You are all too familiar with the myths and hyperbole the right uses to foist its debilitating austerity agenda on the general public — that federal spending is out of control and the government itself is too big, that our tax burden has become untenable (cue the waving “Taxed Enough Already” signs) and that the budget proposals advanced by the House Republicans won’t affect the things even most conservatives believe government should do; it would just force government to squeeze out all of the “waste” we all “know” is in government.
For the past several weeks, a video deconstruction of all of these myths (and a few others) has been making the rounds. At 13 minutes, it’s long but it makes a convincing argument against the conservative austerity agenda and the falsehoods driving it.
The woman behind this video is Carolyn Federoff, who is the Council Vice President at the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the American Federation of Government Employees and vice president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. This week, I talked to Federoff about some of the points in the video and about the continued use by the right of these budget and tax myths on the campaign trail.
One spending issue that she said she is particularly concerned about is the tightening restrictions on government benefit programs, ostensibly to root out abuse. Since Republicans took over the House of Representatives, there has been a constant drumbeat of measures intended to prevent poor people from bilking the government. (Interesting, however, that there has been no action on the right to close the tax loopholes used by corporations and the wealthy to escape paying billions of dollars in taxes.)
Those measures more often than not do more to keep low-income people from getting the benefits and services they need than to deter the hucksters. Federoff’s response is that the right-wing obsession with waste in government is often itself wasteful. Here’s where she challenges conservatives to take a cue from the private sector they so much want government to emulate: “Even fiscal conservatives would agree we should not spend $1.10 to save $1,” she says.
At the end of the interview, she offers advice for what people should say to the congressional candidates they encounter during the campaign this summer and fall: emphasize the virtues of “small money.”
“The money that goes into the pockets of persons who are unemployed, the small money that goes into the pocket of teachers or firefighters, the money that goes into the pocket of a person with a food stamp card, that’s all money that’s getting circulated directly into Main Street,” she says. That is the reason we have to fight for a jobs-first agenda that includes investing in our communities and keeping the people who serve our communities on the job. “We need to take every opportunity to make sure that there is small money in small hands supporting small business,” she said.