In recent debates both Cain and Gingrich have brought up the “Galveston Plan” as the proper manner to deal with public pensions obligations. Apparently what a second rate town populated with people fleeing their own pasts who are smart enough to hold out for themselves in their own loneliness as well as holding out for the future of nieces and nephews that are the progeny of a family they never made, makes a potential which never quite makes it for the entire nation. But Cain and Gingrich extol Galveston as if it were an answer. Coming from Galveston, I have my doubts.
It is only surreal when Galveston becomes a standard for the rest on the nation—and I say this as one who roots for one of these Republican candidates to win the election.
Galveston has its charms, but it is pretty stupid when it comes to finances. Yes it was the forerunner to the “commission” form of government after the 1900 storm. None other than Lincoln Steffens praised it as not succumbing to the shame of the cities at the last turn of the century.
Not to sound like a Machiavellian, but one must look to the effectual end. Despite the dreams of a heavenly city that the rational management of an actual city like Galveston ought to look at, the serious problems with which Galveston still suffers–like poverty, racism, stupid expenditures for the next tourist trap, etc.–should not be the example for the rest of the country. For instance, before Hurricane Ike (in 2008) Galveston had the highest per capita numbers of citizens living in public housing for any place in the USA. Now you may think that this is a good thing, but Magnolia and Oleander Homes (locally famous names of public housing) in this small city became code for a whole host of negative connotations from which the typical Galvestonian could not remain unaware. And kids from all homes went to high school together. You tell me if this is good or bad. It was certainly foreign to those suburban middle class types I went to college with. It is still disturbing to those whom I take to Galveston. For me it’s home.
So, while it may sound fine to privatize all public obligations for pensions (and I am not necessarily against this) as a “Galveston Plan” one should actually live in Galveston before one speaks on the great “Galveston Plan.”
Galveston in its oddities should not be made mainstream for all of America, even if such speech could be made something that is as numerically obvious as numbers amortized for the typical life expectancy of your typical baby boomer. It didn’t really work for Galveston, and it seems to be a gimmick that Cain and Gingrich want to use for the rest of the country.
It’s a bad idea even if it’s good for Galveston. And, as much as I love my hometown, what is good for Galveston is pretty lowball for everyone else.
But perhaps Galveston is the real future. Call me when you get there. We’ll have a good time even if the rest of the country will be shocked at its practical and theoretical lassitude. What else can you do? If progressive reformers couldn’t redesign my city do you think Ron Paul (which this city keeps re-electing as its representative), and his type libertarianism is the answer?