Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Gold Standard

New Hampshire is a state with no income tax and no sales tax. A state where we are constantly warned that we must live within our means. For decades, the Republicans who govern our state have worked overtime to ensure that we have such limited means that we can’t ever fix anything that needs fixing, which is why 12% of our bridges are red listed for “structural impairments.” Our intentionally limited means ensure that our state parks are in desperate need of maintenance and repair. 

One might think that in a state where tourism is our number two business, we’d want to make that investment, but our limited means do not permit. Speaking of number two business, we have closed rest areas in Antrim, Epsom, and Shelburne, in places where tourists would undoubtedly like to stop. They were all closed in order to save money. Perhaps we could reopen them if the tourists signed an affidavit saying that in exchange for using the rest room, they swear they’ll buy a case of Hennessy on the way out of state? (Paying cash, of course.)

Given our constant state of poverty, I was surprised to read what Governor Sununu had to say at the annual spring luncheon for Seacoast Republican Women. From the story in Fosters:  “Despite Democratic criticism of his budget he said, “we have more money than we know what to do with.” 

If that’s the case, it seems our governor lacks imagination. I’ve tweeted suggestions to him about things we might do with all that money. Build a secure psychiatric unit that isn’t part of a prison, for treating our people who have mental illness. Eliminate the shameful wait list for developmental disability services. Fix all the red listed bridges. Open up those closed rest areas, fix the state parks…the list is endless.

He also said, “We slipped for a long time, but we’re back. New Hampshire is the gold standard. A 2017 CNBC report found that NH has the second worst infrastructure in the nation. We don’t seem to be using any of that gold to repair our roads, bridges, dams, water systems, etc. In fact, given those closed rest areas, we don’t even qualify as American Standard.

I’ve said it before (and I’ll say it again!) that NH is the seventh wealthiest state. We are intentionally starving our state, so that we can continue to fail to invest in the present and the future. 
Our politicians are proud to take The Pledge, which refers to the Mel Thomson/William Loeb pledge against the creation of a state income tax or sales tax. The Pledge became popular in the early 70’s and continues to be GOP cult dogma.

New Hampshire’s peculiar system of funding our state government through fees and property taxes results in an underfunded state government. It isn’t the fault of the folks at the DMV that you wait for hours in line or can’t get through on the phone. They are chronically understaffed on purpose. That understaffing makes you the public unhappy, and willing to buy into the first tenet of GOP gospel: government is the problem. It certainly is when they’re running it. 

It’s all a false “economy.” As the 7thwealthiest state, NH is certainly capable of generating revenue. Our secret is that we don’t want to. One thing the Republican Party fears above all is having enough money to fix the things that were deliberately neglected for decades. The scaremongering around The Pledge is key to their continued dominance in the state. 

A recent twitter exchange was a perfect illustration. Greg Moore is the head of Americans for Prosperity NH. AFP is an arm of the Koch brothers that has managed to achieve a disproportionate amount of influence over our state finances. Greg tweeted out that NH revenues are up in May, and claimed Trump’s tax reform is driving the NH economy forward. A reply to that tweet came from Grant Bosse, who wrote, “Don’t tell them! They’ll come back to spend it!”  (He was referring to the legislature.) Grant Bosse is the editor of the Union Leader’s editorial page. Before that, he worked for the Josiah Bartlett Center, the right wing think tank funded by the Koch brothers. 

That is, of course, easily translated into “spending is bad.” A successful business that invested in itself would be lauded, particularly if that came in the form of higher wages for workers. In NH success is defined as austerity. We don’t invest in education or any real safety net. We don’t even fix what is broken. To say that NH has “more money than we know what to do with,” in the face of our state’s many desperate needs is truly an obscenity.    

Published as an op-ed in the June 8, 2018 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

1 comment:

Tom Westheimer said...

Fools Gold "live free from services and die"