Wednesday, May 20

A Medley Of Extemporanea

THE Way Shit Doesn't Work: Reader, imagine if you will that you are the Indiana State Republican party (but please do not do so until 30 minutes after eating), and the year is 2007 C.E. You are, in brief, battered but still supremely hubristic, a model for the national GOP to come. You are saddled with an unpopular, malignant dwarf as your titular head, a man so megalomaniacal that it gives Indiana Republicans pause, although this could probably be remedied if he'd just pretend to be more religious. But pretending does not come easy to Mitch Daniels (though lying seems to), whose natural inclination runs to biting the calf of anyone who looks at the top of his combover crosswise. There are, in this period, entire floors of downtown Indianapolis law temples devoted to keeping the man away from public contact as much as possible, and several Republican operatives lounging in six-digit state sinecures lest they get any bright ideas about telling what they know. This is the man, after all, who took one look at the Governor's Mansion and declared he wouldn't let his servants sleep in such a dump.

Daniels' approval ratings are struggling to stay above George W. Bush's, and there's a bright boy actually legally residing in the state capital who looks to be a major challenger for the 2008 elections. But Bart Peterson, the first Democratic mayor of Indianapolis in thirty-five years--not to worry; he's plenty enough of a Republican to get elected to statewide office--has a 2007 mayoral election to get through first, and though he's an absolute shoo-in it's a good opportunity to bloody him up a little before the real bout even starts.

Enter Teabagging.

Now, if you've been following along you might recall that Indiana, traditionally an agriculture/manufacturing mutt of a state, had always kept its property taxes at politically acceptable levels through some fancy bookkeeping footwork, until the State Supreme Court ruled the system unconstitutional. This was compounded, a year after the ruling took effect, by control of The World's Third Worst State Legislature ™ (Motto: "Sure, We're All For Small Government, But This Spray-Tanning Thing Is Getting Out Of Hand"), as well as the Governor's Mansion (joke), going the GOP, which took about as much time deciding to eliminate the Socialist Business Inventory Socialism Tax as the Pope does deciding whether to go to Mass. The collective result swamped local governments at the exact time when the state had dumped other obligations on them in the abiding attempt to make Mitch Daniels look economically competent for once in his fucking life. And the GOP figures it's caught Peterson during a stream crossing.

And suddenly there are mass demonstrations in a wealthy neighborhood (the Governor's, or at least his Mansion's, as it happens) of the confiscatory Socialist Property Socialism Tax which blames...Bart Peterson, the man who had nothing whatsoever to do with it beyond being as reasonably responsible as one could hope for in a politician, i.e., he didn't use the funding scandal as an excuse to end fire and police protection. Local "news" trumpets the thing for months, without ever asking who might be behind it, or bothering with any facts, just righteously angry wealthy white people facing down the Oppressor. And it works far too well: Peterson is actually defeated by Gomer Pyle, USMC; apparently the powers that be in GOPerdom had forgotten that Indianapolis is the one place in the Universe where Jim Nabors still has a career (the traditional singing of the wrong words to "Back Home Again in Indiana" just before the Indy 500. As if you didn't know).

So Mitch has eliminated his one competent rival, and wins reelection despite losing the state to Barack Obama, but the GOP has now burdened itself with running the city just as the Tidal Wave of Republican Economic Shenanigans hits everything from Lake Michigan to the Ohio. Mitch can run and hide, and does, but Gomer's bare-assed on the hustings, growing more feeble with every appearance. Then the flood waters receded, and when they did it revealed the cheap-ass foundation of the Capital Improvements Board, the Lugar-era Republican creation designed to oversee the Trickle Up Theory of downtown land management. And this just happens to occur just as the Indiana Pacers told the Board, whose President just happens to be their lawyer, that they needed $15 M of non-represented taxpayer money or they would be forced to take their ball, and however many players they have on the guaranteed roster who aren't presently incarcerated, and start looking for another city to extort. Oh, and thanks for the new fieldhouse we demanded.

