19 February 2010

Responding to "austerity measures"

With the global economic slowdown, many political entities are facing the need to cut spending, from countries to small towns.  Here's the BBC's report of what happened in Greece last week:
Flights have been grounded, many schools are closed and hospitals are operating an emergency-only service...

The unions regard the austerity programme as a declaration of war against the working and middle classes, the BBC's Malcolm Brabant reports from the capital.  He says their resolve is strengthened by their belief that this crisis has been engineered by external forces, such as international speculators and European central bankers.

"It's a war against workers and we will answer with war, with constant struggles until this policy is overturned," said Christos Katsiotis, a union member affiliated to the Communist Party, at the Athens rally...
And this report from NPR:
Like many cities across the nation, Colorado Springs, Colo., is trying to close a big budget gap. The town is shutting off lights and slashing budgets for parks, police and firefighters...

Perhaps the most noticeable change for Colorado Springs' 400,000 residents will be in parks, where budgets have been slashed by nearly 75 percent.

"We've taken all the trash cans out. We're not going to be doing any litter collections in the parks... We're hoping the citizens will pack it out themselves."  All the restrooms have been closed. There'll be very little watering, and crews will mow just once a month instead of weekly...

The city even trimmed its police and fire budgets and is auctioning three of its police helicopters on the Internet. Still, that's not enough... The city sold nine buses and will use the proceeds to pay operating costs this year... Colorado Springs is now considering wholesale changes to the way it operates. City leaders are thinking about selling the local utilities and a hospital...
Addendum: See Fletcher's note in the Comments thread re a contrasting situation in Oregon.


  1. It sounds like the prime minister of Greece is entirely justified in seeking these cuts. This will be the start of the EU's economy becoming a bit more like ours. If we could meet somewhere in the middle (e.g., Universal healthcare coverage), that would be great.

    Hopefully, 2010 will usher in a bipartisan (yes, I am naive) effort to reign in our spending and begin to balance our budgets. The Washington Post recently had a beautiful graphic about our budget: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/budget-2010/index.html

  2. Oregon made a major departure from the national norm this year -- while residents of Colorado Springs voted against any tax increases, Oregonians voted for two. One increased the minimum business tax from the frankly ridiculous amount of $10 to $150. Even at that, people howled that the tax would "drive business out of the state." I figure if $140 is going to keep a business away, then it was not going to provide much benefit to the state anyway.

    The other tax increased the income tax rate by 1.8% for taxable income between $250K and $500K. Taxable incomes above $500K saw a 2% increase.

    Do you know who voted for these tax increases? The very people who will pay them -- the residents of the population centers of the state, which house the vast majority of businesses and wealthy people. The entire rural portion of Oregon, which includes about 2/3 of the state by land mass and half of it by population, voted against the increases. Apparently they voted just on general principle, since hardly any of them would actually have to pay those increased taxes. It is not a coincidence that those rural areas are also predominantly Republican.

    Thanks to the more enlightened people in the population centers, who understand that basic government services actually have to be paid for, Oregon is not experiencing the austerity measures of Colorado Springs.

  3. Thanks, Fletcher. I've appended a reference to your comment.


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