April 20, 2009 (the date of publication in Russian)
IS THE DISINTEGRATION OF THE USA NO LONGER A MYTH?
Texas has suddenly "remembered" its sovereignty and rejects money from federal budget
Global economic crisis has provoked protests all over the world. As Russia is also integrated into the world economy, it couldn't stay aside. From time to time the press announces about protests of our miners, power specialists and even retired military men. All these protests are aimed to demand money from governments. We can think about the protesters differently, but it’s possible to understand them humanly – they all suffer from critical economic conditions.
Mass acts of protest against anti-crisis policy chosen by the White House took place in the USA, which is also integrated into the world economy, on April 15 this year. The protest movement involved more than thirty US cities. Organizers called the meeting a "tea party" on the analogy of a well-known "Boston Tea Party" in 1773, when indignant Americans dumped 45 tonnes of tea from the board of ship Dartmouth into the water as a sign of protest against discriminative Britain's customs policy, which made many American tea traders go bankrupt.
In contrast to European protest actions in 2009, American ones were quite peaceful, but this isn't the main difference. Americans protested against excessive (in their judgment) government's budget spending. Simply speaking, they all rejected the money given by federal government.
I'm not sure whether any reader can imagine a demonstration of the unemployed in his native country, where people would demand ceasing the support of regional budgets from the central government. Personally for me it's unreal. And even more difficult is to imagine some Russian governor, rejecting federal subventions. But the US governors can afford such liberties.
"I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state ", – Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas said and decidedly rejected $555 million, meant to revive the economy of the state.
From $787 billion, assigned by the White House to become a mean of overcoming of the recession, about $300 billion were meant to support separate states. Any state willing to get a part of this support has to make some changes in its legislation, though. Majority has no questions about building roads or investing in ecological projects. But the situation changes in question of spending these funds on unemployment benefits. The White House is ready to give money only on conditions that the term, when the very benefits will be paid will not exceed 33 weeks in 30 states with high unemployment rates, and in the rest states – 20 weeks. So it turns out that in most states of the USA the common term of getting unemployment benefit will reach a year and a half. And the size of benefit increases from $300 to $325 per week. Federal government will assign money for these aims, but only during 2009 and 2010. And beginning from 2011 governments of states won't be able to cut down the term of paying benefits or diminish them, but will have to pay them from their own treasuries.
Governors of six states announced they were strictly against such approach to the problem because later they would have to increase taxes to implement government's demands. Some of the governors even said they will reject government's billions completely. Some "rising stars" from the Republican Party, who are going to take part in presidential elections three years after, are among them. They are Bobby Jindal from Louisiana, Mark Sanford from South Carolina and well-known Sarah Palin from Alaska. The discussion on that topic began in January, when adamant position taken by "the disagreeing" was supported by conservative constituents, who protested against the increase in federal government's powers.
But lately the growth of unemployment led to the split in republicans' camp. Sanford, who originally threatened to reject federal $8.5-billion subsidies, has graciously agreed to accept Washington's help under the pressure of state's citizens, but not allowing to use $700 million to fight unemployment. 11% of South Carolina's citizens are unemployed, that's why most constituents demanded the governor to accept the money and help the poor.
"Think about it this way," Sanford explained. "… [The stimulus money] is the lottery of all lotteries. And if you won the lottery, most prudent families would set some money aside to pay down their credit cards, they'd set some aside to pay down their mortgage and I don't know why, if that's prudent for an individual and if that's prudent for businesses, why would it not be prudent for government?" Thus he wants to use government's help to pay old state debts, obtaioned during the crisis. But the White House opposes this position strictly, so South Carolina will most probably lose its $700 million.
The situation in turned to be even more complicated in Virginia, which isn't that touched by the crisis. There governor-democrat has willingly accepted $125 million to support the unemployed. But state's General Assembly overcame governor's veto and rejected expanded jobless benefits. "We are being used," state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli said. "Actually our constituents ... who are now unemployed are being used by this administration to hold a gun to the head of this General Assembly with the assistance of the governor to force through a bad bill."
The new American "tea party" was appointed on April 15 not occasionally. This is the day when the term for tax statements submission for previous year ends. Tens of thousands of people went outside to "have some tea", which isn't really much for the 300-million USA. Only a few hundreds of people participated in meetings in most small towns, in Lansing (Michigan state) – 5 thousands, in Atlanta – 10 thousands. It's interesting, that such a historical event as "Boston tea party" goat a new interpretation. On April 15 American protestors presented an English word "tea" as an abbreviation of "Taxed Enough Already". CNBC channel became an initiator of the protest action – while commenting on the program of governmental reforms, one of its anchormen said Americans ought to make a "tea party" for Obama.
Mostly they were the Republican Party supporters who took part in actions. They appointed the meeting with the help of the Internet and mobile phones, but nevertheless leading politicians of the party supported them. Newt Gingrich, an ex-speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and Sean Hannity, a famous TV and radio host, were among them.
Protesters affirm that Obama's administration intends to raise taxes, which will lead to a dangerous growth of budget deficit and freeze the growth of economy, if mixed with simultaneous increase of budget burden, which is stipulated by the government.
The White House in its turn always reminds that the raising of taxes will spread only over the richest Americans, which make up less than 2% of population of the country. But conservative opposition assures these numbers are false and in reality the raising of taxes will affect a wider range of the USA citizens.
On April 15, during another TV-performance Obama assured his program provided numerous tax benefits for the middle class aimed to stimulate its buying activity.
The US Department of the Interior has provided all the police departments with a circular with information about the growth of legal extremists' activity in the country. This document says that the recession, victory of black-skinned president and return of veterans from Iraq created appropriate conditions for the spreading of right-extremist moods. Para-military formations reflecting those moods (e.g. infamous "patriotic police") in legal part of their activities protest against limiting the access to firearms, and this question had for a long time been like a "watershed" between democrats and republicans. And illegally this organization had Timothy McVeigh to their credit (he bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City on April19, 1995; more than 160 people killed).
But while terrorism analysts (like Peter Bergen, a famous print and television journalist) think that measures taken in the USA after September 11, 2001 were really effective in this direction of public security as well, even though they were originally aimed against outer terrorist threat.
But whatever the situation really is, the USA is living through a difficult period of history, and it's not only about the economic crisis. The US society is paying for eight years of George W. Bush's administration governing. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, outrageous neglect of basic values of American democracy, human rights and the elementary norms of international right by Bush-Cheney team, and corruption, which penetrated into the highest cabinets of the country – it all threatens the stability of the USA.
Barack Obama's unwillingness to poke into his precursor's private life does credit to him as to a human. But the unwillingness to create a commission on investigation of the crimes done by the 43rd President of the USA might stand in a bad stead for both 44th President and the USA.
Number of shows: 1995