Wednesday, February 6, 2008

273. Errors, Omissions, and a whole lot more

Let me start with the “whole lot more” part of the entry, the weather, a favorite subject here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. Last night’s wasn’t good, neither here nor elsewhere in the Commonwealth and throughout the South. [A note here: Louisville doesn’t really claim to be in the South except during the Kentucky Derby Festival weeks in April and early May. We’ve carved out a niche in some fantasy-land, somewhere between the South and the Midwest, the delineating line being somewhere around the Watterson Expressway]. But, I digress.

Seven lives are known to have been lost here in Kentucky, in Muhlenberg and Allen counties, both south of Louisville - Allen down on the Tennessee state line. Elsewhere, in other states including our neighbors in Tennessee and Missouri, an additional fifteen lives were taken by a series of storms and tornadoes which passed through during the evening hours yesterday and into the early morning hours today. As I sat and listened to the Tornado Sirens for nearly an hour last night, the temperature rose from the mid-60s to right at 70 degrees, with the warm southerly winds intermingling in a deadly dance with the cooler Midwestern winds. It wasn’t as bad in Louisville last night as it was a week ago, but it was obvious damage was being done here and there. Some local schools are closed from lack of power; also, many roads in Jefferson and the surrounding counties are closed from downed trees and power lines. As those families who lost members last night begin to pick up the pieces today, it is well to keep them in our thoughts and in our prayers.

Weather wasn’t the only thing blowing Change into America last night. We had elections, 24 of them if you count American Samoa, which was won by Hillary Clinton.

Ok, now for the E&O part of the essay. I blew the call on Super Dooper Tuesday with my proclamation that by the end of the night United States Senator Hillary Clinton could begin her Fall campaign against United States Senator John McCain in her quest to become the 44th Commander-In-Chief of our Republic. It seems the race is still on, although she currently holds a slight lead in the delegate count, but neither she nor United States Senator Barack Obama are anywhere near the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. Obama’s wins in the South, probably somewhat based on race, along with others in the Midwest and the Mountains, with those based on old-fashioned populism, are keeping him well in the race with his chief rival, who won the big states by winning the more traditional voters. As my five faithful readers know, like lots of Americans I’ve wavered back and forth, and at times away from, these two contenders, either one of whom I will gladly support this Fall, and both of whom have the tools necessary to defeat whoever emerges on the other side.

I haven’t said much about the Republican race, but it is clear that John McCain is rather certain to be the nominee for the GOP. Many in the GOP are unhappy with his ascension, but I believe come Election Day, they will come around to his side of the equation. And, after last night’s performance, it is clear that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, another populist, may have clinched a nomination of his own, but not one he was seeking or will admit to winning, that of the #2 spot on the GOP ticket this fall. I still think Hillary will be the Democratic nominee although that seems a little further from reach today moreso than yesterday. But again, it is my belief that on January 20, 2009, the day the Junta currently in control of the Nation’s Residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, is forced to vacate, it will be a family of Democrats who move in.

Political winds were shaking last night here in the Commonwealth as well, as three Special Elections were held, two of which went to the Democrats, both in the already-Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. But in the Republican Senate, where we really needed a win, we didn’t get it. The 30th Senate District, recently vacant due to the election of former Senator Dan Mongiardo as Lieutenant Governor, should have been a win for the Democrats. The selection of a candidate was mired in undue controversy, controversy mostly based upon objections filed by the person who didn’t get the nomination. But the nomination process was made According to Hoyle, following all the rules, including an appeal to the State Party, an appeal I was a part of. The eventual Democratic candidate was strongly supported by both the governor and the lieutenant governor (who formerly served the area), but to no avail. Brandon Smith, a Republican member of the House of Representatives won the seat, giving the GOP a 22-15-1 lead in the State Seante, and will vacate his House seat, maybe sometime today when the Secretary of State certifies the votes. The only good news in the scenario is that no Republican filed to claim Smith’s current seat in the House. There will however be yet another Special Election for that seat, to serve out the present term which runs through the end of this year, and it is one we need to preserve between now and then.

Finally, I spent the greater part of last night 55 miles up the road, ending up at a Grand Fete sponsored by the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government (as well as several Louisville-area corporate citizens) honoring with grand offers of food and libations the members of the General Assembly, currently in session in Frankfort. The event was held at the Thomas Clark Kentucky History Center on Broadway in downtown Frankfort. Before arriving there, I had visited some friends over in the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, which makes its home in the Transportation Cabinet building, Kentucky’s homage to glass and metal set against the Fort Hill side of the city. Leaving the KOHS, I wandered over to one of my favorite Frankfort haunts, the Kentucky Coffeehouse where Eric the barista sold me a cup of strong hot coffee and I made my way toward the back of the coffee shop, whose walls are lined with old books and tomes offered for reading and for sale. The coffee shop is connected to the Poor Richard’s Bookstore, a Carmichael’s type of place on the south side of Broadway. I’ve written about both of these before. The section of books toward the back, where I usually take my seat, are Civil War histories, along with other older books, many out of print for many years.

