Opinion Piece


By Josh Moon/Montgomery Advertiser

We need $700 million dollars.

That’s how much it would require to patch up the nearly $300 million hole in the Alabama General Fund Budget and to prevent further borrowing from the Education Trust and to pay back old debts. That’s what Gov. Robert Bentley told a group of lawmakers and business leaders and reporters in Mobile on Feb. 2.

Seven. Hundred. Million. Let that sink in.

To put it into proper context, that figure is after we slashed away thousands of state jobs, pushed more benefits costs onto state workers and teachers, provided only one teacher pay raise in six years and started stacking state prisoners like Solo cups. While most of the rest of the country has been slowly dragging itself out of the Republican-created near-depression that struck in 2008, Alabama is still mired in economic quicksand.

How can that be? Because I seem to recall this group of guys back in 2010 proclaiming to be saviors.

It was a new day in Alabama back then. The Republicans had arrived. It was the era of “responsible government.” Republicans were going to get our spending under control. No new taxes. The ship was going to be righted.

Now, after all of the cutting and layoffs, after chasing away those immigrants who were such a huge drain on the economy, after billions upon billions handed out in economic incentives, after 300,000 people were still left without health insurance, and after about 1,000 bills to benefit Christians or prayers or nativity scenes or gun owners, we learn that we’re worse.

The grand achievement of Alabama Republican economics over the last four years isn’t pulling the state out of its economic woes. No, it’s figuring out a way to somehow dig it in deeper.

On Feb. 2, with his state finances engulfed in flames, Bentley finally proclaimed “bold” ideas to address the problems. Most assume that means tax raises.

You would think that such a statement, given the results of the past four years, would be met by, at worst, begrudging consent from his fellow Republicans.

You would, of course, be wrong. Many have instead vowed to fight new taxes. Because any day now, this austerity plan is going to start working. Any day now, the refusal to pay for the services and people that we all want and need will start turning this economic situation around. Just like it did back in … never.

Trace it back through the history of this country. Whenever the tax rate drops significantly on the top earners and we start cutting government down and the income gap between the top and the bottom widens out, trouble follows.

You can dislike that, but there’s no disputing it’s true. Just as there’s no denying that the opposite of that approach – this country’s only experiment with sorta-socialism – produced the best economy and a thriving middle class.

I was reminded of this the other day when someone posted a clip from Bill Maher’s show. I’m not much of a Maher fan, but in this particular clip he spent some time discussing the G.I. Bill, or the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, and its effect on the country. And he was mostly accurate.

With the country facing the highest debt-to-GDP ratio in its history – a ratio that our current debt is approaching – following World War II, we basically turned into, as Maher put it, Finland.

We jacked the top tax rate to a staggering 94 percent and used that money to send scores of just-returned soldiers to college, to help them buy and build houses, to fund their business ventures and to provide a year’s unemployment pay. 

The result of all that socialism and handouts was that over the next 30 years, the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio fell from a high of around 116 percent in 1945 to just 30 percent in 1974. The economy in pretty much every sector boomed. A thriving middle class was formed.

That 30-year run was one of the best in this country’s history, and it happened because for once, we focused on lifting the country from the bottom up. For a moment, we were less concerned with greed and more concerned with providing opportunity. And it changed America forever.

So, maybe instead of a bold idea, governor, try one that works. Lift the state from the bottom and let’s just see what happens.

Latest News

WEEKEND PLANS: Pedal boat operation now open in Gadsden
Annual Memorial Day event planned for Monday
City of Gadsden launches new text-based 911 feature to assist callers, first responders
City of Gadsden honors nation's fallen with memorial flag displays
Outstanding students honored at Honors Day in Gadsden

Latest Sports News

Locals make all-state soccer teams
All-Etowah County Schools softball released
All-Etowah County Schools baseball announced
Local players named to all-area baseball team
Local athletes, coaches named to compete in North/South games