The Fourth of July fireworks I have gone to for years have been canceled. Oakland is hosting a bunch of other Independence Day activities in Jack London Square—they’ll have some local bands, a magician, and a petting zoo—but the city just didn’t have the money to put on a fireworks display this year.
Oakland’s not alone. In the greater San Francisco Bay Area, 4 of the 11 major fireworks shows have been canceled due to budget cuts. It’s another obvious sign that real economic recovery is still a way off. Industry figures show that sales of fireworks in the U.S. have been flat in dollar terms since the start the start of the recession—as a nation we spend about a $1 billion every year on fireworks—while the total quantity of fireworks sold has fallen sharply since 2006. Across the country celebratory fireworks shows have been canceled as city and state governments struggle to balance their budgets. Some cities—like La Jolla—have held fundraising drives to keep the annual shows alive, although many of those efforts have fallen short. Other cities have drastically scaled back their fireworks shows.
No public official wants to be the one to cancel the fireworks. While we may have less to celebrate these days, we could probably use the magic of fireworks now more than ever. But with local governments having to lay off public employees, it’s hard to justify turning around and spending their salaries on a fireworks display. As one New Jersey resident told The New York Times, “People are losing their jobs, so it doesn’t feel right to be spending so much on a party.”