The Cycle | July 11, 2012
>>> that's the theme music to "the office," everyone's favorite hilarious scranton employees but workers notice real scranton aren't laughing right now where due to a budget crisis , the city has decided to cut pay for public servants to minimum wage. now police officers , firefighters, and even the mayor himself actually are making $7.25 an hour. the unions are filing suit. but the mayor says his hands are tied and scranton certainly alone in this physical mess. across account country, the city council of san bernardino , california, voted to file for bankruptcy, the third city in california to seek protection from creditors in recent weeks. so, table, scranton 's financial problems, they're not new. they've had problems for decades. they're not unique. and i think this recession has combined with a long-term industrial decline and increasing income segregation between communities to really destroy the tax basis of places like scranton . so you have not communities like scranton unable to be support public safety and quality education and meanwhile have communities where the affluent have clustered aren'tal to subsidize them. are we basically becoming a nation of up closet communities and ghettos.
>> there's really a perfect storm because you take communities that were poor to start with. then you take states that you know, their budgets have been destroyed because their tax bases are decimated and the state is not in position to do anything for the city or the municipality. the federal government provided a little bit of relief in the stimulus in 2009 . that's pretty much run its course. the aid took the form of eight to states. but that's run out. and it's impossible right now to get any more stimulus out of washington. then you also have pensions. you have public employees cut deals when times were better in a lot of these towns and cities and the bills for those are coming due now. so it's the worst time for all this stuff to be happening. that dynamic of asking the rich town to say you know.
>> help us out.
>> i've seen that up close in new jersey, called the abbott school districts where they designate 30 of the poorest districts in the state to receive aid from the rest of the state. it's a great political wedge issue usually for republicans running in the state or anybody in the suburb dozen tell a suburbanite do you want your tax dollars sent to newark and camden.
>> and your premise is interesting. i get where you're going. it's acting as if these two hypothetical towns, the rich one and poor one got there by accident. why would a town that has functioned in a healthy way that has been responsible with their money that is in the black that has made good decisions, why would theyen penalized for a town that has acted irresponsibly.
>> wait, wait. just --
>> this isn't necessarily about towns that can the anned responsibly and irresponsibly.
>> but it could be.
>> scranton and a lot of other towns when the industrial base declined everyone who could afford to leave did. so you're left with a situation where the tax base plummets.
>> en an you're still paying 400 public workers in scranton .
>> en an we have this huge income inequality . we have huge income inequality issue in this country. part of that is because of the disparity in education. it's this death spiral where because you can't afford a quality education, the kids don't have an equality of opportunity. more of the wealthiyer individuals leave.
>> of course, they do. of course, they do. they leave to go to a different.
>> you think that's a good thing?
>> it's not something you would put in a subjective sort of emotion to. of course, people are going to make the best decisions for their families. if that means leaving a town that is crime ridden or has a bad school system , they're going to do that. you're asking them to apologize for that and subsidize the town they've left.
>> we're all in this together.
>> we need some personal responsibility here. that goes to public workers which have now become a protected class . no one wants to see firefighters or police officers underpaid. that's not what we're talking about. we can agree with that. but when public workers whether it's in wisconsin or scranton or san bernardino are unwilling to acknowledge the economic reality that we have to take cuts.
>> they have been willing to acknowledge that. in wisconsin they were willing to take pay cuts and pension cuts.
>> not to their health care .
>> they weren't willing to give up collective bargaining. from failing budgets to failing policies, governor chris christie spoke at the brooksings institute and joined the chorus of voices speaking out against the war on drugs .
>> the war on drugs , while well intentioned has been a failure. we're warehousing an diktd people every day in state prisons in new jersey giving them no treatment, sending them back out on the street after incarceration and wondering why recidivism rates go up. and why they don't get better, why they commit crimes again, they commit crimes to support their addiction.
>> all right. so i'm no chris christie fan but credit where credit is due. that was a courage jus statement and yes, that is a republican leader emphasizing treatment over hard time for first-time nonviolent drug offenders. so are we seeing somewhat of a bipartisan coalition growing around reforming our approach to the war on drugs or is chris christie an outlier.
>> credit where credit is due. he makes all the sense in the world talking about treatment for addiction and treating addiction as a health problem and not a criminal problem. that is the way to deal with the war on drugs , which it's become very popular to say the war on drugs has failed. but i don't yet see a movement. i see pockets of attack against the war on drugs . you see it from michelle alexander 's book "the new jim crow " governor cuomo.
>> libertarians like ron paul .
>> governor cuomo not legalizing but decriminalizing marijuana. right now christie . you still can't campaign on legalization or treatment. you know, that's not going to get you anywhere.
>> you've got to be tough on crime.
>> you can still get very far being tough on crime which of course means tough on young black and brown men which is what we have with stop and frisk that we're going to sort of feel up every black and brown man we can get close to. 90% of these frisks yield nothing but they make the police and judges seem tough, prosecutors, politicians, on and on.
>> i would say what's interesting here is i don't see a political movement at this point with influence to reform the drug laws . it gross out of the experience of politicians. christie is interesting. the experience, this guy was a federal prosecutor , a united states attorney for eight years. this isn't the first issue where he said something surprising that is rooted in the experience. immigration is the other issue. he takes a much hard line . he saw from the practical standpoint as a prosecutor, you talk about running a campaign to reform the drug laws , i should point out down by the border in el paso where the carnage of the border war of drugs is hitting home with people, there was a man who ran for congress in a primary against a long-time incumbent democrat and he ran challenging the wisdom of the drug war based on the experience in the community and he won.
>> i think we can see republicans more easily running on treatment as christie is talking about. democra democr