Saturday, September 04, 2010


Arizona Appears to Be Ready to Elect Demagogues -- You Know, "Goat Doctor" Types!

Dear Arizona Voters in 2010,

With the Arizona economy so messed up--after two decades of tax cuts--it looks like the state of Arizona will elect all kinds of crackpots in 2010.

Ken Silverstein has been reporting in HARPERS magazine on Arizona a lot lately. He noted how bad the Arizona economy is after 15 tax cuts in 17 years (plus a massive housing market collapse) in an interview on DEMOCRACY NOW (DN) today.

Silverstein explained to his interviewers on DN, "Well, I looked at Arizona in a much broader way than merely the immigration issue, because immigration is sort of -- it illustrates what's going on in Arizona, but the problem there, the dysfunction, is far broader. I mean, you have the sort of radical right in control in Arizona. You've got every component of the sort of extreme right wing running around, whether it's the Minutemen, you know, guarding the borders, or the anti-tax crowd, the religious conservatives. They're all very, very active and vibrant in Arizona."

Housing Crises California Style -- in Arizona

Later, Silverman stated, "Yeah, the housing crash in Arizona was just brutal. And I focused on it [in my Harpers article], because it's been key to what's happened to the state in terms of this recession. I mean, Arizona got by for years. People like to move to Arizona. The climate's nice. You have a big influx of senior citizens over the years. You've had all sorts of people escaping the cold in various parts of the country and flocking into Arizona. And so, the state really has grown on the basis of growth, as people there put it to me. I mean, there hasn't really been -- there's not a lot of industry. You know, you don't really have much driving growth other than growth, if that makes sense. You've had people coming in, and you've had this huge real estate market, and then all the affiliated industries, you know, so it's -- you know, contractors have had a great time. You know, people who install pools have done very well. I mean, anything related to housing, real estate and growth has boomed in Arizona. But it was a bit of a mirage, because, you know, they kept cutting taxes, so that the state was generating less revenue. But it was papered over by the fact that you still had people moving in. You know, even if they cut the sales tax, you had more people buying things, and so the state was getting by. But when the housing market crashed, Arizona, you know, the state economy just completely tanked, because you suddenly -- you know, you had this end of this sort of papered-over growth economy. You know, the sales taxes plunged. They had already slashed income taxes, and incomes plunged, as well. So you just had this, you know, cycle of spinning downward." (Emphasis added)

In my opinion, the situation that Silverstein was describing in Arizona sounded worse than the post-oil boom crisis in Texas and Oklahoma around 1983 -- or even worse than the Depression of the 1930s.

Silverstein continued, "[I]t really is amazing when you drive around some of the neighborhoods in Phoenix, where, you know, every other house has got a for-sale sign, and lots of houses are just empty. I mean, people walked away. I was taken on a tour of Maricopa, which was this town that grew out of nowhere 40 years ago and boomed into a few hundred thousand people, I believe. Actually, I think that's too high. I think there may have been 50,000 people, at the maximum. And, you know, you had nothing out there. This town just arose out of the desert. You had a few fast-food joints and, you know, some shopping malls, but otherwise there was no sense of community, no movie theaters, no libraries, no nothing. I mean, the town just sort of emerged out of nowhere. And when the real estate crash hit, lots of people just walked out. I mean, their homes suddenly -- you know, you had had this enormous real estate inflation, and so people had paid way more than the homes were worth. You had cheap credit, as you did elsewhere in the country. And when the crash hit, I mean, housing values, they fell in half. I mean, you just -- you know, in the couple of years, your home's value had been cut in half. So lots of people just walked away. I mean, you see this in neighborhoods where they're sort of middle-class neighborhoods and also in these McMansion neighborhoods, where you've got, you know, just streets filled with these enormous mansions, swimming pools in the backyard. Everybody walked away. And so, you've just -- you've got neighborhoods that have been decimated, and that killed the state economy. And the legislature has refused to deal with the situation. The only way to deal with it, you know, is, 'Oh, we may have to raise taxes.' It doesn't always work to cut taxes. But politically, they can't get away with it. . . ."

15 Of The Past 17 Years -- It's The Tax Cuts, Stupid??

I asked myself, "Why aren't Americans getting more reports like this from DN on their regular news networks on radio and TV? Americans need to know that Arizona is an economic nightmare.

Silverstein had observed, "I really looked at the economic situation there, because Arizona -- I mean, everybody's focusing on immigration, but you've got this economic crisis there that is quite stunning, resembling California in many ways, where the state is just completely bankrupt. It has huge deficits, which they're addressing by cutting social spending in an extraordinary way, where, you know, they're doing away with all-day kindergarten, and they're kicking kids off of healthcare programs, taking very, very dramatic steps in order to control the budget deficit. And meanwhile, because, as I wrote on our web, on the Harper's site, about Arizona, as well, you know, it was described to me sort of as a Grover Norquist lab experiment run amok, in a way. I mean, you've just got this anti-tax fanaticism in Arizona where it doesn't matter whether the state is doing well or doing poorly, the answer of the legislature is always 'Let's cut taxes.' So, 15 of the last 17 years, they've slashed taxes in Arizona, so you've just got this expanding budget deficit. You know, it's all this sort of Reagan-era belief, or even pre-Reagan, but, you know, where this whole belief took hold during those years that, you know, you cut taxes and the economy will grow. Well, you can look at the record in Arizona, and there's no real indication that cutting taxes will always make the economy grow. I mean, there are situations where it may help, but it is not a cure-all. But that's the only thing the legislature there knows how to do. And so they have collectively managed to bankrupt the state and create a crisis that is going to drag on for years and years and years, and they've locked themselves, really, into a situation where they can't fix it, because so many of the lawmakers--it's a pretty big Republican majority -- so many of the Republicans have signed the Norquist anti-tax pledge, so that they -- under no circumstances, will they raise taxes. So they're really locked into a box, and the state is in terrible, terrible shape. And the people of the state are paying the price." (Emphasis added)


I was struck by how easily the deserts and depression of Arizona in 2010 were creating demagogues, like Governor Jan Brewer who -- by currently focusing on immigration in her state has further distorted these other key issues-- bad governance and bad political economic developments in Arizona (dating back several decades).

