Sunday, July 27, 2003

State of the States

Susan Madrak at Suburban Guerrilla was probably the kid you always wanted on your team in a treasure hunt because she always finds the good stuff. Like these...

Check out this hilarious rant by Bill Maher from the L.A. Times about the Grey Davis recall. My favorite parts:
What's going on here in California, if you're lucky enough to not have been following this, is that the economy turned, so we're getting rid of the governor. But what if we drive him out of office and the economy still doesn't get better? I guess we'll have to burn him. And if that doesn't work, we'll kill his dog.

Yes, in baseball when the team stinks, you fire the manager. But you don't fire him because it rains. And you don't let the opposing team choose a new manager for you.

And you don't fire him between innings. And replace him with a Viennese weightlifter.
The Viennese weighlifter, for those of who aren't Terminator fans, is, of course, Arnold Schwarznegger. Which brings me to my favorite line: "Finally, a candidate who can explain the Bush administration's positions on civil liberties in the original German."

And then she found this article about Bush's "Let Them Eat Cake" economics by Jonathan Alter:
When Al Gore exaggerated the details of his dog’s prescriptions, it helped cost him the presidency. The very same people who eviscerated him for it are now saying, hey, cut President Bush some slack—he wasn’t lying about Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions, only exaggerating. This flap won’t hurt Bush in 2004, except to undermine his credibility on other issues.

SO WHEN, FOR instance, he says “this nation has got a deficit because we have been through a war,” people might begin to wonder whether he is telling the truth. They might wonder if the 13 percent state-college tuition hike in Maryland or the $1 billion state-tax increase in Ohio or the state Medicaid crisis now raging from coast to coast might have something to do with priorities in Washington. If Bush loses, it won’t be on yellowcake uranium but on “let them eat cake” economics.
A couple of weeks ago, I read an article somewhere about the impact the states' budget problems are having on normal people, but how they haven't connected the dots back to Washington yet. So in case you're wondering why the states have fallen into such a deep whole and what this has to do with what's going on in D.C.,
It’s a hole that the states—required by law to balance their budgets—are now being forced to fill. The tobacco-settlement money is gone; the “rainy day” funds exhausted. Under intense pressure from the governors, Washington ponied up $20 billion in emergency aid, but added tax breaks for corporations that will cost the states billions. The House just passed a plan for health savings accounts that will set the states back another $33 billion if enacted. And that’s not even counting the monster haunting every governor, every night—”unfunded mandates.” To take just one example that is relevant in school districts across the country: special education. Congress pledged it would pay for 40 percent of the cost; it actually covers 17 percent. In California alone, where nearly half the budget goes to K-12 education, that’s more than a billion dollars the state has been stiffed on.

I’m no Gray Davis fan, but let’s be honest about the facts. While some states have been mismanaged, most are simply contending with rapidly growing numbers of hurting people who need their services. Those services are now being slashed almost everywhere. Nineteen states—all of them facing sharply increasing demand—will have smaller budgets than last year, not just smaller budget increases. But telling a laid-off mother with three kids that she can’t see a doctor will not be enough. Governors and state legislatures are taxing everything that moves. Even the most conservative states are doing so. Republican Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama, a devout Christian, says raising taxes on the wealthy to help the poor is what the Bible compels. He’s had enough of so-called religious politicians who turn Christ’s commandments on their head.