San Francisco Sitting in the Tides Momentum conference, I couldn’t help taking some notes as Larry Mishel from the Economic Policy Institute showed his slides estimating that unemployment would rise to over 10% in 2010. More frighteningly, he said that when he added in underemployment the rates would be almost 18% then with 27,000,000 jobs – people! – impacted adversely. I tried to reconcile this impending “pain,” as Larry correctly called it with the headline in my lap from USA Today indicating that “States Say They Can’t Afford Costs Tied to $5 Billion Emergency Fund.”
The story furnished by ProPublica writers Michael Grabell and Chris Flavelle nailed the issue that almost half of the states in the US are going to walk away from the desperately needed money in the fund, because they are not willing – or able – to come up with their 20% share of this 4 to 1 federal to state match. This is money that goes directly to citizen wealth and survival and can be used as direct cash transfers, aid on expanding welfare caseloads, rent payments to forestall evictions, and even creating temporary jobs for the unemployed. The reporters highlight the plans and problems in a number of states like California, New York, and Tennessee. They also redlined Louisiana, which is already notorious for not taking stimulus money to help the unemployed, and now indicates that its budget crunch means that despite the fact that 20% of our citizens live in poverty, it doesn’t have the money to help them get out of poverty.
What the heck?!?
In the Alice in Wonderland upside down world in which we live and work, the Administration is going around to the states trying to convince them to find someone else to put up the match. New York State convinced George Soros, who has more money than god, to pony up for them, so now the government seems to think that’s the model. According to the reporters, they think Wal-Mart or Target might be good sources for example for school clothing. I have to go look out the window and see if this is in fact the day that pigs are going to fly!
Why are we not able to say to the states do this because citizen wealth makes your people richer and more secure, rather than advising the states in how to practice some weird form of grantsmanship with counties, cities, parishes, and corporations? If we are going to get that weird, why don’t we rebrand it as ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, calculate how much the state will get back in sales and other taxes for their expenditures since the money will be spent right at home in the blink of an eye, and finally have some economic development that actually works for people rather than for developers and fast talkers?