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The Tentacle


February 27, 2008

Reality takes The Year Off

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last weekend the nation’s governors met in Washington for the 100th annual National Governors Association 2008 winter meeting. They had lots to talk about; but it was the faltering economy that eventually stole the show.

 

If it weren’t for C-Span, The Washington Post, and especially “Stateline.org” – which exclusively covers state government in its capacity as an independent arm of the Pew Research Center, the average citizen would have hardly been aware of the event.

 

As Democrat presidential hopefuls Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama grappled in the gutter, Cuba changed presidents for the first time since January 1959, and The New York Times did its best impression of a grocery store checkout line, rumor-mongering tabloid, it was no wonder that the governors’ meeting created little in the way of media attention.

 

No doubt, the governors’ winter meetings were probably overlooked because, even with Democrats holding a 28 to 22 majority, they may be the only sane adults left on the nation’s leadership stage.

 

And even that accolade is relative, as you shall read in a moment.

 

Meanwhile, for news and politics junkies, these are the “best of times and the worst of times.” With so many bright and shiny objects to write about, there are still only so many hours in the day.

 

Considering that the war in Iraq continues to be off the front burner as a hot political potato, The New York Times decided to throw the heir-apparent Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, into boiling water with a synthetic scandal with a certain female lobbyist.

 

In the long run, it will be interesting to see how well the august Gray Lady will fare with its suggestive fable, “For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk,” which ran February 21.

 

It is already being compared to a new version of “Rathergate” – “fake but true.” It is as if it had been written by the sensational fiction-writer, Jason Blair, from nearby Columbia, MD, who was forced to resign in May 2003 for allegedly making-up some of the 600 articles he wrote for the paper.

 

As far as the Hillary – Obama mudslinging contest… It has deteriorated into a food fight of kindergarten proportions. Shrill Hillary is looking more and more like day-old toast. And as she instantaneously combusts, she’s dragging the Democrat Party into the fire with her.

 

Anyway, the only adults on the media stage in the past week were the nation’s governors who met with a full slate of issues, including – in addition to the economy – Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s initiative, “Securing a Clean Energy Future.” He’s its chairman.

 

A news release cited Governor Pawlenty comment: “Our country has become too dependent on foreign sources of energy, and continuing on a business-as-usual path risks our national security, our economic well-being and our quality of life…”

 

“Stateline.org” also noted the “hot topics” discussed as: Real ID; Medicaid; the environment; helping National Guard personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to adjust to civilian life; and transportation infrastructure issues.

 

On Medicaid, “Stateline.org” reported: “Many governors are upset with a slew of new Bush administration Medicaid rules that they say will cost states $13 billion at a time when they say they can least afford it…”

 

As each topic was discussed, eventually, everything boiled down to the matter of money – or lack of it, to be specific. “Stateline.org” said: “18 states must cut $14 billion to keep this year’s budgets in balance, and 18 states already know they’re running $32 billion short in the upcoming fiscal year. If the current downturn follows the path of previous recessions, 35 to 40 states could face budget cuts in 2009…”

 

Although there were published accounts that the governors were somewhat divided, for the most part, it was mostly the Democrat governors who advocated for a second economic stimulus package, and supported the “Building America's Future” coalition, “a public works advocacy group that includes New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (and) estimates the country's infrastructure needs (to) exceed $1 trillion.” These governors suggested an additional initiative, geared towards the states, “that they hope will include $12 billion…”

 

In addition to an economic stimulus package, for which it was reported President George W. Bush was – thankfully – “cool” to the idea, another thought batted back and forth was to increase the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gasoline tax by 40 cents. Oh, good grief.

 

A sampling of news accounts, which touched upon various solutions currently being explored by governors from both parties, invariably centered on cutting expenditures.

 

To be certain, some governors are proposing some fee increases, including Gov. Jon Corzine (D., NJ) who has “proposed raising turnpike tolls to pay down the state debt.” He is also suggesting budget cuts.

 

A year ago, who would have ever imagined the war in Iraq taking a back seat to concerns over the economy?

 

In 2006, how many were even aware of Sen. Barack Obama? Or that Senator Clinton, of the acclaimed “Clinton election machine,” would run such a horribly mismanaged campaign?

 

In consideration of soaring energy, health care, education, and food prices, who would have ever predicted historic increases in taxes in Maryland? Especially after Fiscal Year 2005 produced a $1.2 billion surplus?

 

With all the concern over an ever-escalating national debt, and increased national security concerns, who would have ever predicted our nation’s leaders patting themselves on the back for borrowing even more money (from the Chinese) and passing a $152 billion economic stimulus package, which will have the federal government handing out checks ranging from $300 to $1,200?

 

Memo to our national leadership; government cannot tax and borrow our way into prosperity.

 

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a long and bumpy year until any semblance to sanity regains a foothold with our national leadership.

 

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

 



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