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home : opinions : opinions August 01, 2014

10/10/2010 10:00:00 PM
Column: Arizona's failed policies only getting worse
Courier Columnist

Arizona is dangerously close to becoming a "failed state," and it's not only because of our immigration policies.

When it comes to the things that matter in people's daily lives, matters of education, healthcare, and economics take center stage. Unfortunately, Arizona ranks near the bottom in these areas, according to most reliable measures.

A new report based on U.S. Census data shows that more than one-fifth of Arizonans live in poverty, with only Mississippi faring worse. Children here are hit particularly hard, with nearly one-third found to be impoverished, tying Arizona for second-worst in the nation with the District of Columbia. A separate report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that even among those not living in poverty, Arizonans fare worse than people in other locales.

A 2009 compilation of America's health rankings cited child poverty as a leading challenge in Arizona, which placed 50th among the states in this regard. The report observed a wide racial and ethnic disparity in incidences of obesity, diabetes, and overall mortality. The rankings placed us in the bottom fifth in terms of health insurance coverage, public health funding, and primary care physicians, and ranked Arizona 32nd in overall health status of its residents.

In education, the downward trend has been precipitous. Arizona went from eighth to 39th between 2008 and 2009 in terms of high school graduation rates for incoming ninth graders. A 2008 report by the National Education Association concluded that Arizona "ranks dead last in per pupil expenditure."

The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) ranked Arizona 45th overall in its 2010 report on educational performance, finding three-quarters of fourth graders here "not proficient" in their reading skills.

In this light, consider some of the key items listed in the working definition of a failed state as developed by the U.S.-sponsored Fund for Peace:

• Increasing demographic pressures;

• Massive movement of refugees;

• Legacy of vengeance;

• Uneven economic development along group lines;

• Severe economic decline;

• Delegitimization of the state;

• Deterioration of public services;

• Widespread human rights violations;

• Factionalized elites; and,

• Intervention of external political actors.

Sadly, a case can be made that Arizona meets, or is in the process of meeting, all of these criteria.

Interestingly, one major aspect of being a failed state is the loss of territorial control over one's borders, and in this light we can read recent attempts by certain elements in state government to "seal the border" (literally and symbolically) as part of a strategy to prevent becoming a failed state.

However, if these actions exacerbate the other criteria in the process, then there's no net gain to be found.

All of this forecasts a grim future for the state, affecting everyone regardless of political affiliation. We can disagree about where blame should be placed or what to do about it, but the fact remains that the situation is likely to continue deteriorating while we bicker.

Surely we can at least come together in shared concern for our children's wellbeing and the future of the state we call home.

Randall Amster teaches peace studies and social thought at Prescott College. His e-mail address is ramster@prescott.edu.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, October 17, 2010
Article comment by: Concerned Citizen

Wildcat....my sincere apologies. I should have added that the good professor graduated, along with Gerald(o) from the Brooklyn Law School where they both earned their JD's.

Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2010
Article comment by: Arizona Wildcat

Concerned Citizen:
Dr. Amster received a Ph.D. from ASU. Geraldo Rivera graduated from U of A. A minor detail, but both Sun Devils and Wildcats would appreciate the distinction.

Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2010
Article comment by: Stop Whining

I do not plan on leaving Arizona I love it here. I repeat, if you whiners hate Arizona and Arizonans so much you are silly to continue living here. There has to be a place better suited to your sensibilities. Have you tried California, or New Your City? What about Maryland? Or, Washington, D.C.? Connecticut or Massachusetts might fit. And, then, there are New Jersey and Pennsylvania. If you don't know where these place are located, the city library has maps.

Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2010
Article comment by: Concerned Citizen

Let's talk about the three categories in order: 1. Education...studies have shown time and time again that dollars per student have no correlation on the the student's academic achievement. So wipe that point from the board. Rather, take a trip to a local school and take a look at the student body. While you're at it, look at the dropout rate among minorities. These two areas are show why the test scores are so low. Gotta pass those kids, so you gotta dumb-down the classes to make sure everyone makes it to the next grade or your rating will go down...
2.Healthcare- with many doctors and medical facilities refusing to take Medicare due to it being a money-losing venture, of course the state of healthcare is declining. Several long-time area doctors have recently left their practices due to the upcoming disaster. Add to the fact that many people go into YRMC to have their offspring with no intention of ever paying the bill. It's another money-losing venture that will only get worse as more and more people are less able to pay their way. Consider as well that AZ has a geriatric population, more health care, less tax revenue to pay for it...it's a no brainer.
3. Economy- The fact is that AZ was a construction based economy. Take away housing and you loose hundreds of thousands of jobs. How did it happen? Recall the push to get "Everyone" into a home of their own. Recall the Fed. Govt under Clinton forcing lenders to make questionable loans. Recall Mr's Johnson and Raines at Fanny/Freddie and the mess they made of it. Recall Sen. Dodd and his "all's well" testamony in front of Congress and Rep. Frank's testamony that the banking industry was doing just fine. Of course 3 months later the bubble burst causing the issues that we are dealing with now. Bottom line, the Federal Govt, Congress and Fanny/Freddie forced (and allowed) lenders to make bad loans to people who could never repay them causing false demand, hyper-inflated prices and the eventual fall of the housing market thereby killing the AZ economy.
Remember that the good professor got his degree from a college whose most famous alumni are Geraldo Rivera and the lawyers who defended Gotti...

