As Richard Pryor's junkie character used to say, "It's the politics, baby ..."
• Last week, a Republican-controlled State House panel voted to allow Arizonans to opt out of a national health-care plan. Of course, there is no national health-care plan, but that didn't stop the six GOP Neros on the panel from fiddling while the still-undelivered budget burned.
During the mutual back-slapping that stood in for what should have been a debate, the phrase "socialized medicine" was used so many times that you would think that the legislators were getting paid for piece work by the lobbyists. (Pause. Breathe.)
Anyway, after helping to keep the citizens of the state safe by sending on to the full House a suggestion that might apply some time in the future if the federal government ever tries passing something that might be considered objectionable, they joined their Republican homies in the Hypocrite Pivot and sprinted down Socialism Lane.
Two days later, they got out the jumper cables, attached them to the neck bolts of the rotting and fetid corpse of their pet project—school vouchers—and turned on the juice. After the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that existing school-voucher programs were unconstitutional, the right-wing socialism crowd refused to take "You stink at this!" for an answer. They passed a bill that would allow corporations and insurance companies to pay for the school vouchers (instead of having the state do it) while receiving a one-for-one tax credit in the process. Apparently, this smarmy distinction might make the whole ugly mess barely able to pass constitutional muster.
Gov. Jan Brewer (yes, she really is the governor) insisted that the corporate giveaway be capped at $5 million this year, what with the budget crisis and all.
Renewing their bid to earn first-ballot induction in the Cynicism Hall of Fame, the backers of the effort claim that the money will only go to special-needs and foster children: "Hey, kid, I'm trying to grab that 'Let's-Screw-the-Public-School-Teachers' brass ring, but it's just out of reach. Let me step on your wheelchair."
State Sen. Al Melvin (R-26) still refers to the program as a voucher system and is quick to launch into a discourse on "competition" and "school choice" and blah, blah, blah. When asked about the special-needs kids and the foster children, he snaps to and says, "Yes, of course, that's what the program is for."
The thing is that nobody (including him and all of his Republican cohorts) believes him and all of his Republican cohorts when they make that claim. It's so obviously an attempt to get a foot in the door so they can start to gut public education.
As a matter of fact, I'll make this promise right here: If any one of the Republicans in the state Legislature will stand up with his hand on the Bible and swear that the corporate-voucher system will forever be limited to special-needs and foster kids, I'll give money to the GOP. I don't even give money to the Democrats; that's how sure I am that nobody will take me up on that. And expanding the definition of "special needs" to include somebody who voted for you but can't afford the tuition at Exclusive Caucasian Prep Academy doesn't count.
• Congrats to the Tucson City Council. They (and City Manager Mike Letcher) slapped new taxes on a wide spectrum of people (instead of just renters), including many who don't even live in the city. Taxes and/or fees will go up on water, phones, trash pickup, bus fares, gym memberships and even tanning salons.
Really?! Tanning salons? What's that going to bring in, an extra $140 a month?
• The dumping of the budget burden on non-city residents via the increased tax on city water may have council members giddy (Nina Trasoff gushed about "broadening the tax base," while Steve Leal blustered: "The community has much to be proud of in terms of what we've done here"), but it may come back to bite them in the butt. The word is that some state representatives are already working on a bill that would allow those tax-paying customers outside of the city limits to have some kind of voting rights when it comes to future Tucson Water issues.
Right now, it can be argued that the city's actions amount to taxation without representation (and it is not the same as a nonresident buying something inside the city limits and paying city sales tax). I wonder how happy Ms. Trasoff and company will be with broadening their voting base as well.
• Finally, to all of those e-mailers and (ahem) bloggers who have taken me to task for sticking up for fired City Manager Mike Hein: Yes, he is my friend, but he's just one of, oh, six or seven friends that I have. If their jobs were newsworthy, I would try to write honestly about them.
This one guy wrote pedantically, "The city was being poorly managed and he was the city manager. Do you get it?"
I don't think the city was being managed badly; I think it's being governed badly. Time will tell.