OTP:The U.S. invasion of Iraq has a down payment cost of about $80 billion. Here in Brooklyn, both New York City and state are facing multibillion-deficits and yet President Bush is pushing for a major tax cut which he says will stimulate the economy. Could you comment on that for us? Is this true or is it voodoo?
Julianne Malveaux: Okay, let’s step back. Tax cuts are extraordinarily ill-advised for a number of reasons. First of all, there is no evidence whatsoever, that a tax cut will “stimulate” the economy. This is in his daddy’s words, voodoo economics.
Even more than that, what we see is that the country has economic challenges that translates into every single one of the fifty states experiencing economic difficulties. Even if you believed that a tax cut would be stimulative, the reason it would be stimulative is because it puts money in people’s pockets for them to spend. But any money that people get is going to be taken away because states are being forced to raise their taxes, because states don’t have the ability, as the federal government does, to float deficits.
So there is not a single state, not one of the fifty, that isn’t having problems. Every state is facing layoffs of teachers, library cuts and closings, cutbacks in the roads they’re repairing. In fifteen states around the country, state universities are facing double-digit increases. So if taxes are cut at the federal level and raised at the state level, that’s a wash. So what many of the governors have asked the president to do is to provide them with some relief. To do something for the states. But this president is wholly disinclined to be responsive to the states and I think that’s a problem.
So no, I don’t see the stimulative effect and so many economists don’t see it that over two hundred and fifty have signed a New York Times ad, including several Nobel Prize winners in economics, saying that this was crazy, that it is not economically sound. This is before we talk about the war. I haven’t said a word about the war. Now let’s add that.
They have asked for $79 billion dollars for the first six months. I’ve heard estimates from a hundred billion dollars to $1.7 trillion. Depending on how long we’re going to be over there.
One of the things I think is so ironic about this war, is that we’re talking about rebuilding Iraq, with schools and clean water, and these are things that I think people in parts of the United States would die for. There are many ironies here.
OTP: They are dying for them over there.
JM: They’re dying for them here, too. The president’s economic strategy as far as I’m concerned is totally wrong-headed. I haven’t seen anything to convince me otherwise. He has gone about an agenda of empowering the wealthy. He’s been consistent about it since he’s been in office. Nothing has changed. The war has not changed things. It has simply empowered him to do what he had already been planning to do.
OTP: I’ve been looking at the Web site of Project for a New America. What does this kind of thinking portend?
JM: I think it bodes ill. I have not seen that Web site, but if it is reflective of a Bush ideology, you certainly have a meaner America. You have people who don’t believe in a social safety net. Who believe in individualism and a free market economy. People should make it on their own. As if they did. They didn’t. Who believes Bush got into Yale because of his SAT scores? But this is the tone and tenor of where we are.
OTP: Where are the Democrats?
JM: Silent. Stupid. Missing in action. It’s amazing to me that the Democratic party has fielded so little leadership. Daschle has been decent, I’ll give him credit. But whenever they start criticizing him really badly, he seems to back off. They’ve called him everything but a child of God. An obstructionist and this and that. I would encourage him to stay out there, there are people who support what he’s saying.
I know that we’ve equated patriotism with support for Bush so there has been almost a silencing that has been going on. People don’t feel free to say what they think. Not only what they think, what they know, in terms of the economic policy, people seem totally intimidated by this administration.
OTP: With Mother’s Day coming up, what would you say to folks raising children today, what kinds of qualities do you think they should be giving to their children?
JM: I think parents have a very hard time these days. There are so many pressures on young people and pressures on parents. Children should be taught integrity and a series of values. But secondly to think critically, thirdly to adhere to culture and fourthly to take risks. To soar. Their parents and their society should be their safety net. They should be encouraged to do their best, to excel at all times, and they should also be taught that even as they excel, to have compassion for those who don’t have the same opportunities or even the same abilities. We’re in a society right now that’s very hostile to children, we don’t have the social supports that parents should have. Child care and any number of things, the very infrastructure.
So I think that parents have a very difficult set of challenges but, it’s not just parents, it’s the community. We all have to respond to parents in need, because the children that are being ill-served are going to be the leaders of the future.
OTP: We’ve been looking at information about the cutbacks from the state in education, 3,500 school aides…
JM: These are budget issues and they come from what’s happening at the federal level. In most states you have sales taxes and property taxes. In recessions, states end up having to cut budgets. In the past we’ve had what’s called countercyclical aid, which allows the federal government to step in and help the states, this president is disinclined to do that.
OTP: That’s a pretty bleak picture.
JM: It may be bleak. Here’s the hope.
OTP: Yes, what is the hope?
JM: What people are willing to accept and what people are willing to protest. The extent to which people will go out on a limb and say, “I’m not going to take this. This is unacceptable.” The extent to which we find people stepping up to the plate. I think we’re in a time where we find that difficult to do. We have too many people who won’t step up to the plate, who are afraid to. The hope is that we always have the potential for an active and involved citizenry of people who should be willing and able to do the right thing.
OTP: If the times become bad enough the people will rise up?
JM: We hope so. And we see it. When we look at that affirmative-action March on April 1st, what was beautiful about that, these were mainly young people. Sharpton didn’t call that march. Jackson didn’t call that march. Kids called that march. A group called By Any Means Necessary, young people out of Michigan, energized by the affirmative action issues there. That’s brilliant. When you see that kind of energy, you say okay, we’re in decent hands.