Posted: Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Article comment by: Buzz LIGHT Year Above and Beyond

Lets place credit where credit is due: your a dork all you have to do is look at the past,. The republicans with the guidance of ken bennett as president of the senete had a balanced budget before Janet and guess hoooo spent your money you dork, yep your wright it was Janet on all day kinder care and all the social programs. It is as clear as glass. Go ahead and put your head in the sand it is fact. BUZZ SETTING THE RECORD STRIGHT>

Posted: Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Article comment by: Orwellian Much?

One of the Oppressed Factionalized Elite Maverick:
So what you're really saying is...war is peace?

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: Christopher *

I see the central problem as one of capital. The banks and financial institutions are flush with capital, but we are not seeing the investment in Arizona. The root of the economic collapse was the drying up of the capital investment by banks and financial institutions, following the 2008 crash. Even people with good credit are not finding the capital for business expansions and short term production loans. I don't see either of the candidates address this, since the cure will look like threatening banking charters where they are not meeting the terms of the Community Reinvestment act. I see Terry targeting the mines and has a plan to increase the revenues. Eventually the markets will return but the damage to employment and tax revenues will be deep. However, the reasons the banks and financial institutions are not making the capital available is something that needs a close look at. And, we need to find the leverages so that the corporate banks get the message that doing business in Arizona is subject to flowing capital to Arizona. Government is about 30% of the banking business. The State should revise the bid process for financial services to evaluate the amount of capital and the ratios of foreclosure to re-negotiated mortgages. I believe the State can revoke a bank license in Arizona and should start to the process of revocation, to do so to get their attention. People of Arizona are making investments in the banks in interest and savings accounts. Some of that capital needs to be reinvested in the community where it came from. At a minimum, we should not reward these multinational corporate banks with State contracts, and reward the banks that are working to flow capital to Arizona.

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: larry 1

Voted today welcome back Ann and want to welcome Terry to office.

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: David X Jones

Can't leave,idiots,no one will buy my house! Thanks Mr.Bush.

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: War on Brains

And Governor Jan just lost her motion to dismiss constitutional challenges to her signature accomplishment, SB 1070. What a shame . . . .

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: Lets place credit where it is due!! !!

To Buzz:

Who creates the budget in AZ? Who spends the money? Who sets the tax structure and creates the bills to pass in AZ? The ruling party is? The ruling party has been? Do you not know the answers to these questions? Are you trying to spin this? Regardless of whether you like Amster or not, you can defer blame only so long before it comes back at you. The repubs have caused this train wreck and being re-elected will not help our state one bit. The gimmicks are gone. The continuance of the ruling elite will only be supported so long. I think the repubs need to win this election so that their will be a massive reconstruction of AZ politics in two years. Even the old farts will not be able to save the elite. It is inevitable that the repubs will screw it up. That is their history. Unfortunately they have blamed it on everyone else and our state idiocy rate is so high that we can not really see through the B.S.

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: Eric Arizona

I voted today. Just want to say, Bye, Bye Ann!

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: War on Brains

Its amazing to watch. those who give Bush a pass for nation's current economic straits blame Janet Napolitano for this state's problems. Then, consistency has never been a strong suit fo deep thinking conservatives. Brewer, like Obama, has a majority in both houses of the state legislature, but unlike Obama, she's had a free hand to drive her agenda which has taken the state right into the ditch.

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: To Stop Whining !!

I get it just leave, don't invest in AZ and make this a better place to live. Pitiful! Must be a local!!!

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: Let's get positive! Put forth a positive image.

Folks, this state didn't get in the mess it is in over night. It has been coming for many years. There is little to no economic development few jobs poverty level is 49th right behind Mississippi and the education level is appalling. There are so many ordinances in most of the towns that keep business from coming in and the tourism doesn't know how to attract tourist.

