Tuesday, March 1, 2011

'Pottery barn rule' revised

    Observe now the touting of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for president.

    Many who can't find the Muscatatuck River on a map will wonder. Mitch who? But Daniels is no nobody. As a poly-sci entity, he is much known. He was George W. Bush's first budget director in Washington.

     As president, Bush had a nickname for everybody. He called Daniels "The Blade" for how he could cut government spending. So, how did that go?

     Over two years under Daniels' guidance, the $236 billion surplus that Team Bush inherited became a $400 billion deficit.

     Apparently this is a route to icon status. Deficits by design, after all, meant canonization for Ronald Reagan.

     These days we hear much talk about imposing performance standards for public employees. Watch what you wish for, GOP. If we did, it might bar many who served in the Bush administration from all but flagging for road crews.

     None, to be sure, would present himself as a fiscal savior.

     Right now, however, odd circumstances present themselves. The party that got the nation into its horrific economic straits suddenly is getting a chance to do things it fantasized, and specifically because it messed things up so terribly.

     When the nation invaded Iraq, a grudging Colin Powell spoke of the pottery barn principle: If you break it, you buy it. He couldn't have been more prescient.

      An odd thing now, however: The economy that free-market, laissez-faire, dereg, let-it-ride policies left in shards is in the laps of others, most notably Barack Obama and the Democrats, and millions of unemployed Americans.

      And now, after a soured-by-the-economy off-year election, who is in a position to push for more of what they have always craved? The Republicans. This is the weirdest performance incentive in the history of human resources.

      Witness this logic: Because GOP national policies so caused state economies to tank, and voters to fume, newly empowered Republican governors are exacting blood oaths against public employee unions.

      Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker believes that the state's dire straits give him a mandate to yank collective bargaining powers away from teachers, health and social workers, and more.

       In Colorado, on the pretense of saving tax dollars in the bad economy, one of the most Republican school districts is proposing school vouchers.

      Offered as delivering on the imperative of school choice, the vouchers are actually a backdoor means of a wealthy district getting wealthier for doing nothing. The district would dish out 75 percent of what it gets from the state for a voucherized student, this to incentivize his or her bolting from the district. And it keeps 25 percent.

      By review: This is done on the pretense of addressing a bad economy. But, understand: That economy is really an excuse to do what conservatives always fantasize. And by review: The economy was done in by conservative fantasies run amok.

     In November, Republicans seeking to take over Congress railed against the president for anemic job numbers. Here's a number to consider: House Speaker John Boehner says the Republican budget will cut 200,000 jobs. This is the solution for a crippled economy?

     Actually, if you are keeping track, we should assume that a job-killing bill is exactly what the GOP wants. Look at how economic doldrums have made for high times for fear-mongering reactionaries in state after state. Jobs? Heck, no. Drive that economy deeper into the tar pits. This tack can only be good for those who blame government for all things bad. Their strategy so far has worked in stunning fashion.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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