Is this real fiscal responsibility?
A good job with benefits. A nice house, with affordable property taxes. Good schools and colleges. Paved and plowed roads. Sturdy bridges. Functioning courts. Police and fire protection. Clean air and water. Parks and playgrounds, libraries and museums. Treatment, not prison, for the mentally ill. All of us – if we live to be elderly, or become disabled – are able to access programs that reduce our obstacles, let us stay in our homes and let the people who would otherwise care for us keep their jobs. A good place to live, raise children and retire.
This could be New Hampshire. But not under the House budget proposal.Cloaked in fiscal responsibility, this budget is an ideological dagger to the heart of the middle class, of economic prosperity and job creation – of the Granite State itself.Let’s remember that the unprecedented size of the budget gap we’re facing was caused by the Great Recession. Revenues plummeted. It’s a revenue problem.Nor was the Great Recession a random act of nature. It was a predictable outcome of intentional policies. Since the 1970s, under both political parties, federal policies have been enabling Wall Street gambling and enriching the wealthiest tenth of one percent, at the expense of everyone else. Intentional policies allowed General Electric to pay no taxes at all last year.Cloaked in “the free market,” these policies are an ideological dagger to the heart of the American Dream.Our budget “crises” are a matter of choice. Federal policies reduce revenues by cutting taxes for billionaires and redistributing wealth ever upwards. New Hampshire’s fiscal policy shows we’d rather spend our money giving millionaires one fourth the tax rate of those living in poverty than maintain our state’s most basic functions. It’s a choice.In hard times, it’s easy to look for someone or something to blame. It’s easy to only notice your taxes buying food stamps for the underpaid people who work at Walmart and not the big subsidies you’re buying for Walmart itself. It may be easy to scapegoat public employees – you can see the salary they draw to plow the roads – but the taxes billionaires aren’t paying remain invisible, unimaginable.Someone’s laughing all the way to the bank, but it’s not you, it’s not me and it’s not the guy who plows your street.Cloaked in fiscal responsibility, in a masterstroke of misdirection, the House insists we have a spending problem, and the only way to solve it is to cut spending. And dig deeper, by cutting taxes. And punish the very people who keep our state working.Our budgets express our priorities; taxes are our investments in those priorities.Do we really intend to balance this budget on the backs of the poor, the middle class, even the upper middle class, while eroding the infrastructures that invest in people and create jobs? Or is it time to ask those at the tippy-top, who reap the greatest benefits from government, to chip in their share too?
Cathy Silber is executive director of the Granite State Fair Tax Coalition.