All across the country right now, local and state governments are finding they can’t pay their bills. Schools are losing teachers, street lights are going dark, garbage is piling up in public parks, and cops are suddenly an optional expense.
This week we travel to Colorado Springs, to Trenton and to the office of Grover Norquist to ask: Is the kind of country we want? One where government gets smaller? Or should we all pay higher taxes, and keep government bigger?
In the town of Nowthen, MN, residents held meetings to debate whether a police force is worth the cost. And in Springfield, IL, the state police motorcycle division has been cut, leading to an increase in highway fatalities. Host Ira Glass talks about these and other examples of the battle between proponents of small government and those fighting to maintain public services. (4 minutes)
New Jersey governor Chris Christie has led some of the most sweeping budget cuts in the country. Producer Sarah Koenig reports from Trenton, where one third of the police force has been laid off, leading to dramatically increased crime. (14 1/2 minutes)
Perhaps the biggest proponent of smaller government in the United States is lobbyist and activistGrover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform. He envisions a government reduced in size by half, and has compelled scores of conservative politicians take pledges to never raise taxes. Host Ira Glass speaks with Norquist about his strategies and beliefs, and learns which side seems to be winning. (14 1/2 minutes)
After the recession hit, Colorado Springs was in rough shape. City services were being cut left and right. Then one man wrote a manifesto—a blueprint for how the city could solve its problems. Planet Money‘s Robert Smith tells the story. Robert is a member of the Planet Money team. (27 minutes)