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“All politics is local” is a famous quote from Tip O’Neill, former Speaker of the House of Representatives. I would suggest that all economics is also local. We all live in local communities. The vitality, stability, and economic health of those communities impacts all of us and our quality of life.
Prosperous communities depend on investments in people, public infrastructure, and public services. Like it or not, government is the foundation of our society and the economy. We like to believe that free market capitalism is responsible for prosperity but without a progressive, people oriented government you have third world conditions.
Government is the referee and rule maker that makes the private sector work. Business could not function without protections for private property provided by the public laws, regulations, and court system. Business depends on public infrastructure like roads, harbors, airports, water systems, and sewage treatment plants.
A healthy, educated, workforce is essential to a good economy. We all benefit from public schools, state universities, technical colleges, public health services, safe food, clean water, and necessary safety net programs. In addition government is a major employer and consumer of private sector products. Rather than taking money from the economy government spending supports the economy.
Many of these essential functions of government happen at the local level. In most states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, counties, municipalities, and school districts provide these services. So adequate funding for local government services matters.
Although most local government operations are supported by local property taxes, state and federal aid is essential. Social services are run by local counties but are largely paid for by federal dollars. Schools run off a mix of local, state, and federal support. Local law enforcement needs state and federal funding. In Wisconsin, the state covered 62% of local public school costs in 2015 (35% of state’s general revenue spending). Next to local property taxes state aid is the next largest funding source for local government (52% of state’s general revenue spending). Wisconsin’s share of federal dollars is low. Only 29% of the state’s revenue comes from federal sources which is below the 35% average. Wisconsin ranks 38th for federal dollars received.
The cuts to domestic programs being proposed by the current administration are not what we need. We can not afford a 10% increase in war spending while cutting support for all domestic needs. We can not afford more “trickle down” tax breaks for the well off and large businesses at the expense of local, human needs. These are the wrong priorities for building strong, prosperous, local communities.
Cutting taxes has been sold for decades as the path to jobs and economic growth. But after over 35 years of top down economic development it should be pretty obvious to everyone, not blinded by this faith based ideology, that cutting taxes alone does not work. If the standard Republican agenda of “trickle down” economics worked, we would have a stable, booming economy. Cutting taxes simply reduces public revenues creating deficits and budget problems. Less revenue makes it harder to pay the bills and provide the necessary public infrastructure and services that are required in a modern society. It does not grow the economy or create jobs.
We could, of course, reduce taxes, solve our budget problems, and maintain essential services. We could set better priorities and spend our tax dollars more wisely. By collecting taxes fairly from everyone, cracking down on cheating, closing loopholes, cutting unnecessary tax breaks, and reducing excessive military spending, we could provide the necessary revenue for government to do its job.
What could $54 billion do for our local communities? If we were to cut the Pentagon budget by $54 billion instead of increasing it, what could we do with that money? The National Priorities Project says we could:
• Create nearly one million
infrastructure jobs nationwide
• Pay the salaries for half the
elementary school teachers in
the United States.
• Send 1.6 million students to
college for a four-year degree –
• Cover 12 million people under
the Affordable Care Act.
Duluth taxpayers are paying $109 million a year for Department of Defense spending. Just 10% of this would buy:
• 130 Elementary school teachers
(or probably a similar number of
• 1,348 Head Start slots for children
• 2,994 Children receiving healthcare
• 8,465 Households with solar
Taxpayers in Superior are paying $665,651 a year for the Department of Defense, not including the wars. They could have had:
• 19 Scholarships for university
students for 4 years
• 62 Military veterans receiving
VA medical care
• 11 Infrastructure jobs fixing roads
• 969 Households with wind power
We don’t lack money. We lack good priorities for spending the money. Some people in Duluth are standing up to advocate for better priorities and say “Local Needs Matter.” If you agree, join them for a rally and march on Saturday, April 15th. The rally begins at 12:00 Noon at the Duluth Civic Center (515 W. 1st Street). Everyone is welcome. Bring signs advocating for your favorite local needs issue.