Arizona Appears to Be Ready to Elect Demagogues -- You Know, "Goat Doctor" Types!
Dear Arizona Voters in 2010,
With the Arizona economy so messed up--after two decades of tax cuts--it looks like the state of Arizona will elect all kinds of crackpots in 2010.
Ken Silverstein has been reporting in HARPERS magazine on Arizona a lot lately. He noted how bad the Arizona economy is after 15 tax cuts in 17 years (plus a massive housing market collapse) in an interview on DEMOCRACY NOW (DN) today.
Silverstein explained to his interviewers on DN, "Well, I looked at Arizona in a much broader way than merely the immigration issue, because immigration is sort of -- it illustrates what's going on in Arizona, but the problem there, the dysfunction, is far broader. I mean, you have the sort of radical right in control in Arizona. You've got every component of the sort of extreme right wing running around, whether it's the Minutemen, you know, guarding the borders, or the anti-tax crowd, the religious conservatives. They're all very, very active and vibrant in Arizona."
Housing Crises California Style -- in Arizona
Later, Silverman stated, "Yeah, the housing crash in Arizona
was just brutal. And I focused on it [in my Harpers article], because
it's been key to what's happened to the state in terms of this recession. I
mean, Arizona got
by for years. People like to move to Arizona.
The climate's nice. You have a big influx of senior citizens over the years.
You've had all sorts of people escaping the cold in various parts of the
country and flocking into Arizona.
And so, the state really has grown on the basis of growth, as people there put
it to me. I mean, there hasn't really been -- there's not a lot of industry. You
know, you don't really have much driving growth other than growth, if that
makes sense. You've had people coming in, and you've had this huge real estate
market, and then all the affiliated industries, you know, so it's -- you know,
contractors have had a great time. You know, people who install pools have done
very well. I mean, anything related to housing, real estate and growth has
boomed in Arizona. But it was a
bit of a mirage, because, you know, they kept cutting taxes, so that the state
was generating less revenue. But it was papered over by the fact that you still
had people moving in. You know, even if they cut the sales tax, you had more
people buying things, and so the state was getting by. But when the housing
market crashed, Arizona, you
know, the state economy just completely tanked, because you suddenly -- you know,
you had this end of this sort of papered-over growth economy. You know, the
sales taxes plunged. They had already slashed income taxes, and incomes
plunged, as well. So you just had this, you know, cycle of spinning downward." (Emphasis added)
In my opinion, the situation that Silverstein was describing in Arizona sounded worse than the post-oil boom crisis in Texas and Oklahoma around 1983 -- or even worse than the Depression of the 1930s.
Silverstein continued, "[I]t really is amazing when you drive around some of the neighborhoods in Phoenix, where, you know, every other house has got a for-sale sign, and lots of houses are just empty. I mean, people walked away. I was taken on a tour of Maricopa, which was this town that grew out of nowhere 40 years ago and boomed into a few hundred thousand people, I believe. Actually, I think that's too high. I think there may have been 50,000 people, at the maximum. And, you know, you had nothing out there. This town just arose out of the desert. You had a few fast-food joints and, you know, some shopping malls, but otherwise there was no sense of community, no movie theaters, no libraries, no nothing. I mean, the town just sort of emerged out of nowhere. And when the real estate crash hit, lots of people just walked out. I mean, their homes suddenly -- you know, you had had this enormous real estate inflation, and so people had paid way more than the homes were worth. You had cheap credit, as you did elsewhere in the country. And when the crash hit, I mean, housing values, they fell in half. I mean, you just -- you know, in the couple of years, your home's value had been cut in half. So lots of people just walked away. I mean, you see this in neighborhoods where they're sort of middle-class neighborhoods and also in these McMansion neighborhoods, where you've got, you know, just streets filled with these enormous mansions, swimming pools in the backyard. Everybody walked away. And so, you've just -- you've got neighborhoods that have been decimated, and that killed the state economy. And the legislature has refused to deal with the situation. The only way to deal with it, you know, is, 'Oh, we may have to raise taxes.' It doesn't always work to cut taxes. But politically, they can't get away with it. . . ."
15 Of The Past 17 Years -- It's The Tax Cuts, Stupid??
I asked myself , "Why aren't Americans getting more reports like this from DN on their regular news networks on radio and TV? Americans need to know that Arizona is an economic nightmare.
Silverstein had observed, "I really looked at the economic situation there,
because Arizona -- I mean,
everybody's focusing on immigration, but you've got this economic crisis there
that is quite stunning, resembling California
in many ways, where the state is just completely bankrupt. It has huge
deficits, which they're addressing by cutting social spending in an
extraordinary way, where, you know, they're doing away with all-day
kindergarten, and they're kicking kids off of healthcare programs, taking very,
very dramatic steps in order to control the budget deficit. And meanwhile,
because, as I wrote on our web, on the Harper's site, about Arizona,
as well, you know, it was described to me sort of as a Grover Norquist lab
experiment run amok, in a way. I mean, you've just got this anti-tax
fanaticism in Arizona where it doesn't matter whether the state is doing well
or doing poorly, the answer of the legislature is always 'Let's cut taxes.' So,
15 of the last 17 years, they've slashed taxes in Arizona, so
you've just got this expanding budget deficit. You know, it's all this
sort of Reagan-era belief, or even pre-Reagan, but, you know, where this whole belief took hold during those years that, you know, you cut taxes and the economy will grow. Well, you can look at the record in Arizona,
and there's no real indication that cutting taxes will always make the economy grow. I mean, there are situations where it may help, but it is not a cure-all.
But that's the only thing the legislature there knows how to do. And so they
have collectively managed to bankrupt the state and create a crisis that is
going to drag on for years and years and years, and they've locked themselves,
really, into a situation where they can't fix it, because so many of the
lawmakers--it's a pretty big Republican majority -- so many of the Republicans have
signed the Norquist anti-tax pledge, so that they -- under no circumstances, will
they raise taxes. So they're really locked into a box, and the state is in
terrible, terrible shape. And the people of the state are paying the price." (Emphasis added)
I was struck by how easily the deserts and depression of Arizona in 2010 were creating demagogues, like Governor Jan Brewer who -- by currently focusing on immigration in her state has further distorted these other key issues-- bad governance and bad political economic developments in Arizona (dating back several decades).