Using some sort of arcane rules, minority Republicans in my state's legislature recently pulled off a coup of sorts: they briefly took control of the budget process, giving themselves a chance, after months of claiming they could do it, to produce a balanced one, that paid for education and didn't raise taxes. It's a microcosm, of course, because, on a smaller (and therefore, one might presume, a less daunting) scale, it's exactly like what U.S. House Republicans and all of their presidential candidates are claiming they can do. Here, in the other Washington, when given their moment in the sun, they failed like a Newt Gingrich marriage:
They exploded one of the enduring myths of local politics. The one that claims there's so much waste and bloat in government that we can slash it without affecting the important stuff.
This myth has dominated politics recently. ...
But those days are over, at least at the state level. ...
How can I say that categorically? Because the rebellion in Olympia just proved it.
The 25 senators who wrested control from the liberals last weekend have spent months arguing that they could balance the budget with mostly pain-free prescriptions such as "resetting priorities." No need for accounting gimmicks, they said. Or cuts to the state's top priority, education. Most of all, there's no call for new taxes, because there's plenty of fluff yet to cut.
But when they got control for eight hours to pass their own budget, they failed to live up to any of the rhetoric. This budget included its own gimmick — a skipped payment into the pension system. Worse, it cut both public schools and the state's university system, two things the budget hawks earlier had insisted wouldn't be necessary.
[...]So Republicans ended up cutting schools instead, including trying to permanently cancel a mandate from voters for lower public-school class sizes (a cancellation which they euphemistically call a "reform"). Some of their own members apparently fought these cuts. But in the end they couldn't figure another way.
Once again we see the choice before us: Recognize our needs and find ways to pay for them; or put Rs in charge and, in the name of maintaining historically low tax rates on the historically well-off wealthy, watch our future slip away. It's obvious, and it's happening. In my state, it's education that suffers the most. Education. Rick Santorum may think it's the stuff of elitist snobbery, but some of us with a toe remaining on the firmaments know the future depends on it. And -- surprise! -- Congressional Rs won't balance the budget by cutting NPR, NEA, and Planned Parenthood.
What's not in doubt, because it's all around us already and they don't even try to hide it, is the devastation that will follow a Republican takeover of government. What is in doubt -- serious doubt -- is if Democrats can get people to see it. Given the combination of Democratic message ineptitude and R brilliance at deception, along with the expressed desire of their base to ignore reality, it's a tall order indeed.