Our bridges are falling apart (among other things), and its Ronald Reagan’s fault.
A few hours before the bridge collapsed in Minnesota, a news release landed (among hundreds) in my email inbox. It was from the right-wing “Heartland Institute” and a Minnesota conservative group calling itself the “Taxpayers League of Minnesota.” It read:
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) issued 20 full or partial vetoes of tax hikes and spending increases in May, giving taxpayers reason to smile. …
May 1, Pawlenty, in a move that took everyone by surprise, vetoed an entire $334 million “emergency” capital investment bill. Pawlenty said in his veto message the bill authorized “more than four times more spending on projects than I requested and is simply too large.”
Two weeks later Pawlenty announced another important veto, this one to block a transportation bill containing more than $5 billion in tax and fee increases…
“Buying down property taxes through local government aid programs has never proven to be a long-term solution to property tax pressures,” Pawlenty said in a May 30 veto message.
Phil Krinkie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, agreed.
“Relying on the benevolence of local units of government to restrain their spending and lower property taxes when the state drops sacks of money in their lap is simply foolish,” Krinkie said. “Thankfully, Minnesota has a governor that recognizes this.”
The transportation bill veto is the only one the DFL [the Democratic Farm and Labor party which controls the Minnesota legislature] tried to override. The attempt came with less than 20 minutes remaining in the session and was defeated by House Republicans, led by Minority Leader Marty Seifert (R-Marshall).
“Democrats made too many campaign promises to win their seats and are now learning they can’t pay for them,” Marshall [Seifert] said after the failed override attempt.
Ultimately, it was the DFL’s inability to override any of Pawlenty’s vetoes–particularly of the transportation bill–that resulted in a comparatively small $3 billion increase in state spending with no new taxes.
Said Krinkie of the 2007 session, “Minnesotans really need to thank Gov. Pawlenty and Rep. Seifert’s House Republicans. These guys stood strong in the face of overwhelming pressure and came through for taxpayers when they really needed them.”
If by “taxpayers” one means “millionaires, billionaires, and corporations,” the news release was accurate. And now its authors have blood on their hands.
After the Republican Great Depression, FDR put this nation back to work, in part by raising taxes on income above $3 to $4 million a year (in today’s dollars) to 91 percent, and corporate taxes to over 50% of profits. The revenue from those income taxes built dams, roads, bridges, sewers, water systems, schools, hospitals, train stations, railways, an interstate highway system, and airports. It educated a generation returning from World War II. It acted as a cap on the rare but occasional obsessively greedy person taking so much out of the economy that it impoverished the rest of us.
Through the 1950s, though, more and more loopholes for the rich were built into the tax code, so much so that JFK observed in his second debate with Richard Nixon that dropping the top tax rate to 70% but tightening up the loopholes would actually be a tax increase.
JFK pushed through that tax increase to take us back toward FDR/Truman/Eisenhower revenue levels, and we continued to build infrastructure in the US, and even put men on the moon. Health care and college were cheap and widely available. Working people could raise a family and have security in their old age. Every billion dollars (a half-week in Iraq) invested in infrastructure in America created 47,000 good-paying jobs as Americans built America.