Desperate times call for desperate measures and these are clearly desperate times for a lot of local governments.
In Highland Park, Michigan, near Detroit, the town is removing 1000 of its 1500 streetlights in a draconian attempt to save money as it scrambles to pay off $4 million in unpaid electric bills.
With $58 million in debt, unemployment at 22% and 42% of its roughly 12,000 residents living below the poverty line, Highland Park is clearly an extreme example of a municipality under stress. But towns from Santa Rosa, Calif. to North Andover, Mass. are similarly turning down or turning off the lights in an effort to save money, USA Today reports.
All across America, strapped municipalities are cutting back on what were once viewed as essentially public services.
For example, Denver has cut $500,000 from its trash-collection budget, Camden, NJ cut about 50% of its police force while Los Angeles, Pasadena and other California communities have been closing public libraries.
Meanwhile, 55% of the nation's county and city health departments reduced or eliminated at least one program between July 2010 and June 2011, The WSJ reports, citing a new survey by the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
As Henry and I discuss in the accompanying video, these cutbacks are occurring before America adopts the kind of European-style austerity measures many Republicans are clamoring for. Clearly, the public sector grew too large and too fat in recent decades, but many communities are now starting to cut into the bone of government services, and it's unclear if that's what most Americans really want.