History Will Begin to be Made this Week
This is very likely going to be a memorable week in the history of self-government and public finance.
In addition to the Federal debt-ceiling issue which needs to be resolved by Tuesday in order for the Federal government to be able to keep paying everything it owes without resorting to various less-than-scrupulous financial gimmicks, the receiver for Central Falls may make an announcement as early as tomorrow that he is filing for bankruptcy. As Philip Marcelo wrote in today’s Projo…
The square-mile city would be entering uncharted waters as federal municipal bankruptcy has been rarely tested nationally.Central Falls is not sui generis; it is an advanced case of a situation faced by many cities and towns across the United States, and what happens with CF is going to contribute very visibly to a body of legal, policy and political knowledge about what to do and/or what to avoid when twenty-first century communities run out of money needed to pay for decisions made over preceding decades.
But the most important thing to keep in mind is that nothing ends this week. The reckoning (to use Matt Allen’s word) of the fiscal crisis created by the political and social changes of the past 45 to 80 years, depending upon if you want to place the beginning of the problem with the New Deal or the Great Society or somewhere in between, is just beginning and what our society will look like as a result, for better or for worse, will be decided more by the reaction to this week’s decisions than by the decisions themselves.
Finally, one symptom visible in Central Falls of the problem that is nationwide is captured beautifully by the quote from freshman state Rep. James McLaughlin in the Projo’s CF story…
“They’re going to file for bankruptcy,” said state Rep. James N. McLaughlin, a Democrat who represents a portion of the city and is opposed to [filing for bankruptcy]. “All avenues have not been exhausted. It is a rush because they do not have any money.”If our politics keeps producing a large number of elected officials who believe that just because we have no money doesn’t mean we’re bankrupt, we’re basically doomed.