Tuesday, May 31, 2011

And the couch may not even be lumpy!

If you were inclined to be critical of Alabama's newly elected Republican leadership, this year's legislative session, now winding to a close, would be fertile ground for potential material.

Our state's consistently shortchanged budgets once again have left the state's dangerously overcrowded prisons pitted against the state's notoriously skimpy Medicaid program over the right to be slightly less underfunded than the other one.

Many hundreds of state employees will lose their jobs next year, and more than 1,100 teacher positions will go unfilled, leaving our children's classrooms more crowded. The public employees who remain will have to pay much more for their health insurance and retirement than before.

In the face of deep service cuts and layoffs, Republicans have proposed no significant new revenue for the state budgets other than the end of a couple of tax loopholes that should have been closed decades ago, while leaving untouched many other loopholes that primarily benefit wealthy taxpayers and huge out-of-state companies.

Republican leaders haven't so much as given lip service to ending the state's grocery tax or otherwise easing Alabama's inexcusably heavy tax burden on the poor. They have found time, though, to explore exciting new opportunities in the fields of allowing employers to keep their workers' withheld taxes and letting the state effectively pay tariffs for foreign companies. Meanwhile, amid the incessant talk of job creation, Alabama's unemployment rate has stagnated this year, and the impending public-sector layoffs won't help. I could go on and on -- we haven't even mentioned immigration yet, have we? -- but you get the point.

Whether Alabama's Democratic leaders get the point, though, is another question entirely. For one thing, they didn't do a whole lot about the state's perennial tax and budget problems when they were in charge. It's also hard to find a business tax incentive -- no matter how generous -- that they haven't embraced in the name of economic development.

For another, they still actually waste time commenting on the most meaningless of meaningless sideshows. With all the critical issues confronting Alabama at an almost seismic turning point in its history, the state Democratic chairman is cracking wise in the newspaper about... Republican senators who sleep in their offices.

Yes, really.

Because once you get over all the joblessness and the quality-of-life struggles and the institutional barriers to progress, here's what really matters to the average voter: Some dude is spending the night on his work couch, and you're paying for the air conditioning, which you would pay for anyway.

If that's not a winning formula, I don't know what is.



Take it easy.

3:09 PM  

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