More from E.J. Dionne...
The federal government could also help the states by picking up more of their Medicaid costs. In the long run, health care spending should be a responsibility of the national government — as it is in almost every other wealthy democracy. A national commitment would end the specter of states forcing already financially beleaguered citizens off the health insurance rolls.
Such ideas are off the table because the current rage is not for figuring out how to make government work better — a cause that once united governors of both parties — but for cutting back even its most basic and popular functions.
This country is going down the tubes fast, from the national to the state to the local level. Our problems are too many in number and our institutions have failed us. Where this ride ends I don't know, but it isn't looking good.
Things are about to get really busy for me (indeed they already have) and I’m going to have to step away from the blog for a short while as I take care of some other stuff. So in the meantime I’m posting Bill Gates’ TED Talk on state budgets. It’s short: around 10 minutes. Give it a look.
It’s certainly not the best TED Talk I’ve ever watched, but it was intended to be a conversation starter. And it’s interesting to me that this was taped before the whole uproar in Wisconsin started. But his framing of the state budget “crises” as a “young-vs-old” thing resonated. States are deinvesting from the young by cutting education to pay for the old and meet pension obligations and deal with rising healthcare costs. Well, it's old people who vote so, big shocker there.
Of course in practice, what we’re starting to see in places like Wisconsin is cutting from the young and the old so rich assholes like the Koch Brothers can increase their profits -- which somehow never manage to trickle down on the rest of us. That’s not just immoral, it’s insane. I’d love to hear what Bill Gates has to say about Scott Walker.
The other points he makes are that really we are paying for our inability to deal with our massive healthcare issue. He doesn’t phrase it that way but that is it in a nutshell. Plenty of smarter folks have said this before but let’s just put it bluntly: it’s the healthcare costs, stupid. Failure to address rising healthcare costs have put us in a budget pickle, and industry-friendly Republicans and Democrats showed themselves to be fiscal frauds when they put up roadblocks to every single idea and initiative that would control costs. Way to go, idiots. And our glorious mainstream media, which profits handsomely off the megamillions spent advertising prescription drugs nobody needs, did absolutely nothing to educate the public about this issue. (And by the way, media watchdogs: can the U.S. get one of these? Sure would have come in handy during the healthcare debate.)
So yes, our state and federal budget issues are really healthcare issues, which Gates mentions. And finally, people do need to become more educated about what’s happening with their state budgets. Sadly, we can no longer rely upon the news media to adequately inform us. The mainstream media has, as was pointed out recently, “become journalistically irrelevant when it comes to national issues and coverage." Unfortunately, as my local newspaper’s eagerness to publish corporate propaganda demonstrates, local media isn’t much better. So we need to find a better way of communicating the facts without letting the special interest groups do their spin job.
So without further ado, Bill Gates: How state budgets are breaking US schools.