially tough times for young people. “What we’re seeing now in Arizona and potentially in New Jersey and other states spells long-term trouble for the nation’s children,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician who is president of the Children’s Health Fund in New York and a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“We’re looking at all these cuts in human services — in health care, in education, in after-school programs, in juvenile justice. This all points to a very grim future for these children who seem to be taking the brunt of this financial crisis.”

Dr. Redlener issued a warning nearly a year ago about the “frightening” toll the recession was taking on children. He told me last April, “We are seeing the emergence of what amounts to a ‘recession generation.’ ”

The impact of the recession on everyone, of whatever age, is only made worse when states trying to balance their budgets focus too intently on cutting services as opposed to a mix of service cuts and revenue-raising measures.

As Mr. Shure of the Center on Budget noted, “The cruel irony is that in a recession like this, the people’s needs go up at the same time that the states’ ability to meet those needs goes down.”

Budget cuts also tend to weaken rather than strengthen a state’s economy, especially when they entail furloughs or layoffs. Government spending stimulates an economy in recession. And wise spending is an investment in everyone’s quality of life.

All states have been rocked by the Great Recession. And most have tried to cope with a reasonable mix of budget cuts and tax increases, or other revenue-raising measures. Those that rely too heavily on cuts are making guaranteed investments in human misery.

The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: (Ahem) “The federal government has tried to help, but much more assistance is needed.” Hey Bob, if I didn’t know better, I would think this is a propaganda piece to push for the totalitarian health care disaster. The “federal government” created this economic tsunami to bankrupt America!SJH

Link to original article below…

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/20/opinion/20herbert.html?emc=eta1

Unemployment Rate Soars In Hundreds Of U.S. Metropolitan Areas

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March 20, 2010: Lisa Lambert / Reuters – March 19, 2010

(Reuters) – Unemployment rates in 363 U.S. metropolitan areas rose in January, and 346 areas reported year-on-year declines in their number of jobs, the Labor Department said on Friday. Nearly 200 metropolitan areas reported jobless rates of at least 10 percent in January, showing that unemployment problems persist at the local level.

California has been especially hard hit during the recession that began in late 2007, and the Labor Department data showed the state’s jobs situation continues to deteriorate, with an overall unemployment rate of 12.5 percent in January.

The three areas with the highest jobless rates in the country, all above 20 percent, were all located in California, the most populous U.S. state. The Riverside and San Bernardino area of Southern California, along with Detroit-Warren-Livonia in Michigan had the highest unemployment rates for areas with populations of 1 million or more. While Detroit has been hurt by fluctuations in the automobile industry, Southern California has suffered mostly from the bursting of the housing bubble. The sprawling California metropolis by the ocean formed by Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana, meanwhile, lost the most jobs over the year, at 248,600.

Rockford, Illinois, had the largest increase in unemployment from a year earlier, of 5.8 percentage points, primarily due to manufacturing job losses, said the Labor Department. Economists have said that recovery from the recession will happen at different rates in different areas. Two areas in Indiana — Kokomo and Elkhart-Goshen — saw their unemployment rates drop the most, both around 4 percentage points, after their rates had increased more than 10 percentage points the previous year.

The largest increase in the number of jobs was in Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Washington, which gained 3,300 jobs, followed by Ocean City, New Jersey, with 1,900 jobs.

The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: Recovery? We don’t have no stinkin’ recovery! SJH

Link to original article below…

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62I3B220100319

The Grateful Dead: Truckin’ – “What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been”

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March 20, 2010: YouTube / FictionalMink – June 07, 2009

The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: Those of you who know me, know why I posted this… 🙂 – SJH

Written by Steven John Hibbs

March 20, 2010 at 1:13 am