Monday, October 20, 2003

Norquist Wants America to Look Just Like Alabama

After voters foolishly rejected Governor Bob Riley's Alabama tax reform plan, the budget axes in the state came out, and services are being slashed to the point of extinction. Adam Cohen makes the point in the NYT this morning that Alabama is exactly what morons like Grover Norquist want the rest of America to look like; a sea of poverty with a few rich icebergs floating on top.

The nation is facing precisely the same issues as Alabama. The Bush administration has tried to delude the public into thinking we can fight a war, rebuild Iraq, fix our schools, get prescription drug benefits and still enjoy the largest tax cut in history. But the deficit cannot grow forever. Eventually, we will have to pay more or, as "starve the beast" proponents hope, do with much less.

Last month, Alabama voted for fewer social services, less education, and a shoddier legal system — to become, that is, more like a third-world nation. But low as taxes are, the state will never be better at being an underdeveloped country than actual underdeveloped countries are. Alabama's best chance, and the nation's, is to invest in its people and civic institutions, the things that set America apart.

Governor Riley's setback last month is being hailed by national antitax forces as a great victory. But if Alabama heads into next year without additional revenues, students may have to learn without textbooks, prisoners may be released early, and people may start dying of preventable diseases. We should all pay attention, because if the "starve the beast" crowd continues to prevail in Washington, as goes Alabama so may go the nation.

Exactly. Interestingly, a new poll suggests that Americans are beginning to wake up to the pound foolishness of people like Norquist; 62 percent of Americans now believe that a taxpayer-funded single-payer system is the answer to our health care crisis. Chew on that, Grover, and go away.

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