Thursday, June 11, 2009

Democratic Strategy: Double-talk Voters, Make Cuts Anyway

The Democratic talk that Republicans in Nashville are trying to balance the budget "on the backs of the poor and helpless" is now officially beginning:

Senate Finance Chairman Randy McNally of Oak Ridge said the cuts are needed to balance the spending plan proposed by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen.

"We just feel like it's a not a good time of year to be borrowing a lot of money when our revenues are continuing to trend down and don't appear to have reached the bottom," the Oak Ridge Republican said.

McNally laughed off a question about whether Democrats would suggest Republicans are trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and helpless.

"Well, the first part of the statement is right: we are trying to balance the budget," he said.

The kind of talk the Democrats are now engaged in is extremely rich considering that it is their Democratic Governor who has proposed cutting help for literally the most vulnerable portion of the citizenry-those with no ability to work-while spending a slew of State money on other projects, including things that just aren't immediately necessary, like solar research and bond service on projects that simply are not needed in the short term. Some of these ideas might be worthy of consideration in better economic times, but at a time when things are so bad that the Governor is talking about cutting the majority of State jobs in social service agencies for the chronically disabled, is it right that the State should then spend money on immediately unnecessary things when that money could be moved elsewhere to more pressing matters?

Elected officials have an obligation to be realistic with the voters, not to tell them what they want to hear on the one hand while doing what they know needs to be done behind the backs of their constituents. The budget process should not be used for political grandstanding of the kind that Senator Jim Kyle says he wants to engage in when he wants a roll call on every line item. Kyle, Gary Odom, Mike Turner and the Democrats are trying to use the Democratic Governor's budget to blame Republicans for the problems that already existed long before January, and they are attempting to engage in this political jockeying because they know that if the political trends continue, Tennessee Democrats could lose at least 2-3 House seats in 2010.

The reality is that despite the noises coming from the White House about the economy being better and jobs being "created or saved," the economic situation is such that we are pretty much in the crapper. As a result, no agency of the State and no person served by the State is going to be spared the axe in some form-that's just the unfortunate reality of the situation in which we collectively find ourselves. However, if we act with prudence, the State can eliminate waste and cut those programs which are not an immediate necessity-literally, keep those things which can wait until later on the back burner-while keeping those programs which impact the most vulnerable citizens in place in some form. The Bredesen way, on the other hand, is to cut services for those most likely to be helpless, spend the money on solar generators, new bond service for projects we can't afford, and industrial megasites in West Tennessee, and then blame Republicans for the resulting disaster.

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