08 February, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

I am no longer certain if we will ever be able to reconnect Republicons to reality. For instance, here is reality:

I've been in meetings lately with administrators from a couple of local school districts, and each one tells the same story. Local property tax revenues are down, because assessed property valuations are down. State money has not just dried up but is being cut. School budgets are breaking this year, and next year looks worse. "We're cutting teachers -- mostly by attrition. We're cutting ancillary programs and staff, like librarians, counselors, social workers, and tutors. We're cutting administrative positions, support staff positions, field trips, and anything else we can think of, in order to keep as much money in the classroom as possible. We're looking at consolidating schools, closing buildings, and increasing class sizes. We're begging parents to volunteer to help in classrooms and businesses to donate whatever they can to keep our costs down. We're not cutting fat -- we're cutting meat."

And it's not just metropolitan Kansas City. It's Los Angeles CA, Merrill WI, Plano TX, Ocala FL, Butte MT, and Akron OH. Dallas bit the bullet hard last October. It's Lewiston ME, Iowa City IA, Atlanta GA, . . .

And here's a Con:

On Meet the Press this morning, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) slammed proposed cuts in aid to the states in the stimulus bill, explaining that states are slashing their funding for vital public needs. “That’s the wasteful spending that my colleagues are talking about,” Frank said. “Money to go to the states to stop them from laying off cops and firefighters, money to help keep teachers going. Those are jobs.”

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) — who began the show by saying that doing nothing would be better than passing this stimulus plan — insisted that states’ budgets are “bloated” and derided Frank’s concerns as “fearmongering,” denying that any teachers, cops, or firefighters would lose their jobs:

To get back to what Congressman Frank said, is that we’re going to be laying off teachers and firefighters. You know, that’s just fearmongering. We’re not going to be doing that in any of the states. … [The states’] budgets are bloated, the federal government’s budget is bloated. What we should be doing is cutting back.

How the fuck can you possibly hold a fruitful conversation with someone who is so damned detatched from reality?

It's not just teachers and cops and firefighters getting axed. States are also kicking cancer patients to the curb:

When a handful of Senate Republicans slashed over $100 billion from the economic stimulus package, they specifically targeted $40 billion in proposed aid to states. Helping rescue states, Sen. Collins & Co. said, does not stimulate the economy, and as such doesn't belong in the legislation. Democratic leaders reluctantly went along -- they weren't given a choice since Republicans refuse to give the bill an up-or-down vote -- and the $40 billion in aid was eliminated.

It's probably worth taking a moment to consider the consequences of this. States, facing the kind of crisis unseen in generations, are prohibited from running deficits, and are averse to raising taxes, so drastic shortfalls mean drastic cuts -- which in turn make the effects of the recession worse.

They have plundered reserves, enacted hiring freezes and engaged in all manner of budgetary voodoo to shield us from the pain.

But now state governments -- reeling from a historic free fall in tax revenue -- have run out of tricks. And Americans are about to feel it. In some cases, they already have.

Nevada resident Margaret Frye-Jackman, 71, was diagnosed in August with ovarian cancer. She had two rounds of chemotherapy at University Medical Center, the only public hospital in the Las Vegas area.

Soon after, she and her daughter heard the news on TV: The hospital's outpatient oncology services were closing because of state Medicaid cuts. Treatment for Frye-Jackman and hundreds of other cancer patients was eliminated.

While cancer patients are told there's no money left to pay for life-saving treatment, Cons giggle with their fearless leader Limbaugh over their schoolyard insults for the stimulus:

The Los Angeles Times’ Faye Fiore and Mark Z. Barabak observe that “Rush Limbaugh has his grip on the GOP microphone,” having become “the politically wounded party’s unofficial leader.” Limbaugh — who has declared his sincere hope that Barack Obama will fail — has seen his “prominence and political import” increased.

One example of Limbaugh’s influence, unmentioned in the article, is the fact that he coined the messaging strategy for stimulus opponents, referring to the economic recovery package as “porkulus.” On his Jan. 23 radio show, Limbaugh said “it’s not a stimulus, it’s a porkulus.” On his Jan. 28 show, Limbaugh introduced the term to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA):

LIMBAUGH: You could call this the “porkulus.”

CANTOR: Right. (laughing) Let me tell you something. It is porkulus. That’s a great description.

This might be cute and clever on the playground. In the life-or-death situation we're in, it's just horrifying. Immaturity in our elected leaders is a dangerous thing - didn't we learn that from eight years of Bush the Younger?

Maybe it's time for new suggestions. These fuckwits need to be hit with a clue stick. This seems like a good place to start:
WaPo business columnist Steven Pearlstein really lets the Senate have it. Go read the whole thing:

As long as we're about to spend gazillions to stimulate the economy, I'd like to suggest we throw in another $53.5 million for a cause dear to all business journalists: economic literacy. And what better place to start than right here in Washington.

My modest proposal is that lawmakers be authorized to hire personal economic trainers over the coming year to sit by their sides as they fashion the government's response to the economic crisis and prevent them from uttering the kind of nonsense that has characterized the debate over the stimulus bill during the last two weeks.

At a minimum, we'd be creating jobs for 535 unemployed PhDs. And if we improved government economic policy by a mere 1 percent of the trillions of dollars we're dealing with, it would pay for itself many times over.

We've tried reason, negotiation, and shouting. Maybe gluing an economist to every politician's side is the only solution left. Although I'm afraid even that would fail - I don't know if there's enough remedial education in the world to make these idiots understand simple reality.

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