The Republican Party has a proposal for you. With your hope and change frustrated by their obstruction, they would like you to blame the president, stay depressed instead of volunteering, and forget to vote on November 2nd.
In return, they'll make the entire country into Alabama. Remember the scene in Demolition Man where Sylvester Stallone finds out that in the future, all restaurants are Taco Bells? It will be just like that, and exhibit A is California. Really, I'm not kidding. If you want to see what America will look like should tea party Republicans take Congress, come pay "the Heart of Dixie" a visit.
Much more after the jump...
A political economy of Alabama is revealing: for every dollar the state sends to Washington, D.C., it receives $1.69 in federal funding (.PDF). Millionaires are taxed at effective rates less than half that of the poorest Alabamians (.PDF). Land and property taxes are the lowest in America. The state relies almost completely on sales taxes to fund education, therefore school funding is a yo-yo oscillating in time with the economy. By the time a child has reached the end of an Alabama K-12 education, they have experienced an average of four years of prorated school budgets. But no matter how extreme the budget cuts, there is always money for high school football and evolution "warning stickers" on biology textbooks.
I wish I was making that last one up:
Like other southern states, Alabama's Senators opposed bailouts for Detroit, but cut ribbons at highly-subsidized new auto plants in their home states over the last decade. There is always plenty of money to win a few thousand manufacturing jobs, but none for better schools; and the best part is that intentional gridlock prevents any change.
To be sure, Democrats run Goat Hill (our statehouse, named for the speculative property on which it was built), but almost every one of them wears the conservative or Blue Dog label. Alabama has trended red in national elections for a long time and my own district is on the brink of electing a Republican legislature for the first time since 1874. There are unions here, and they are active, but it is a "right-to-work" state.
In short, Alabama has the most regressive revenue plan in America, and has thrown out a welcome mat for any business that would have it in exactly the way economic theorists say they should. Moreover, the state has been doing this since 1901. According to the aptly-named "Laffer Curve" and the supply-side, trickle-down economics ascendant in America for the last thirty years, Alabama ought to be roaring with industry.
Instead, the once-bustling Florence industrial park is now a collection of small businesses and charity warehouses in the shells of former textile mills. The cotton farmer here who once sent his crop from the gin to the mill now sends it to India or China to return as a t-shirt. That's a classic third-world development trap, and a fair way to state the case: Alabama, like West Virginia, is a part of America's third world.
If conservative economics had any validity at all, population growth shouldn't have been virtually flat since 1978. Alabama remains one of the poorest states in America. The empirical evidence Alabama provides is that tax cuts for the rich, culture wars, and leaving the poor to starve in ignorance do not create prosperity.
If this doesn't sound familiar, it's because you haven't been paying attention. Should they retake Congress, the Republican plan for governance amounts to the same basic scam: big tax cuts for the rich, corporate welfare, soaring deficits, starved services, glacial economic growth, and investigations (Don Seigelman anyone?). It's what they did when they were in power before, it's what they do when they're in power in Alabama, and it's what they'll do to the entire country. California Republicans maintain their gerrymandered one-third minority to make this happen; our legislature is constitutionally limited to meeting for just thirty days a year. All the GOP needs to do it in Washington is gain a few Senate and House seats.
Orwell observed that a hierarchical society would only be possible in a state of poverty and ignorance, and in fact Alabama installed Jim Crow to preserve a now-extinct class of white landlord. Low property taxes were intended to starve the minds of black sharecroppers' children; today, they serve the interests of timber and wood manufacturing moguls while starving the minds of all sorts of children.
Immigrants, for example. Those low-wage chicken plants won't operate on American blood and toil, you know; and when it's election time everyone, absolutely everyone, can pander to the hysteria about their presence. See how that works?
So by all means, Democrats and progressives: if you like living in a poor and ignorant country, stay home. Don't vote, don't volunteer, and bitch about the president some more. "Conservatives" will like that just fine. They'll reward you with ignorant children and a crappy economy. Californians have spent the last three decades finding it out what Alabama has known for 109 years. Now the rest of you can find out!