October 5, 2010

when “austerity” knocks

Think Progress reports on firefighters who allowed a house to burn down to the ground in ashes because the homeowner hadn’t paid the requisite $75 fee! It also reports on the near-universal support of conservative writers for the fire department’s position. Now, I love America as much as the next guy but this denial of public service privatization of public service is eerily similar to denying rationing basic medical care to a sick or needy person because of lack of insurance.

I suspect also that sitting idly by while such damages pile up does harm to the real economy as well since someone has to pay for these losses eventually, (i.e., given lost income, lost demand, lost property value, lost wages, etc.) The question left in abeyance however is who pays and who does not. Who gets their house saved and who doesn’t. Who is bailed out and who is not. Who is left to rot away and who not.

Rather than come out of everyone’s taxes and be paid for across the board as a basic public service to all, (that is, as service to all considered either as the protection from physical loss, from damage to property, or from the harmful effects of an macro-economic downturn,) the policy of treating the public as private customers who simply get what they deserve pay for  sabotages the very existence of a public, and, in effect, divides the populace into resentful classes: those few who pay for services and protections, like private security and health insurance, and those who do not.

It is no coincidence that the financial recovery of “the market” comes amid increased cutbacks for public services and social services. Public cutbacks on basic infrastructure through the virtues of “austerity” is kind of like rich folks all of a sudden discovering the virtues of clipping coupons  while the whole block is of fire. Does the US really want to creep further down the path of a “failed state”? 

Perhaps it can learn a thing or two from labor movements abroad.

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