I’m sooo tired of my conservative students insisting that “we’re broke.” I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised, it has become a basic GOP talking point, even if it bears no relation to the meaning of the word “broke.” EJ Dionne had a really nice column on this last month.
You can practically break a search engine if you start looking around the Internet for those words. They’re used repeatedly with reference to our local, state and federal governments, almost always to make a case for slashing programs — and, lately, to go after public-employee unions. The phrase is designed to create a sense of crisis that justifies rapid and radical actions before citizens have a chance to debate the consequences.
Just one problem: We’re not broke. Yes, nearly all levels of government face fiscal problems because of the economic downturn. But there is no crisis. There are many different paths open to fixing public budgets. And we will come up with wiser and more sustainable solutions if we approach fiscal problems calmly, realizing that we’re still a very rich country and that the wealthiest among us are doing exceptionally well.
Also, a really nice piece by Fresh Air’s resident linguist, Jeff Nunberg, on the real meaning of we’re broke.
Do we have long-term structural budget problems we need to fix? Oh yeah. Of course, the closest we’ve come to addressing them is the Affordable Care Act. Republican posturing over discretionary spending will do nothing do address our long-term problems.