Arizona’s centennial arrives tomorrow. The state has come a long way, baby, thanks, we are told, to the 5 Cs. Copper, cotton, citrus, cattle and climate. The myth-makers have left out one thing. The big “F.” Federal government dollars.
Nowhere along Centennial Way during last weekend’s celebration did you see mention of “federal dollars” as the largest contributor to what modern Arizona is all about. It’s politically incorrect to say so. Arizonans largely believe in the myth that they are remnants of the 19th Century Wild West, gun-totin’ and independent. Even if you’re originally from Cleveland, you believe that.
The truth is something else. Arizona is and has always been a government welfare state. Federal dollars have given arid Arizona its essential necessity, water. Those dollars built the dams and the Central Arizona Project, the huge canal that carries Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson. Without federal support there would be no farming industry, no water for irrigating thirsty crops like cotton.
From the very beginning the “pioneering spirit” of Arizona was a myth. It was the federal government that bore the costs of keeping a military presence in Arizona Territory. And it was the military that subdued Cochise and the Apaches, action that allowed Arizona to develop its resources and made white settlement possible. It was the military that built the first roads, erected communications with the outside world via the telegraph, that established farming and ranching industires by paying settlers for cattle, horses, grains, flour et al.
Even today for every dollar Arizonans pay in federal taxes, $1.10 or more is returned.
Until Arizonans begin to face reality and see they are a dependent land, the state will continue its unfortunate path into a Wild West the state’s pioneers never knew.