There are also a bunch of nasties that all they can say is move out of the state. Well, that is not going to help the situations. Fiscal responsibility on the part of the state and local governments and an attempt to attract some business into the state are the only things that will pull the state out of this mess. So, think positive and try to put a positive image out there instead of the "good old boy" image that exist here.

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: I'm so tired of this guy.

Enough already of the constant Prescott College liberal elitist nonsense. Randell ought to stick to lecturing teenagers who do not know any better than to take him seriously (if they actually do). Or better yet, get a real job and start living in the real world.

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: mtn girl

To stop whining: wanting to make sure our home state of Arizona is once again viable and thriving is not whining, it is about working together to improve the economic conditions we are currently dealing with. To all the people who can't deal with progress and change, which is what any community has to go through in order to survive, why don't YOU move somewhere else, and please spare the rest of us long-time Arizonans the "can't do it" attitude!

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Article comment by: Stop Whining

I think some of you need to get out of Arizona and check out other states and other parts of the world. Moreover, I suggest that if (can) find some place better suited to your needs and desires, simply move from Arizona to that better place. You are Constitutionally free to live any place within American jurisdiction many, if not most, foreign countries however may be a problem, but determination and persistence can make it happen. So, Arizona haters, don't despair there is a place more to your liking out there somewhere. Stop whining and start looking. Then when you find paradise, go there.

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010
Article comment by: Rachel Horner

That article is the biggest load of rubbish I have read in a while. The reason Az is in the mess it is in is because of the Napalitano years of complete fiscal irresponsibility and social agenda. ' Widespread human rights violations" Someone wipe my tears from laughing so much... DON"T BREAK THE LAW and you have nothing to worry about.

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010
Article comment by: One of the Oppressed Factionalized Elite Maverick


If you think Arizona is a failed state, your utopian society was already tried and failed, it was called the Soviet Union! The only true peace is one maintained by superior firepower!

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010
Article comment by: B W

"While the conservative agenda is small government, American independence." .... NOTHING could be further from the truth. CONservatives created and profited from the creation of the largest government agency in decades, DHS. CONservatives talk freedom, yet they want to dictate who you marry, what you do in your bedroom, what you put in your body and how you treat you ailments. NO the last thing the CONs want is independence, they want middle-class serfs who will do the labor while they and their paper-hanging pals rape and pillage our country. Not once in 50 years have I ever heard a CON ever assume responsibility for anything, they ALWAYS blame someone else, usually people who can't fight back.

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010
Article comment by: TO BUZZ LIGHT

Not sure of your point. There was a democratic governor from 2003-2009, that was Janet Napolitano. So what is it your trying to say and please use spell check. Otherwise I will continue to blame the REPULICANS!!!

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010
Article comment by: Prescott Voter

No doubt left wing Randall has included the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations in all his stats. These reservations are deep wells of poverty, poor schools, and little opportunity and are run almost 100% by the feds. Take them out of the stats and watch the numbers get much better.

Note to all those who write this is such a bad place: if you really believe what you say, why are you still here? There are 49 other states to move to. Figure out which one you want and adios.

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010
Article comment by: Nah, AZ is just fine.

@ Randy,

Now if that's not a pandering primer to socialism to help what cure's yah, I don't know what is! Nah, Arizona is just fine. Pedal you're liberal/progressive nonsense elsewhere.

Remember folks, liberal/progressives like B. Huessein O., Pelosi, and Reid always have an agenda. So do conservatives for that matter. The big difference: the liberal/progressive agenda, like what Randy boy is hinting to, is always big-government control, and is at its base anti-American. While the conservative agenda is small government, American independence.

There's always Mississippi. I'll help you move.

God Bless Arizona!

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010
Article comment by: Buzz LIGHT Year Above and Beyond

I find it kinda crazy that so many believe the state is in the mess that it is because of the republicans. Let's look to history because history will give you the answer. In 2006 with a republican gov.,republican house and senete the budget was balanced and the state had a surplus. These are undesputable facts. In comes Janet and I'm going to grow the government and social programs until there is no money left. That she did with line item vetos and munipulation. Guess what jobs are still there and so are most of the programs but the revenue is not. So what do you have, republicans trying to fix what Janet has broken but let use blame the Repulicans. Can we just blame the Milkman and go home. Some day you dems will relize (maybe) that you can not out spend your wallet. Then when cuts are made we pass it off as the poor childern. Come on get a clue. BUZZING around the state.

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