Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay News, Tolsa Press, SLO Ca, for March 6, 09
There’s a word for our state legislature: Dysfunctional. And there’s two words for the 40 California Republican legislators who, having signed onto Grover Norquist’s “Americans for Tax Reform” pledge, a campaign being touted by the bloviating radio talker, Rush Limbaugh, were willing to send their state over the cliff rather than compromise and get a budget done: Farcical Jihadis. Time to spank.
Consider the following tale of that upright gentleman, Mr. NoTaxes Smith. In 1973 he buys a house and sets a budget for the running of the house. He then joins the Holy Order of G. Norquist and takes a Blood Oath that he will NEVER, EVER raise the household budget, no matter what.
A few years later, Mr. N.T. Smith gets married, but he does not (cannot, Holy Orders, remember?) increase the household budget, telling his new bride they’ll just have to cut back on food. Soon, there’s the pitter-patter of little feet as a couple of little N.T. Smiths arrive, but the household budget is never increased, so the little tykes have to make do using second-hand paper towels for diapers. When the Smith’s health insurance increases, Mr. Smith announces that they’ll just have to drop some of the coverage, since he will not raise the household budget, but, instead, he announces that he’ll be cutting the budget and keeping that “extra” money in his personal bank account to spend as he sees fit. Alas, one of the little N.T.’s gets sick and since his illness is not covered under the now-reduced medical coverage, the wee bairn dies.
Meanwhile, the roof is leaking but the cost of fixing it has risen due to inflation, so Mr. NT decides to tack some plastic over the hole and postpone spending any more money and once again, cuts the budget even more and uses that money to buy himself a big screen TV. (After all, he knows best how to spend his own money.) Unfortunately, the roof patch doesn’t hold and soon the entire roof is rotten and threatens to cave in on the whole family. Mrs. Smith pleads with her husband to raise the household budget so they can at least keep a roof over their heads, but he’s adamant. NO NEW BUDGET EXPENSES, and explains that if he did raise the household budget, Rush Limbaugh wouldn’t like him any more. So there they sit, the rotten, rain-heavy roof creaking and groaning overhead.
In the real world, Mrs. Smith would kick her idiot husband to the curb, save her children, repair the roof and get on with it, knowing that budgets are and always must be subject to change as circumstances arise. And if the situation were the complete opposite -- a profligate Mr. Spend and Hock It All Smith who was burning through the family finances like a drunken gambler at a casino -- she’d also kick him to the curb, then budget cut to get things under control. In other words, in a real world, sane households and sane legislatures must always be negotiating, compromising, and adjusting to keep ahead of an often fast changing world.
Unfortunately, over the last 20 years, too many voters have forgotten that politics is the art of the possible, the art of actually getting something done, the art of half-a-loaf, which may not be perfect, but is half-a-loaf more than nothing. Instead, the voters allowed themselves to believe in ultimately destructive Ideological Magic: Politics is a zero sum game: For me to win, you must die; Wealth trickles down, so the more tax cuts for the wealthy, the better; Guns and butter can be paid for . . . later. . .; And while I benefit from the things taxes buy, I shouldn’t pay for it—The Other Guy should.
And so it goes, until you finally end up with 40 California legislators focused strictly on what’s good for their own political careers, pandering to partisan ideology rather than looking at the bigger picture, all of them sworn to blood oaths touted by a talk radio personality, and all of them willing to see their state crash and burn while they stand by and do nothing.
There’s a word for such politicians and the voters who keep electing them: Foolish.