There’s a debate raging about whether governments should spend more money on economic development and infrastructure, or whether they should cut spending to bring finances under control, a strategy often dubbed “austerity” by critics.
In reality, the two are inseparable. Until you have a firm handle on your finances, you can’t afford to invest on any sort of sustainable basis. This is the logic underpinning what Bruce Katz at the Brookings Institution calls “cut to invest.” That is, there’s no new magic pot of money arriving, so everyone from the federal government to cities needs to make some cuts in order to free up cash to spend on higher-priority items. An unlikely poster child for this philosophy is the small industrial city of Kokomo, Ind. With a population of 57,000 about 45 miles north of Indianapolis, Kokomo made national news as the center of the auto industry collapse, even prompting a visit from President Obama. At its bleakest moment, Kokomo’s unemployment rate hit 20 percent and it faced a near-cataclysmic fiscal crisis when bankrupt Chrysler, the city’s largest employer, didn’t pay its property tax bill.