In Florida, the Republicans have a leading role in setting the stage for economic recovery. They control the executive with Gov. Scott, each cabinet office, the legislature with veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate, and the judicial with most appointees coming during the last 14 years of Republican rule. Rather than doing anything constructive toward economic recovery, like promoting good jobs, encouraging the infusion of cash to boost economic activity, shielding the most vulnerable consumers while encouraging consumer activity (consumer spending represents about 70% of GDP), Florida’s Republicans seem hell-bent on stoking recession, not recovery. Here are 4 major ways they are asserting their agenda and hurting Florida’s economy.
Oppose health care reform: The opposition to federal health care reform has several aspects. Florida has the leading role in a lawsuit against the reform law that claims the individual mandate is unconstitutional. This isn’t a huge cost to the state, but it is something in which Republicans have made a substantial investment.
With Florida having the third highest level of uninsured citizens among the states, knowing that these uninsured have a negative impact that strains the health care system, and knowing that citizens are being bankrupted by health care costs without and with insurance, one might think that alleviating this burden would be a priority. Yet hobbled by ideological fanaticism and intellectual torpor, Republicans seek to defeat change and continue a system of health care that is an abject failure.
Job losses [in Florida] have also had impacts on other indicators of well-being including poverty and health care coverage. Poverty increased by 2.8 percentage points from 2007 to 2009, and the share of uninsured increased by increased by 2.2 percentage points. This was particularly impacted by the loss of employer sponsored coverage, down 6 percentage points from 2007 to 2009.
Scare the seniors about social security: This is Florida and seniors are disproportionately represented in the Sunshine State. Their social security checks, pension checks and 401(k)s are critical spending in the Florida economy.
Seniors are also notoriously insecure, feeling threatened and vulnerable. These seniors, some of whom weathered the Great Depression and many of whom experienced WWII-era rationing, will start scrimping and saving at the hint of economic insecurity.
Let’s introduce national (and also state) Republicans harping about the bankruptcy of social security, calling it a Ponzi scheme, telling folks that we need to have ‘an honest conversation’ about the future of social security, and watch seniors batten down the hatches on spending. In fact, social security is not the big issue driving budget deficits and has little to do with national debt. It is more ideological nonsense that aims to dismantle the most successful program in US history rather than make a few rational adjustments that will extend the health of the program beyond 2038.
Austerity budgets don’t help economic recovery: This page has previously addressed the utterly ludicrous notion that a government budget is just like household budget. The claptrap that ‘everyone’s tightening their belts and government needs to do likewise’ is not a policy that aims to achieve economic recovery. It is a thin disguise for de-funding government programs, dismantling “progressive” programs like comprehensive planning, clean water, renewable energy, and social services, emasculating labor unions, and privatizing everything in sight.
The austerity regime of budget cutting has been presented so often by the mainstream media as the default strategy that many people don’t realize that tax collection, revenue increases, could be improved enough to soften if not ameliorate the huge budget deficits.
This would mean closing loopholes and setting aside perks, preferences and other bogus subsidies that have made Florida’s corporate tax code a stinking sieve of corporate welfare. Instead of correcting these tax avoidance schemes and wasteful handouts, teachers are laid off, public employees are taxed, unions are punished, systems are privatized and voucherized, measly unemployment benefits are gouged, and yet corporate taxes are reduced.
Giving money to the wealthy – households or corporations – doesn’t create jobs and doesn’t help economic recovery. It’s shoveling faster to make the hole deeper.
Refuse Washington money: After returning $2.7 billion in high speed rail construction funds, Gov. Scott made a name for himself which is a string of expletives. A previous post revealed the lack of affection in one business that could have benefited from the returned funds. Yet there has been over $100 million more in refused federal funding, although a few cherry-picked items like federal abstinence program funds were accepted.
The topper would be the rejection of funds from the President’s jobs/stimulus plan which would bring $7.5 billion to Florida. Here is what this would mean:
The White House is projecting that Florida would benefit from $1.28 billion in school construction money that would create as many as 16,600 jobs … Investments in highways, transit, rail and aviation could bring an additional $1.58 billion and 20,500 jobs … Other funds Florida could receive include:
- $1.67 billion to support up to 25,900 educator and first responder jobs.
- $2.7 billion for construction workers to refurbish hundreds of thousands of vacant and foreclosed Florida homes and businesses.
- $288 million for community colleges.
While the President’s plan doesn’t have much chance of passage, Gov. Scott and Republican leaders are already prepared to send it back:
“Where is that money coming from?” Brian Burgess [Gov. Scott’s spokesman] said. “The governor’s position is pretty clear about shoveling federal dollars out when they don’t have federal dollars to shovel out.”
Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring and the House budget chairman, said it would be premature to comment since the state doesn’t “have specific details as to how the federal government would fund those projects.”
Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, sent out his own statement on Obama’s job plan, saying the majority of it “sounded like stimulus part two.” He said Obama should reduce taxes and repeal the federal health care reform instead of pushing for additional federal spending.
Playing ideological politics with our money is wearing thin in some places while it never gets old in others.
Hopefully the electorate will realize that the state can’t afford more unchecked Republican idiocy and change the terms in 2012. We’ll see if anything is left.