Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BUDGET THOUGHTS GO POSTAL

Three anecdotes come to mind when I consider the hysteria that greets any cost-cutting proposal for California’s 20-billion-plus budget deficit.

The first is a classroom comment made decades ago by a na├»ve seminary student who’d obviously never paid a water bill in his life. The young man opined that various public services should be provided at no cost—just like water is.

The second was an observation made by a putative adult who declared that people should not have to pay for health care. Rather, she said, the government should pay.

Anecdote number three concerns a recent trip to the United States post office adjacent Ocean’s Eleven Casino in Oceanside. I was seventh in line upon entering the queue. Three employees stood behind the counter. Fifteen minutes later I was addressing the only one who’d been slowly serving a line that was now twice as long and stretched into the next room.

For a minute or two astonished patrons stood opposite three “next window please” signs, with no active server at all—perhaps victims of an ingenious Candid Camera ruse where employees busy themselves in position, raise hopes, then walk away.

These incidents dovetail nicely with California’s budget debacle. A substantial portion of the state’s population have been trained to expect services for which no one has to foot the bill—or for which “big oil” serves as the goose that can simultaneously be cooked and periodically utilized for golden egg production.

The result of such magical thinking (as a trip to California’s DMV makes clear) is a situation where results and revenues can’t possibly match expectations. This is especially true when one throws into the mix the clout of public employee unions whose pensions have done for state and local budgets what UAW contracts did for GM.

This something-for-nothing mania has fed the regular expectation that Washington or corporate villains or Sacramento will pay for things that cost “us” nothing—as if government “for the people” isn’t also a government that’s paid for “by the people.”

Indicative of the sad state of the state is an ingenious proposal to pay parents to look after their own kids—an idea that theoretically saves money on CalWorks recipients who receive education assistance and also get their child care expenses subsidized.

When government is in the business of paying parents to look after their own kids, something has gone desperately wrong. How far off course things are can be gauged by the strange sound of this Grover Cleveland quotation: “It is the responsibility of the citizens to support their government. It is not the responsibility of the government to support its citizens.”

Today, by contrast, it’s “cash for clunkers” and bailouts for bad mortgages. Locals take from Sacramento. The state returns the favor.

Under this system “free medical care” will doubtless operate like Oceanside’s I-5 post office—with Sacramento and Washington balance sheets.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

DON'T TOUCH MY DIAL: RESISTING OBAMA'S ATTEMPT TO MUZZLE TALK RADIO

A letter writer to the North County Times recently complained because I noted in a column that “Obama’s minions” are intent on undoing conservative talk radio. The objector, who claimed that no facts supported my assertion, is doubtless dependent on the MSM for his view of things and oblivious to the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as well as Senators Charles Schumer, Dick Durbin, and Dianne Feinstein have all expressed support for the absurdly labeled “Fairness Doctrine.” And that’s only the short list.

Of course the anti-democratic elites who now govern America are clever enough to disguise their latest assault on free speech in the language of “diversity” and “localism.” The document that serves as the intellectual pretext for this new dose of liberal fascism was written in June, 2007, by a gaggle of “Progressives” at the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress. Its title: “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio.”

The problem, it seems, is not that listeners simply prefer Rush and Hannity to Al Franken, Air America, and NPR. Nor is it that Americans get their fill of leftist rhetoric from Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and “Law and Order” reruns. No, the problem “is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly …the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management.”

“Structural problems” is bureaucratese for “the way things are now,” while “public interest requirements” and “local participation” refer to government controls and oversight powers given to leftist activists. (Think ACORN and El Grupo.)

If “Obama’s minions” get their way, the composition of newly envisioned “local diversity boards” will doubtless resemble the makeup of a recently appointed FCC “Federal Advisory Committee on Diversity in the Digital Age”—a group chaired by a liberal activist and filled with MSM types, politically active minority groups, and representatives of leftist organizations.

Skeptics should note that then Senator Barack Obama signed on to this covert speech-muzzling strategy in September, 2007, when he endorsed “new rules promoting coverage of local issues” as well as “greater FCC scrutiny” and more frequent public input “to ensure that broadcasters are complying with their public interest obligations.”

No wonder dozens of talk radio hosts met in Washington in late April to discuss this impending assault on free speech. San Diego’s Roger Hedgecock was elected chairman of a new foundation whose slogan is “Don’t touch my dial.”

Perhaps as a preemptive move to head off this backdoor censorship, Salem affiliate KCBQ recently reinstated a hometown broadcaster to its morning lineup—Mark Larson. That strategy might be effective if the ideologues currently crying “localism” really meant what they say. (Consider, however, candidate Obama’s broken pledge to use public financing.) The real problem is that leftists loathe popular dissent and will do whatever they can to stifle it—as they already have in education, popular entertainment, and the “global warming” news media.