This whole immigration issue in Arizona is a scam, covering up one of the nation's worst regional economic crises since the Great Depression.

NOTE: At the national level, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is looking to make demagoguery and immigration a potential presidential campaign matter in 2012. In one recent interview, Christie spoke "of rebranding the Republican Party, and one of the issues he mentions is immigration". The good news is that he doesn't like Jan Brewers and Arizona's approach!

At the local level in Arizona, one candidate for state office is Pamela Gorman, who fires live ammo through her TV advert: Gorman is a Republican running for an Arizona congressional seat.
Pamela Gorman Ad States...

This year, a lot of folks think this is our best shot at changing Congress. Course, that all depends on the caliber of our candidates. [gunfire] Meet Pamela Gorman, candidate for Congress in Arizona 3, conservative Christian, and a pretty fair shot. [gunfire] The insiders in the state senate wanted to have her hide when she fought against their plan for higher taxes. [gunfire] But Gorman, she can take care of herself. [gunfire] Rated 100 percent by the NRA, conservative Pamela Gorman is always right on target. [gunfire]"

Gorman Concludes...

"I'm Pamela Gorman, and I approve this message. [gunfire]"

Similar demagogues are not only from the NRA but are just as fringe or ill-informed about what the country (and Pamela Gorman's state) really needs during the current economic crises. These demagogues include Senator Ron Gould. Gould told Silverstein in an interview that tax-cuts have never been a problem in his state. Gould claimed, "I don't buy the argument that tax cuts created the problem. The problem is overspending. The state collects a sales tax on new houses and commercial construction, and when housing values were going up everyone was borrowing against their house to get a pool, a new SUV and a big screen TV. The high tide came in 2007 but we continued to spend like we were going up the peak." (Emphasis added)

Gould concluded, "We [the state of Arizona] need to cut back to 2004 levels of spending. if the program didn't exist in 2004, there should be no funding for it now. The cuts will be harsh but I don't see a choice. I told constituents when I ran for office I wouldn't raise taxes and I intend to honor that pledge."

Harsh, the state of Arizona is running around selling state property (including the capital building) and stealing money that belongs to others, such as the states gambling and lottery earning. (Earnings from lottery were already allocated elsewhere).

It All Reminds Me of Kansas, The Great Depression and Goat Doctor

When I look at just some of the leaders or candidates in messed-up Arizona today, like Gorman, Gould, and Brewer, I am tempted to predict that an even greater wave of crackpots and demagogues will soon follow. I say this because I am a historian, and historians of the Great Depression know that when the economy is bad and blame seekers abound, the fascists and crackpots arise.

There were, for example, demagogues like Father Charles Coughlin and Huey P. Long. My favorite, though, among demagogues was Kansas' own -- John R. Brinkley.

Most Americans don't know much about Brinkley, who was nearly elected governor of Kansas in 1930. (Only a major depression like Arizona is facing now could create such a rain of demagoguery.)

John Brinkley: An American Demagogue

According to the Kansas State Historical Society, "John R. Brinkley became nationally known as the 'goat gland doctor' for his controversial medical practice that promised virility for his male patients. He was a pioneer in radio broadcasting and advertising, as he promoted his services to his large listening audience.

"After a nomadic life as a railroad telegrapher he attended Eclectic Medical College in Kansas City, Kansas, but never graduated. He was however, able to practice in Arkansas with an undergraduate license and managed to acquire several fraudulent (or questionable) diplomas. Making use of the reciprocal agreements between states Brinkley settled in Milford, Kansas in 1916. There he began to transplant the gonads of goats into his aging customers with the promise of masculine virility. He was soon attracting national attention with his "goat gland" transplant surgery. For several years, the practice was very successful financially and Brinkley built a clinic, as well as a powerful radio transmitter."
Brinkley "was able to build and operate one of the first radio stations in Kansas, KFKB (Kansas' First, Kansas' Best). Interspersed with the entertainment programs were ads for Brinkley's secret remedies. Brinkley reached a nationwide audience with his radio programs and he began diagnosing the nation's illnesses over the airwaves. In 1923 he was linked to a "diploma mill' and it was finally discovered that he had no formal medical training. Despite these revelations, Brinkley maintained a loyal following.

"When opposition from the organized medical community resulted in revocation of his radio and medical license he turned to politics. Conducting a vigorous write in campaign for governor of Kansas in 1930, Brinkley garnered nearly 30 percent of the vote. After two subsequent unsuccessful campaigns for the office, he shifted his headquarters of operation to Del Rio, Texas, and built what would become radio station XERA in Villa Acuna, Coahaila. He shifted his specialty from gland implants to the prostate gland.

"Emporia Gazette editor, William Allen White , saw Brinkley supporters as part of 'a moronic underworld' that 'can be taught to read and write, but not to think, and it lives upon the level of its emotions and prejudices.' A misunderstanding about the phrase, 'moronic underworld' led to complaints by Brinkleyites, who believed they were being called evil. The response from White: 'I didn't mean that you were bad. I only meant that you were dumb.'"

Dear Arizona and You Demagogue-Wannabees...

I am not certain if any of the class of demagoguery in Arizona (and in the GOP) we see today will ever reach the heights of John R. Brinkley or Father Coughlin, but I wanted to write you all this letter and warn you about how the wind is blowing.

Kevin Stoda



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