Somebody send out the cadaver dogs to search for my midwinter optimism.
In the fall, at least, I was able to bike across the Ben Franklin from Philly to take care of business. But after the first dusting of snow, the DRPA closed the bridge to walkers and cyclists, probably because they’re too lazy to sprinkle salt on the walkways, or they’re broke from funding too many multimillion-dollar projects unrelated to upkeep of the bridge.
But why stop at complaining about the bridge, which is run by corrupt hacks who control all the toll money? On the other side of the bridge is something worthy not only of complaint, but dread — meaning Camden, where almost half of the police force and a large number of firefighters were laid off this week.
Amazing. One of the poorest, most crime-ridden cities in America experiences a drastic reduction in safety personnel, and the state of New Jersey, run by Gov. Chris Christie, shrugs its shoulders.
My right-wing acquaintances are chuckling over this. Camden, they say, is full of shiftless, drug-addled “democrats” — a cute right-wing code word for black people. The democrats had it coming to them, for not providing enough of a tax base to prevent the layoffs. The cops and firefighters had it coming, for belonging to unions that demand good wages and benefits. The right-wingers’ solution? Let this vile little town of 79,000 rot to the point where the state can send in bulldozers and replace it with a giant parking lot.
Right-wingers see the Camden cutbacks as “austerity measures” forced by the country’s ongoing fiscal crisis. Never mind that the crisis was caused by Wall Street banks and monster corporations whose reckless business practices destroyed millions of jobs. That both major political parties responded to the crisis by bailing out the monsters instead of funding jobs programs that might have sparked a genuine recovery. That the monsters, now fully recovered, are continuing to help send American jobs to China, India and even the Caribbean. (Ask your Comcast operator where she’s based the next time you phone for service.)
As Robert Reich noted yesterday, “The United States doesn’t have a national economic strategy. Instead, we have global corporations that happen to be headquartered here.” His implicit point was that we don’t have a national strategy because it wouldn’t be in the interest of the corporations.
Many non-rich right-wingers refuse to make this leap of logic. They’d rather blame the poor, or the cops, firefighters and teachers than admit that corporations have taken over the political process. And that, consequently, the income gap between the rich and everyone else is wider now than at any time since the 1930s. To do so would be to admit that what’s happened to Camden is happening, more slowly but just as inexorably, to their hometowns, too.