America is not broke; neither is Minnesota

We can afford to care for our citizens, but we choose not to do so.

Eric Murphy

Last week, I discussed “crony capitalism,” a phrase which will be overused and misused continuously as the 2012 elections approach. Another talking point that will continue to be abused this election season is that “America is broke,” or variations on that theme.

“We’re broke,” seems like an odd thing to say for the richest country in the history of the world. America, in fact, has enough resources to provide everyone with food, housing, health care, education and work. It’s not that we can’t provide these things, we just choose not to.

Many people believe our state and federal governments have a spending problem and that we can’t afford to keep spending on programs for the poor or sick the way we do now. Actually, we can easily afford to do so, or rather could if we taxed everyone, especially the wealthy, at a higher rate. The “spending crisis” is a manufactured crisis caused by the refusal to raise taxes and a crisis which Republicans are using to advance their ideological agenda.

Grover Norquist, the author of Americans for Tax Reform’s pledge never to raise taxes that most Republicans have signed, illustrates this clearly. On a recent “Daily Show” appearance, Norquist repeatedly said that politicians don’t get to “real reforms” until raising taxes is off the table. This is because the reforms that Norquist supports are not necessary; they are ideological choices. To prevent calling them choices, one has to refuse to raise taxes, which creates an artificial budget crisis and makes spending cuts appear necessary.

You don’t have to agree with me that refusing to provide everyone with an adequate standard of living when we have the means to do so is morally wrong. Saying we shouldn’t provide the means for a decent life when we have that ability is a legitimate position, although in my opinion a cruel one. But pretending that we don’t do so because we can’t, rather than because we don’t want to, is simply untrue.


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