In Blazing Saddles, cross-eyed Gov. William J. Le Petomane, hearing the town of Rock Ridge has met disaster at the hands of outlaws, announces to his coterie:
"We've got to protect our phony baloney jobs, gentleman. We must do something about this immediately, immediately, immediately."
"Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!" goes his echo chamber.
So, the governor issues a decree to make it even worse for Rock Ridge — which by the way is obstructing construction of the railroad.
Arizona has been ablaze, battling one of its most devastating wildfires with all its resources. Well, not exactly.
The state, stewing in a sauna of right-wing anti-tax fundamentalism, has cut $1.2 million since 2009 from set aside funds to prevent and stop wildfires. Hmmm. Could've used that.
Government is the problem, understand, until you need it.
One of the untold stories of Hurricane Katrina was how poorly it reflected, not on government per se but on those in government who thought the free market could do government's job better. Heckuva job.
This included contractors hired by the FEMA to provide emergency transportation in a hurricane, but who were tied in knots of the kind of red tape that we are led to be believe can be tied only to — ack — bureaucrats.
In Texas, a veritable bureaucrat massacre was waged under Gov. Rick Perry, who entrusted social services to a computer system that was supposed to obviate the need for all those paper shufflers. It ended up being a debacle beyond imagining. Texas ended up rescinding reams of pink slips to state employees who, it turned out, were actually needed to serve other people.
By Perry's quill stroke, the state authorized a massive privatization of the Department of Human Services, including mental health and mental retardation. Bidders were not expected to show that they could run these services better, or at a savings to taxpayers. They were just supposed to show up, bid and take them off to their respective carnal lairs. When the vastness and intricacy of these enterprises became clear — biting off more than one can chew, as it were — the bidders stayed away.
You see, sometimes you need government.
Unfortunately — OK, horrifically — the Gov. Le Petomanes of the world continue to profit from doing things that don't serve their constituents, at least those who need what government does.
What we see increasingly is people ascending to government not to govern but to find increasing ways to impede governing.
Texas schools face $4 billion in budget cuts — billion with a "b" — if a bill passed by the state House survives.
This fiscal tough love, Texans are led to believe, was made necessary by the terrible economy. Well, yes, and no. A big reason why Texas schools are in this hole is because Perry and the Legislature dug it several years ago. On the pretense of school finance reform, they authorized a property tax cut that was not matched by the means to recoup the lost dollars through a new business tax.
How convenient this has all been. Laissez faire policies and grandstanding politicians allowed the economy to collapse, and now say that calamity means it's time for more of their kind of medicine, which calls for dismantling government services.
In Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein writes about how right-wing schemers have seized on catastrophes manmade and otherwise to dissemble the kind of government that helps the masses, this in favor of the kind that gets sold off to insiders. It's happening across the country and in other countries.
Who does Gov. Le Petomane serve? The railroad. And so he is content to consign Rock Ridge to the dust.
The amazing thing is that through any number of appeals — say, to piety, to bigotry — the governor knows he'll be re-elected. And so does the railroad.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.