Big Daddy

Ask Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
You’re obviously left of center, but you declare your bias. I can respect that. But admit it, Republicans were right when it came to the budget. Come on—$10 billion in the hole? And you can’t hold Republicans in this legislature responsible for spending passed by Congress.   
—Don’t tax me, bro  

Congrats on our bad news,

Budgets are widely misunderstood. For instance, it’s a little known fact that it’s actually pronounced with a silent “t,” just like with that anorexic fellow who pretends he’s Bill O’Reilly. In the original French, it means “annual fiasco.” Budgets used to be marked with the sacrifice of virgins (hence their current scarcity in France) and the ceremonial Running of the Accountants.

If you think that last one sounds typically French on the intimidation scale, you’ve never locked horns with Liz Hill. No one has ever stopped any of Arnold’s big plans with such ease. She’s pretty popular with Republicans these days. Their gloating is tempered only by their jealously over her ability to bring one of Arnie’s “Years of” to a grinding halt with a mere press conference.

Not that the public appreciates most of this. It’s hard to scare people willing to plunk down a million bucks for a house that’s the equivalent of kindling on a trampoline. We shake our heads when out-of-staters joke about earthquakes—knowing full well the jokes would ring true if they were about earthquake insurance. In dry years we develop an unnatural ease around un-flushed toilets, a tendency which might seem to confirm Middle America’s suspicion that we’re really Europeans. Top that off with, say, commuting in LA every day, and you must admit a mere $10 billion lacks dramatic tension.

I’m convinced that our comfort with uncertainty and change is part of the reason we serve as a product testing-lab for political concepts before they go national. From being the birthplace of the modern tax revolt to our state’s current habit of making national environmental policy—not to mention the pioneering work we’ve long done in the blurring of politics and celebrity—we’re like a cat zigzagging a bold toilet paper trail across the bathroom floor of conventional wisdom.

Now if it seems like I’m prevaricating, it’s because I’m putting off admitting you have a point. Done. But you fellows also have your own controversial big-ticket items you want to bust the bank for: prisons, roads, that double super-secret plan to steal all of San Francisco’s water and use it for waterboarding (you heard it here first, bloggers!). I guess we should be happy you didn’t ask for a moon base, like certain Republicans we know (Fine, Mr. Bush, have your moon base—but only if we get to use it for stem cell research).

We don’t have the Superpower Mastercard to wave at our debtors, so yes, we’re in a bind. Now it’s always easy to point out the pork the other party has ordered, but in this state it’s really the voters who have us over the barrel. Given the choice via initiatives, they have naturally and often gone for more and better services combined with lower taxes. And we all know the consequences of running on a “voters are morons” platform come election time (that only gets you the ones with low self esteem).  

Though there just yet may be a way the voters could get us out of this. I hear tell of some musical act that just put their new record on the Internet and let anybody pay what they thought was fair. Now the critics said most people would take it for free, but it turned out the average person paid more or less full price.

So all we have to do is put all the government services online and let people pay what they thought was fair. We could get rid of taxes, concentrate services where they’re most wanted, and generate enough additional cool-factor to annoy the heck out of the other states. The only way this could fail is if state government was somehow less popular than rock stars.  

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