Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Arizona: the edge of civilization

Arizona is becoming less and less civilized everyday.

When this state had plenty tourist income for repeated tax cuts for the rich (courtesy of the Arizona Legislature's Republican majority) and modest services for the rest of us, it was a tolerable place to live. Now, I'm not so sure.

Once the housing bubble burst, construction jobs disappeared, and tourist revenues declined, Arizona's house-of-cards economy plunged. The result has been two-years of fiscal mismanagement by the Legislature and Republican Governor Jan Brewer. Heaven forbid that they would fix the inherent problems with the state's revenue streams. Instead, they went to work cutting the budget for education,healthcare for children and the poor, and other services, while offering more tax breaks for business and the richest residents and relinquishing federal matching funds.

In addition, the Republicans voted to waste tax payer funds on hiring an independent lawyer to sue the federal government over healthcare reform and wasted time on a birther bill that would require everyone to show a birth certificate to run for office in Arizona.

The latest jewel in the crown of the 2010 session of the Arizona Legislature is Senator Russell Pearce's ant-immigrant bill (SB1070). Bouyed by anti-immigrant propaganda and false statements (dare I say "lies"?) by Pearce, the bill has passed both houses on a party line vote-- with Republicans pandering to the extreme fringe of their party.

SB1070 is a scary expansion of police powers in Arizona. Basically, during any "lawful contact" (ie, running a red light) any law enforcement officer can ask anyone for an ID to see if you are in the US legally. If you don't have an ID, you are "presumed to be an alien."

Will the governor sign the bill? Brewer has vowed to "do the right thing" without saying what that is.

Arizona is fast becoming an impoverished police state with minimal government and no services-- including basic public education. If these fascist policies and budget cuts continue, Arizona will see a brain drain, with the best and the brightest moving to more progressive states. Our universities and businesses will have a difficult time attracting professors, researchers, and skilled workers-- further hurting Arizona's economy. Those left in Arizona will be "clinging to their guns and religion" -- and trickle down economics.

If you don't like the direction of Arizona government, vote in the fall.

This article was originally published in my Progressive Examiner column. Check out the link to see the video of State Senator Kyrsten Sinema scold the Republican-controlled Legislature for passing poor policies, such as the birther bill.

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