By Jeremy Dupuis, Chapter 20
Across the nation we hear the drum beat of austerity (stern & severe) and New Hampshire is no exception. We are told that austerity will lead to prosperity, yet for almost a decade the Federal government has been trying austerity and prosperity has been allusive. New Hampshire has been trying austerity for a few decades and prosperity has not happened. New Hampshire is in the process of passing a budget that is austere and could be termed a starvation budget. In many cases the term “starvation” would be considered figurative, however with the equivalent of 90,000 meals being cut from Meals-on-Wheels, the term “starvation” is literal.
New Hampshire’s austerity has lead and is leading to major structural problems that are preventing prosperity. Only one year since 1997 has DOT been funded at a level necessary to maintain infrastructure, the result has been horrific. A year 2000 map of New Hampshire shows few red listed bridges (red listed means bridges in need of repair) and little red stretches of road. Last year’s map is light up with red, nearly 25% of all bridges are red listed and a third of our roads are in red condition. Higher education funding if tripled would still qualify New Hampshire as the lowest State in support of higher education in the country, yet education is cut. The end result of cuts in two State departments has resulted in a road infrastructure that does not allow for economic growth and an education system that places high debts on student. Both departments under austere budgets do not allow for prosperity.
The concept of austerity leading to prosperity is a falsehood, therefore what is the purpose of austerity in New Hampshire? Austerity is used in New Hampshire to keep an unjust tax system alive. Many years ago long before I was born and many of the readers of this letter, New Hampshire’s tax system was fair. However over the last century the very foundations of our economy changed, a large middle class emerged, property ownership increased and how wealth is earned changed, yet our tax code did not change. Over the last century the tax system has progressively become unfair, where the poorest 20% of the population pay an effective tax rate of twice the wealthy 20% of population. The poor are effectively taxed at rate that can barely be sustained; yet the want to keep taxes artificially low for higher income people demands more. Cuts to our State infrastructure, social safety net and devolving State obligation to municipalities are needed to keep artificially low tax rates on the wealthy.
We are submitting ourselves to austerity not in the hope of prosperity but to keep taxes artificially low on wealthy residents. We as New Hampshire residents must face reality and call our tax system what it is, unfair, unjust and ethically wrong. It is time for New Hampshire residents to demand a tax system that is fair to all and with a fair system we will have sufficient revenue to support government infrastructure needed for prosperity.