Next American crisis is over the horizon

Published 9:52 am Friday, December 24, 2010

Within the next several months we will find more and more state governments struggling to provide the most minimal of services to their constituents due largely to the continuing effects of the longest, most difficult, economic period in America since the Great Depression.

The stimulus funds have held up state funding problems with unemployment funds, jobs for teachers, police and firefighters, but those funds will expire soon, leaving many states unprepared to sustain budgets that fund basic services.

Already California and Illinois face billions in deficits, as will Ohio and several other states in the upcoming budget cycle.

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In those states that have already found themselves in budget crisis, choices have been made about what priorities will be continued and which will end.

The results have been reductions in Medicaid, welfare, unemployment, help for the mentally handicapped and support for schools. Prison funding has also been examined for reductions in several of these crisis states.

For the states, there are few choices. Arizona sold state buildings to investors only to lease the buildings back. California raised the cost of colleges more than 30 percent.

In some states legislators are considering emptying prisons to cut costs.

But this is a national problem, not simply a state problem. We face a debt and deficit crisis that the nation must address. We must make choices that affect all of us at the state and federal levels.

At the federal level we must decide if we will fund the needs of our people, or the needs of our corporations.

Our corporations have built a defense industry in virtually every state, making and selling weapons for our own national defense and to arm the rest of the planet.

They will not encourage reducing a federal defense budget that is nearly equal on an annual basis to the rest of the planet.

Nor will they support a reduction in our military presence across the globe, with more than 130 military bases, 12 carrier fleets (the next largest carrier fleet by any other nation is One carrier group), and countless new innovations in weaponry.

Our bankers will remain reluctant to loan money to us because their destruction of the housing industry, and the incredible profits they reaped from that destruction, has made mortgages less certain vehicles for guaranteed profit.

They will instead continue to package and sell derivatives, which are little more than casino gambling tools that pay their founders in hundreds of millions of dollars.

And our government appears determined to add to the debt and deficit as they did this month with a new $900 billion dollar stimulus.

So while none will offer to change their ways to help the nation, most Americans will be asked to help.

Those who have paid into Social Security all of their working lives will be asked to retire later and take less from the planned incomes.

Those who count on Medicare will be asked to pay higher deductibles and larger co-pays. People in need will find the social safety net shrinking and the mentally handicapped will find their essentials services ignored.

But as Americans we still have choices.

Will we agree to cut all the programs that serve our people, in order to protect our industry and corporations? Will we choose defense spending by the billion and wars by the billion over food for the hungry and health care for all?

At this time of the year most of us are more aware of the spirit and importance of giving, of helping, than any other time.

But let us remember in the cold light of a January morning that the true stimulus needed now is one that serves the people.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.