The Sorry State of Debt and Delusion
According to a report by NPR this past April 19, 2009, a stream of money was being released into the American economy as if into irrigation ditches. More than $787 billion in cash was supposed to flow out of Washington, D.C., and trickle its way toward communities and individuals hardest hit by the recession. They stated that out of that enormous sum, close to a third will be processed through state governments.
Has it happened? Has anyone been bailed out besides corporate CEO's? And if so, what have they proposed doing with the money?
I took a walk through some of the stimulus watchdogs on the internet. There are a lot of open hands. California was the leader with a package totaling $63.8 billion according to americanprogress.org's calculations. New York came in second at $41.29 billion, Texas, third, with $38.39 billion, and Florida fourth with approximately $30 billion.
I was curious about my own state--New Mexico. What did our leaders consider a priority? What did we need to consider for out future as well as for the immediate goal of putting people to work?
New Mexico, as an example, put its legislative hand out for $2,937,146,132.00. Like a little note to Santa, it attached to its wrist a tag detailing everything they wanted to do with the money.
What About Water?
In a state comprised of mainly desert, where water is already the source of heated debate, criss-crossed claims and very subtle politics between Texas, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada, you might imagine that a water conservation program might be listed in the number one spot. Or an energy plan that involved trapping the vast amount of wind power or solar power available in a place where winds and sunlight are nearly constant.
Here's what we got instead:
- A proposal for an EventsCenter that will cost $418 million;
- A plan for an $11 million rehabilitation of the infrastructure around the dedicated site to support it;
- Plans for landscaping in the millions, repaving of roads that almost never get potholes (there's rarely any snow to speak of in winter, and never any ice to melt and re-freeze over time), and drainage improvements. There's even one plan to remove a neighborhood from the flood plain. (Can someone please explain to me why a developer was allowed to build a neighborhood in a flood plain to begin with?)
There was only one water conservation project and all the water projects (mostly storm drain improvements for all those other neighborhoods in the flood plains) combined will cost $71 million.
Not one school project in a state with a 50% drop out rate before 12th grade.
As Above, So Below: The Crisis of American Culture
To explore this on another level, I made an informal inquiry of people at different stores, acquaintances, neighbors. I asked them, "Without giving me any personal information, if the government gave you $2,000 right now, what would you do with it?"
85% said they would go on a little shopping spree and buy something extravagant (a lot of HDTV's and iPods). One woman said she'd go to the casino and see if she could triple it. Another person said he'd do some repairs to his house. Another one said he'd hire an attorney to get his kid back. Only one person said he'd pay down his debts.
My conclusion: As above, so below. And"perhaps more importantly, as below, so above. It's not the fault of politicians. It's ours.
What is occurring with our CEO's, the self-indulgence, the entitlement, and magical thinking (which in their cases has paid off handsomely) is also occurring at every level of society--from the states to the local governments to individuals.