Thursday, July 2, 2009

Editorial: Let's behave like adults on budget

The unnamed Courier editor tells us that all politicians are venal and corrupt, then plaintively asks, "Is it too much to expect adult behavior from all concerned?"

As far as I've seen, and I watch pretty closely, the Courier neither wrote nor carried anything about the budget process until the session was already officially over. It failed to note that the legislative leadership ignored Gov. Napolitano's sensible and on-time budget proposal, thinking they'd get a better deal from her successor. It missed that Gov. Brewer refused to give the Legislature any budget plan other than press releases until a couple of weeks ago. It ignored the process in the Legislature, where a few radical rightwingers held everyone hostage to their idea that the best government is a dead one, and where both House and Senate leadership held up all other business while they worked out pointless deals in back rooms, leaving the bulk of both bodies twiddling their thumbs for months. It failed to share with us that the Legislature and the Governor were working on budget shortfall numbers that were a billion bucks different, predicting this cartoon train wreck over two months ago.

The editor's inclusion of the Dems in his broad slander of everyone down there is particularly idiotic, since the Dems have had exactly no input on the budget or anything else since Napolitano wisely moved on.

No, editor, it's not fair to smear the blame across all desks and both sides of the aisles. This mess can be very clearly laid to the proudly stupid radical rightists in the Legislature and our own Governor Peter Principle, who oddly enough is as close to an adult as we've seen down there in her clear understanding from the beginning that we aren't gonna get out of this jam without some new revenue.

It's supremely easy to say that we can solve a budget problem by "saying no to spending." What's not so easy is identifying exactly where to cut that won't hurt people we can't afford to hurt and create more problems and cost elsewhere. It's an article of faith that government spends too much, but like any faith, it's based more on myth than science.

The solid core of the budget collapse is that Arizona's economy has been based for decades on building new houses, stores, roads and infrastructure, neglecting the industrial and agricultural bases necessary to make that growth sustainable. Any 13-year-old Sim Earth player could have told us that this was coming 20 years ago.

Our collective failure to walk around this obvious hole in the road came about in large part because of our active discouragement of smart, visionary people from getting involved in the political process, leaving it instead largely to the zealots and egotists who don't care that people like the editor constantly accuse anyone in the game of corruption and venality. It's self-fulfilling.

If we want better government, adult government, we have to spend the effort to separate the wheat from the chaff, ignore party labels and encourage smart, competent and committed people to do this important work. It ain't for the money, that's for sure, so let's at least try to give them some respect.

But, almost as important, we need to pay attention to the process and insist that our elected representatives get the job done in a sensible way. Essential to that is good, factual information about what's going on, as well as good thinking and analysis based on that information, and that's where our news professionals have the most responsibility. That's you, Mr Editor. You failed to inform the boss that the employees were screwing around in the powder shed, after you egged them on for years to screw around in exactly this manner. Boom. Now you point the finger. Spare me.

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