Deep Thinking

It’s all Janet’s fault

The Arizona State Treasurer’s office recently announced that there may not be enough cash in State coffers to pay the bills as early as next month.  In fact, there is no question that Arizona is going to need to borrow money to pay operating expenses, and it is an open question as to whether any lenders will actually loan money to the state, and if so, under what terms.  Because of the current condition of our financial markets, the terms of any potential loan are likely to be pretty steep.

The smartest guy that most Arizonan’s don’t know is an economist named Alan Maguire.  Maguire has been a fixture in and around state government for the better part of three decades.  He served for years as the right-hand guy to then-State Treasurer Ray Rottas.  He has advised multiple Speakers of the House and Senate Presidents.  He has developed complicated legislative packages, financing packages, and stuff that I can’t even begin to explain.

And right now, he is like a prophet in the wilderness, trying to warn anyone who will listen, that we are on the very edge of financial doom.  Everyone in this state, particularly policy makers, needs to be listening to Alan Maguire.

The numbers are very stark.  For the remainder of FY 2009 (which ends in June) there is a $1.2 billion shortfall – which if annualized is the equivalent of a $3.6 billion shortfall.  The state budget is about $10 billion per year, half of which is off-limits because it is “voter protected” or federally mandated.  So, with $5 billion to work with, the state needs to save the equivalent of $3.6 billion for the rest of this year and another $3 billion for FY 2010.

To give you a sense of the enormity of the problem, you can take the ENTIRE budgets of our Universities, Department of Corrections, Department of Public Safety, Department of Revenue and Department of Administration and still not cover the shortfall for this year.

How did we get here?  Well, we were in good economic times for nearly the entire six years that Janet Napolitano has been Governor, and she has pushed an aggressive agenda of higher spending.  In fact, state spending increased by an eye-popping 63% from 2004 to 2008! That makes Congress look like a piker.

That kind of growth of government was bound to catch up to us, and it has in spades.  Now, Napolitano is high-tailin’ it out of the State and leaving soon-to-be-Governor Jan Brewer holding the bag.  The severity of the budget crisis has been largely ignored by the mainstream media, particularly the Arizona Republic.  My guess is that they will discover the problem the day after Brewer is sworn in as Governor.

Brewer and her transition team should be aggressively pushing the narrative that this crisis is Napolitano’s making.  The way out of this financial hole is going to be very, very painful for hundreds of constituencies across the state.  They need to understand that it was the big-government mentality of Gov. Napolitano that got us into this mess.

So, let’s say it together – it’s all Janet’s fault.

 

 

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In 2002 I drafted an op-ed for Congressman Shadegg which was a response to a book about Barry Goldwater’s life and political philosophy titled “Before the Storm” by Richard Pearlstein.  Below is that draft op-ed.

 

In America we are engaged in a great ideological debate.  Arizona’s Senator Barry Goldwater framed that debate.  At its heart the debate is whether America should embrace the founder’s premise that we are a free nation valuing individual liberty and responsibility, or, if America should embrace a social welfare state in which a larger government takes care of the needs of its people.  It is a debate we as a nation have been engaged in since the founding of our country. 

 

In his book “Before the Storm,” Rick Perlstein, unlike any other liberal historian of our time, understands that Goldwater had a significant impact on American politics.

 

His book is interesting, well researched and immensely detailed.  Unfortunately, Perlstein, who describes himself as “left of liberal,” never gets beyond his bias and fails to understand the merits of the debate.  His venom for the philosophy Goldwater articulated comes out in hundreds of unfair characterizations and disparaging comments unsupported by proof or authority.

 

Perlstein so thoroughly accepts the welfare state thesis — that people should be cared for by their government — that he fails to recognize that people might be better off in a free society as the founders believed.

 

Because of his lack of understanding, Perlstein’s thesis, which he barely supports in the book, that Goldwater destroyed the American consensus, is completely wrong.

 

While FDR and others advocated that America abandon its experiment with individual responsibility and liberty, and launched a legislative agenda against that liberty, the American people were torn on which path to follow. 

 

Goldwater was aware that the welfare state was the easy and politically popular path.  He was also painfully aware that America’s great experiment with freedom was just the opposite.  But because of his principles, he was willing to launch the fight and make the case for the less popular approach.

 

Lacking the typical politician’s ego and desire to advance himself personally, Goldwater was a reluctant leader of millions of Americans anxious to reject the social welfare state.

 

Though many criticize the ‘64 campaign, and Goldwater’s commitment to it (including Perlstein), what they fail to recognize is the context in which the campaign occurred and that, perhaps more than anyone else, Goldwater himself understood what was at stake. It was not the presidency – it was the course of the nation. 

 

Before JFK’s death, Goldwater looked forward to a campaign of ideas.  Kennedy was honorable and Goldwater respected him.  And, contrary to Perlstein’s assertion that there was an American consensus in support of a big government welfare state, Goldwater recognized that Kennedy himself had not fully bought into the welfare state.  As evidence, “Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.” 

 

When Kennedy was assassinated, Goldwater lost all hope.  Clearly, all hope at winning, and more importantly, all hope of a high-minded debate, was lost. 

 

Instead of an honest exchange of ideas, Goldwater was forced into a no-win contest with Lyndon Johnson, a man he didn’t respect and felt the American people shouldn’t trust.  He knew Johnson would reshape his positions to win at any cost.  But Goldwater refused to employ such tactics.   For him the race was not about winning the presidency, it was about reframing the political discourse in America.

 

And he did.  He made Ronald Reagan’s presidency possible.  And because of Goldwater’s courage in the face of certain defeat, the founders’ notion of a free nation remains a viable option for which many Americans fight every day.

 

Perlstein, while missing the political points, did get it right about Barry Goldwater the person.  In his book he acknowledges Barry’s “deep sense of honor.”  And we remember him the way he wanted to be remembered.  “An honest man who tried.”

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