GOODBYE, JON KYL
Republican Jon Kyl, who is stepping down this week after three terms in the U.S. Senate, recently spent half an hour saying his goodbyes on the floor of the Senate—and sadly, he spent a good chunk of that time spouting a load of supply-side poppycock based more on ideology than on evidence.
His speech, full of rhetoric about how tax cuts are the magic solution to economic growth and budget stability, went so far as to cite the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 as big boosts to the economy. And his citing of America's drop from "free" to "mostly free" in the Index of Economic Freedom—a silly scale developed by The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation—didn't help substantiate his argument.
Look, we'd concede that the Reagan administration's tax cuts helped juice the economy back in the early '80s. But as rates get lower, you get less and less of a return on additional cuts.
And let's not forget this crucial bit of history: The tax increases in the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration set the stage for a federal government surplus that was squandered once the GOP slashed taxes during the second Bush administration.
Kyl loved to cut taxes but cutting the deficit rarely seemed to be much of a concern. He joined in the GOP's spending spree during the Bush administration and just three years ago, he insisted that there was no reason to balance tax cuts with spending cuts.
Kyl had a good side, although it became harder and harder to see in his final years. He did dig into policy details on issues that mattered to him, such as the complex legal web of water rights for Native American tribes. And he was accessible; even if he disagreed with you, he'd talk with you.
We'll give Kyl credit for his efforts to lead on immigration reform in 2007. Sadly, once the base turned on him as a result, Kyl threw in the towel and started running with the build-the-wall crowd. Only in his final weeks did he return to developing meaningful policy with his ACHIEVE Act, a watered-down version of the DREAM Act that seemed more like a pander to Hispanic voters than a serious effort to resolve the challenges that undocumented kids face.
On too many other issues, he had an awful voting record. He lied on the Senate floor when he said that "well over" 90 percent of Planned Parenthood's services were related to abortion; after a spokesman delivered the remarkable explanation that Kyl's comment was "not intended to be a factual statement," he had the remarks erased from the congressional record.
His environmental record is mostly terrible, including his blocking of the Santa Cruz Heritage Area designation that could have paid dividends for the tourism industry in Southern Arizona.
Just last month, Kyl joined with other Republicans to scuttle a United Nations treaty that encouraged other nations to ban discrimination against disabled people. It was essentially an effort to spread across the globe the same decency that was established here in the United States by the Americans With Disabilities Act. Kyl, pandering again to the paranoid base of the country, voted against it.
And his last great chance to lead was a colossal failure. Kyl was one of the six lawmakers in a "super committee" tasked with coming up with a budget deal to avoid the fiscal cliff the country just tumbled over. Not only did he fail to hammer out an agreement; by some accounts, he was the one who blew up the talks, although Kyl's defenders have denied the story.
But the fact remains that the nation was (as of our deadline) on the verge of toppling over the fiscal cliff because the super committee failed to do its job—which was to find enough compromise to put the nation on a sound financial footing.
We were counting on Kyl, who didn't face reelection, to have the courage to come up with reasonable middle ground, but his ideology stood in the way.
The University of Arizona's Jaguar Survey and Monitoring Project recently used automatic cameras to get snapshots of an endangered jaguar wandering around the Santa Rita Mountains.
That creates trouble for Rosemont Copper, which is pushing to build a massive open-pit mine in the Santa Ritas.
Under court order, the U.S. Forest Service has been developing a plan to designate critical habitat for the jaguar in Arizona and New Mexico.
Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kieran Suckling tells The Skinny via email that the photos may doom the mining project.
"It should be the last nail in Rosemont's highly leveraged coffin," Suckling says. "The company has been betting on being able to nullify the Fish and Wildlife Service's jaguar habitat proposal with political pressure. That avenue is impossible now."
ROAST 'EM AND TOAST 'EM
Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik is bringing together Arizona Daily Star cartoonist Dave Fitzsimmons and a lot of central Tucson politicians for a get-together that's being billed as a cross between a town hall and a roast next week at the Loft Cinema.
Kozachik hopes the evening will be "a combination of some light sautéing of the elected officials by Fitz, and Q&A from the audience. This is our addressing issues that are meaningful to you in a serious manner, and doing so in an environment in which we won't be allowed to take ourselves too seriously."
Among the guests who are expected to attend: Two of Southern Arizona's congressmen, Ron Barber and Raul Grijalva (provided they're not stuck dangling off the fiscal cliff in D.C.); state lawmakers Olivia Cajero Bedford, David Bradley, Steve Farley, Sally Ann Gonzales, Macario Saldate, Stefanie Mach, Bruce Wheeler and Ethan Orr; and Pima County Supervisors Richard Elias and Sharon Bronson.
An important detail: Kozachik has earned the ire of local right-wing radio clowns with his suggestion that the city get behind a gun buyback program in the wake of Newtown, so some Second Amendment enthusiasts have been promising to show up packing heat. Kozachik would like to remind citizens that the Loft does not allow firearms in the theater, so he asks that you leave your guns at home and be prepared for a bag check on the way in.
Also, you can videotape the proceedings, but you can't create sight issues for others in the audience. Access Tucson will be on hand to tape the town hall and will repeat it Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. for a few weeks.
The whole thing goes down from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 7, at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.