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Gentle readers, be not disturbed if you do not immediately recognize the name Hetty Green, for she has not been prominent in the news for more than three-quarters of a century.
But around 1900, Hetty Green was the richest woman in the entire world!
And the tabloids of the period often wrote of her on account of her miserly ways.
This fabulously wealthy woman lived as though she was approaching a state of poverty. She chose to live in a modest apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey, inasmuch as “Hoboken is one of the cheapest places to live in that I know,” she opined.
Her dress was notoriously shabby, and despite her riches, each morning saw her catching the seven o’clock ferry on her way to an office room in the Chemical National Bank Building from which she directed her financial empire.
Photos show her dressed in such fashion as to explain in part her title of “The Witch of Wall Street.”
As we thought of the Republicans in Congress crying out so piteously how the country is going to financial hell in a debt hand basket, Hetty Green immediately sprang to mind.
Just as Hetty as the world’s richest woman could well afford to live the good life, in mansions, with numerous servants, surrounded by luxuries of every kind, she chose to live little better than a pauper’s existence, just as the Republican pols want the country to do.
The whole Republican premise is false.
This is not a poor country; it is, in fact the richest in the world, just as Hetty was the richest woman in the world. We can afford better.
Any country that is lavishing luxuries on its children, (with so many of them having their own autos, computers, music systems, cell phones — with texting as their preferred mode of communication — wearing expensive designer-label clothes, and shoes costing well over a hundred dollars a pair) can well afford a generously financed government, with ample public services rendered by well paid employees.
A country that can fight two foreign wars without any sustaining tax levy, can well afford to provide support to the other phases of government without stint or starvation.
A country whose principal corporations have amassed almost two trillions of dollars of cash in their treasuries.
A country whose principal corporations pay their officers in denominations not of hundreds, nor thousands, nor hundreds of thousands of dollars, but in millions of dollars, can afford to support adequate governmental services for all its people.
A country whose citizens can afford to support a worldwide trade in narcotic substances so lucrative as to support cartels that endanger the very existence of the Republic of Mexico in this hemisphere, and support the drug lords threatening the government of Afghanistan in which we are expending billions of dollars, can well afford to pay for a responsible government with responsive and responsible public programmes.
A country which spends billions and billions of dollars on such frivolity as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., and whose citizens regard as economical the payment of huge monthly fees to A. T. & T., Verizon, Comcast, et al. for TV, Internet access, telephone and cell phone service can well afford to support the present levels of government service, and add others services as needed.
If the readers put their minds to it, they can come up with numerous other examples of expenditures which demonstrate that this is a fabulously wealth country which can well afford to support a decent level of government service.
But, just as in so many other fields, our Republican friends continue to confuse theories of the state of things with the true state of things.
We are not broke; we are not going broke; we can afford to pay not only for the government we have, but we could in truth afford to pay for a much more expensive government than we have or would wish to have, were it necessary to so.
As those who know him well are fully aware, the old curmudgeon is notoriously frugal to the point of being accurately described as cheap, and his record of budgetary control back in the olden days when he was county executive was frugal and saving, but it is unseemly for an individual or a government that wallows in wealth to keep poor-mouthing.
But as we said above, our Republican friends continue to confuse theories of the state of things with the true state of things. So it was with Hetty Green: She thought she couldn’t afford a decent life style despite the true state of things whereby she could have afforded any of the things that anyone could desire. Similarly the United States of America can afford a first class government, and we can pay for it.
Bill Clinton proved this to be true when he balanced the budget and started to pay off the national debt. But one cannot expect the Republicans with their Chicken Little fear of the sky falling to accept this proven fact, since it does not conform to their theory that we are nearly bankrupt. Although we can still give huge tax cuts to the wealthy among us.
Make sense? Hardly!
Despite the validity of the foregoing analysis of our national condition and capability, we expect our Republican Representatives, like Don Quixote, to ride off in all directions. One of these directions is their insistence on budget cuts, purely for the purpose of cutting the budget, regardless of merits. We recognize, and have lamented, that there are lots of Federal expenditures that are wasteful and could well be eliminated. All the “corporate welfare” provisions, whether in direct payments, or indirect tax abatements not only could, but should be terminated.
And then there are the farm subsidy payments that go not to real farmers, but to millionaire absentees, and corporate conglomerate agriculture. These ought to go today.
Add to that the various airline subsidies, the airport grants, the air traffic control programme, airport security, etc. The airlines are raking in the money at the taxpayers expence. They ought to pay their own way.
Also, other than education, most grants should be terminated. This is a classic example of the need to “Be just before being generous.”
Grants are gifts. It is not a role of government to pick out some of its citizens and make some or many of them gifts from the taxes paid by all, and owned by all. Or even worse, borrow the money to make the gifts!
And certainly all those Republican governors and Republican legislatures who decry federal expenditures ought not to be burdened by having federal money thrust upon them for roads and bridges, and schools, and other things which they can pay for themselves, as they say they want to do.
But don’t bet on them cutting any of these things when they can cut programmes for the poor and underprivileged, and government in general. After all they must starve the beast.