And none of this is new, exactly, or even unexpected, and one feels safe in relaying the fact that none of this engenders any Teabagging or nightly blow-by-blow "news" attention without warning you to sit down first. The Governor--who spent three-and-a-half years defending his corporate giveaways as "brave, bold Leadership"--is nowhere to be found. Nor is the Legislature, nor the Mayor, so long as he can hold out. Alcohol tax! is what he came up with, yesterday, six months after the Legislature convened and three weeks after the session ended. You'd think--unless you had what we call "a modicum of real-world experience"--that Republicans could solve all these problems in a snap. Or at least that their answer would be right at hand, but Tax Cuts! never got off the drawing board this time. Somehow.

Nah, it wasn't the distinction between Republican rhetoric and Republican "results" that grabbed me last evening. It was the perfect little petit mal seizure of intended Republican consequences:

• We spent the entire session "agonizing" over the fate of the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Childrens' Home, a 150-year-old facility offering a boarding-school environment to mostly at-risk children. All one heard about during the "debate" was how much money this 50-acre, 53-building underutilized relic was costing us (though the occasional Socialist wag pointed out that the $232/day we were spending per student for full-time care was still less than we shell out per inmate in the penal system).

So yesterday we announce the "solution", which is that we're kicking all the children out and turning the place over to an Indiana National Guard 2-week Boot Camp for Troublemakers program, which, beyond harnessing homicidal rage into acceptable channels, has the benefit of being funded 60% by the Feds.

Now, forget the Holism is Out, Browbeating is In; forget the It's Okay So Long As You're Hornswoggling Federal Taxpayers bit; forget that we've managed to delay the inevitable decision, or at least make it a two-part soul crushing, the better to get out of Office first. What was interesting about the "news" report was how it swallowed an interesting bit of misadventure by accounting: the "$1.2 M" state cost is reckoned by considering only that part of the facility the program will occupy, not the actual cost of maintaining the entire facility, which was how we got that $232/day figure, though, as defenders of the Home pointed out, it didn't use all the facilities either.

It was Sam Clemens who said "Figures don't lie, but liars figure". It is notable that he is widely considered to have become a bitter, disillusioned old man, while people think Nostradamus was a seer.

• Meanwhile, the Children's Guardian Home, an Indianapolis facility housing abused and neglected children, as well as those awaiting juvenile court decisions for minor crimes, will close June 30, the victim of, uh, property-tax reform. What's to become of the children currently housed there--the courts have been trying to send their charges elsewhere when possible--is unknown at this point. Apparently housing them in the spare bedrooms, ateliers, carriage houses, and slave's quarters of those Property Tax Teabaggers is not considered an option.

• A favored target of Mayor Gomer, who had the misfortune of having $70 million worth of "fluff" in the city budget disappear between his campaign and the time he took office, has been the city's Parks and recreational areas, which are just sitting there giving off useless oxygen much of the year. A recent (publicized) target has been the Ellenberger Park ice skating rink, a twenty-five-year-old facility which the city is proposing to tear down to build a "family center", or, in common parlance, "replace with some cheap-ass picnic tables". Yesterday they used The "News" to get out word of a Publicly Doomed Public Hearing on the plan, and took the opportunity to again have Local Government mouthpieces emphasize the $100,000/year the city is losing on the facility. Fair enough, except they manage, in the next breath, to spit out the fact that this "family center" will cost $3 million (estimated, wink wink), which for some reason engenders neither Tax Revolting Teabag Activity nor someone with enough grade school math to point out that $3 million=30 years of $100,000 deficits.

• Finally, via brave Indiana blogger Doug Masson we learn that Daniels actually surfaced long enough yesterday to eat rubber chicken with the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana and suggest that the I-69 boondoggle could be reduced in price by ignoring Federal regulations. Daniels also patted himself on the back for having overseen both the disastrous Federal economy and the crumbling Indiana one, which, he pointed out, has greatly increased the number of fly-by-night, corner-cuttin' general contractors who could use the work.

And here's my question: supposing that for some reason you wanted to design a system which would fuck things up even worse than ours has, all the while congratulating itself for all the potential solutions to problems it was creating. Where th' fuck would you even begin?

1 comment:

JMC said...

The Common Folk of America say:
"California," in answer to your concluding question. Every couple of years the initiative process pops up with (essentially) the question: Would you like to increase or decrease your taxes? And Californians know the answer to that, and will keep knowing it until there is no government, and *that* will show the damn government...