Thursday, February 03, 2005

 

So much for the myth of "self-reliance" in the Old West

Ronald Reagan and his idolators loved (and still love) to pretend that in America - by which they mean the "heartland" - by which they mean any place without too many Negroes - is and always has been a place where nobody really needs a handout, especially from evil Big (or any other kind of ) Government. In America, myth has it, you succeed or fail 100% on your own efforts. That way, you owe nobody the slightest gratitude if you make it - and, more importantly, you owe nobody the slightest assistance if they don't.

Of course, this is 100% bullshit. Even Ronald Reagan did not "make it" on his own. His acting career was tanking in the 1950s when he sold out his liberal, pro-labor roots and became a good-looking, slick-talking salesman for big business and the right wing.

But the myth remains, as pernicious as ever. Even in the face of massive historical evidence that it is 100% bullshit.
The West's New Boomtowns Are Looking Beyond the Drought

By KIRK JOHNSON

AURORA, Colo., Feb. 2 - Peter D. Binney used to look out his window and wonder, as drought settled over the West, what the heck happened.

Now, as snow has finally fallen heavy and deep in the mountains this winter, his worries have shifted direction like the wind. As the director of utilities in this suburban city on the prairie east of Denver, Mr. Binney now fears people will think that the drought is over and that it is back to business as usual.

"There's a natural tendency to wish crisis away, and it's difficult to maintain the discipline and conviction," he said. "It's something I wrestle with every day."

For cities like Aurora that were hard hit by the drought's worst years, the wet interregnum of this winter - which may or may not be the beginning of the drought's end, meteorologists say - is presenting its own peculiar season of anxiety.

For cities like Aurora - part of an archipelago of new urban centers across the West that have never experienced a serious drought until this one - the sense of political limits that came with a change in the weather pattern was as much of a shock as the drought itself.

Older cities like Denver and Phoenix grew up nurtured by a huge federal commitment in the 20th century to water the West through dams, reservoirs and irrigation projects. The new places found themselves largely dependent on their own resources, as federal ambitions have retreated and the environmental costs of the old ways have become clearer.
And who paid for that "huge federal commitment"? The same people who paid for the Tennessee Valley Authority and damn near every other improvement this country has ever made in rural areas - the rich "blue" states of the Northeast and the North Central areas. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois - and we're still paying out far more to the federal government than we get back. Meanwhile, the list of states that get back more in federal spending than they pay in taxes is highly tilted to the "red" states.

New Jersey, for example, receives about 50 cents for each dollar we pay. Rural states get up to $1.50 and even more for each dollar they pay. And this has been going on for over a century. Much of the West would be an uninhabitable desert without all those water projects paid for with trillions of tax dollars largely paid by states in the northeast and north central.

And how do those red states thank us? By electing presidents who prattle on and on about self-reliance (as if George W. Bush ever earned a damn thing in his entire useless life) while happily transferring blue state money to red state freeloaders. If the blue states seceded, they'd take with them a huge portion of national product, national income - and national tax revenues.

It's okay in abstract - we're all one country, the rich should take care of the poor - but isn't that "redistribution"? And isn't that "socialism"? And isn't that evil? I mean, Bush's entire tax plan is based on the idea that the rich shouldn't pay more to the poor just because the rich have it and the poor need it. So why should New Jersey give money to Alabama and Mississippi?

At least, if you red states are going to rip us blue states off, for God's sake stop bragging about how 'self-reliant' you all are! Because you aren't - and you never have been.
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