I joined Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Patrick Mulvihill for the grand fete, a block to the east. Any thing you could have wanted to eat or drink was available – it was a very well catered event. I especially liked the crab ragoons, the roast beef, the seven kinds of dessert, the shrimp (big and a little spiced) – lots of stuff. I had one or two (or three or five) of most everything, all paid for by my local tax dollars at work. The room was addressed by the Chief Magistrates of the governments of both Louisville-Jefferson County Metro and the Commonwealth, each lavishing praise upon the other for their work, but each also acknowledging the budget shortfalls of their respective governments. The Mayor had earlier in the day announced an additional $9,000,000.00 shortfall locally, closing public swimming pools and taking away some city-owned car driving priveleges. Deleting the cars is minor – closing public pools is a major blow. Pools and the parks they are usually in are special places for Louisville’s teen and younger population in the Summer. The pools the mayor chose to close tend to be in minority areas of the City, minorities who otherwise often do not have the luxury of even a three foot above ground pool when the temperatures rise in July, August, and September.

In each of their speeches, the two leaders said we will make it through these crises and on to better days ahead. Each promised to do so within of the confines of their respective current revenue streams. Neither wants to be labeled as a tax-raiser. It is my opinion that neither is being entirely realistic.

This is the hard part of governing. Eventually there comes a time when one has to make the very hard decision to raise taxes. Eventually one has to decide if one wishes to be fiscally responsible or fiscally conservative. Some people believe those two phrases mean the same thing. In times of surpluses, they might. In times of deficits, they may. And then there are times they are totally unrelated. We are living in these latter times.

Being fiscally responsible when the cupboard is bare means to be fiscally responsive, taking actions which infuse the revenue stream with real dollars, not dollars offset here by reductions there. For thirty years, since the adoption on June 6, 1978 of Proposition 13 by the voters of California, our governments have slowly but certainly been whittling away, one tax cut at a time, one tax exemption at a time, one set of lay-offs at a time, one set of attrition deleting positions at a time, one set of building delays at a time, one set of job hiring freezes at a time, one set of summer swimming pool closings at a time. And all those incremental abatements of revenues are finally taking a real toll. We are at the end of the era where we can continue to lower taxes, to shrink government, to reduce spending. The latest example in Kentucky is a $17,000,000.00 proposal by Christian County Democratic Senator Joey Pendleton, a friend and good man, who represents among others the military folks at Fort Campbell, both active and retired. This is a proposal which is very well meant, very noble, and very honorable. It would exempt servicemembers from certain state tax obligations. In a time of surplus, this would be a no-brainer. Even in a time of tight budgets, this is something which should somehow – someway be worked into the process. But at a time when the state is $600,000,000.00 or so in debt just this year, with another $400,000,000.00 of debt expected in the next biennial, an additional $17,000,000.00 of debt is something which unfortunately we should not be able to afford. But, I fully expect Senator Pendleton’s measure to pass. And I do not dislike the purposes of the proposal. But, where does the spending stop? When do we spend only what we have? When do we become fiscally responsible?

You will hear conservatives, and some others, say we need to reduce taxes and spending, but they never say exactly where – exactly who it is they want to cut out of the government’s alleged largesse. The scapegoats these days are illegal immigrants (perhaps justly so), the latest in a series of wedge issues, but one which resonates better than many of the others. But, illegal immigrants are said to be about 12,000,000 in number (some of whom are paying taxes, social security, and medicare payments under a stolen or false social security number which they will never get back (and shouldn’t)); 12,000,000 out of the current estimated population of the country of 303,382,716, as of early this morning. That’s a little under 4% of the total, which if totally cut out is not enough to overcome the current federal debt of $9,222,200,545,365.53, again an estimate as of this morning. The current state debt is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The mayor spoke yesterday of local debt of over $9,000,000.00.

The folks who want to say that all of that is caused by payments to illegals are fooling themselves and their pocketbooks. They are looking for an easy out. When your country is $9 Trillion in debt, there is no easy out, and whatever is placed upon the backs of those here illegally is a mere drop in the proverbial bucket. Getting out of debt requires cutting spending, ending borrowing (and its cousin bonding), and raising taxes.

Doing anything less is being fiscally irresponsible. What politician would want to run on a ticket of fiscal irresponsibility?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Irony; It's more important to the Metro government to feed themselves a free buffett than to use that money to help keep at least one pool open for the summer.

The Archives at Milepost 606

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Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Single, male, bald, overweight, early 50s, seeking . . . Oh wait, that's goes on the other website. How about this - never married, liberal Democrat, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.