In the Washington Post, economist James K. Galbraith of the University of Texas – who is not only one of the leading liberal figures in his field, but the son of John Kenneth Galbraith, William F. Buckley Jr’s eternal Firing Line antagonist – examines the current crisis. He notes that there are two problems facing the United States in the economic field that dominate everything else. One is the housing meltdown. And when he gets to the other one, his solution is a bit unexpected:
The second great crisis is in state and local government. Just Tuesday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced $1.5 billion in public spending cuts. The scenario is playing out everywhere: Schools, fire departments, police stations, parks, libraries and water projects are getting the ax, while essential maintenance gets deferred and important capital projects don’t get built. This is pernicious when unemployment is rising and when we have all the real resources we need to preserve services and expand public investment. It’s also unnecessary.
What to do? Reenact Richard Nixon’s great idea: federal revenue sharing. States and localities should get the funds to plug their revenue gaps and maintain real public spending, per capita, for the next three to five years. Also, enact the National Infrastructure Bank, making bond revenue available in a revolving fund for capital improvements. There is work to do. There are people to do it. Bring them together. What could be easier or more sensible?
Is it time for some old Nixon hands in the domestic and financial areas to rummage through their filing cabinets and get their briefcases ready?