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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/14/15

Acting Against Your Own Best Interest

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Message Seymour Patterson

It is profoundly mindboggling that people repeatedly vote against their best self-interest. There are repeated instances of this phenomenon around the country at the state level as well as at the national level. The HR recently voted on a budget that does not auger well for retirees, people of low income, or the poor. At the state level, some governors are following a script that embodies an austerity ideology as the pathway to sustainable economic growth.

In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA in the state that would have benefited 800,000 Floridians. Instead of providing insurance for the uninsured, the governor filed suit against the Obama administration for threatening to cut off $1.3 billion to fund payments directly to hospitals through CMS.

Gov. Scott also turned his back on funding for a fast train service from Tampa to Orlando, denying the state an inflow of $2 billion for the construction and the loss of potential jobs for the state at a time when the unemployment rate in Florida was 12 percent. (Source: NYTimes.com) Rick Scott replaced Charlie Crist, who had lobbied for the funds and who also suggested that 60,000 jobs [were lost]. Mr. Crist made this allegation during the final gubernatorial debate on October 21, 2014. (See: Politifact.com) This suggests that voters knew exactly what they were getting in Rick Scott.

In addition, Rick Scott refutes the science of global warming, although rising sea levels could threaten his state, in particular Miami. Yet, there is consensus in the scientific community that global warming is real. March 2015 has seen persistence in the CO2 content of the atmosphere of 400 ppm (parts per million), the highest level of CO2 in the air in 800,000 years. Reputedly, the safe level of CO2 gas in the atmosphere is 350 ppm. This appears to be considerably above the 280 ppm in the preindustrial period. (Source: CBS News) No reference to global warming appears in government documents as per instructions from the governor's office.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie got returned to office, despite all the baggage he carried. Here is a governor who refused to expand Medicaid, turned his back on stimulus money for a tunnel connecting New York to New Jersey. He also refused to honor a pension promise to 800,000 state workers, and made a side deal with Exxon Mobil for a $225 million settlement in lieu of $8.9 billion for their 100-year land and water pollution of large swath of state real estate. Now Gov. Christie is contemplating running for president of the United States. Ironically, if he does, he would most likely get the votes of some of his constituents, 'Bridgegate' notwithstanding.

In Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback has gone, perhaps, a bridge too far. His strategy has been to enact massive tax cuts on the assumption that this would lead to more investment, faster economic growth, and greater tax revenues. This ploy has not worked and instead produced a projected budget deficit of $800 million. To fix this deficit, the governor wants to raise sin taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, cut spending on schools, and take money from the state's highway fund to balance the budget. (See: News.Yahoo.com) This is an implementation of trickle-down economics on steroids. The governor survived a bruising reelection campaign last year, despite the difficulties his policies have created for Kansas. Kansans voted him back into office.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott did not disavow the ridiculous rumors of a Federal takeover of his state. Louie Gohmert joined the conversation over the military training exercise in Texas as a prelude to a possible takeover. Ted Cruz lent his voice to this conspiratorial heresy, saying that he understands why people can feel that way when they don't trust this government.

The previous governor of Texas, Rick Perry had also chosen not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Senator Cruz shut down the government (and blamed Senator Harry Reid and Pres. Obama). He has also thrown in his hat in the ring of Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential campaign. He has repeatedly accused the president as being the most divisive present ever. But when asked to give an example of what he meant, he stammered and became redundant.

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker has decimated public sector union and has promised to drive a state in the heart of unions if he becomes president of the United States. In addition to going after unions, he seems to be targeting education, too. Governor Walker wants to rip $500 million for education out of the budget. He has also refused to expand Medicaid in the state. Despite all this, or maybe in spite of it, the fast is Governor Walker has defeated efforts to recall him. This should come as no surprise to the people who voted for him.

In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal (a potential presidential candidate) would not be bullied by President Obama and expand Medicaid under Obamacare. And higher education in the state is facing a project cut of $300 - $400 million. LSU an erstwhile top university is drafting bankruptcy plans in response to the state's $1.6 billion deficit.

National Level

The Republican proposed budget would cut $5.5 trillion in 10 years. Cuts in food stamps and welfare, including a complete repeal of the ACA, will save $1 trillion. They also want to slash $913 billion from Medicaid over the decade. It is expected that these cuts will cause 37 million people to lose health insurance. (Source: New York Times) Somehow, balancing the budget--without tax increases--is the panacea for economic growth. What this approach ignores is the positive contribution that funding for investment, education, and research has on long-term economic growth. It assumes austerity cum widening inequality, where marginal tax rates are reduced, will spur the rich to initiate new investment on their own. Perhaps! Republicans trounced Democrats and many cuts proponents were reelected to Congress during the mid-term elections. Voters have spoken!

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Seymour Patterson received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Oklahoma in 1980. He has taught courses and done research in international economics and economic development. He has been the recipient of two Fulbright awards--the first in (more...)
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