(Tucson) -- Arizona, as we've come to discover in the last three or four days, is a gorgeous state with an ugly disposition. I've documented the former, the latter is a story you've heard before -- the effects of a $2 billion state budget deficit.
Like Minnesota, the Republican conservatives are screaming about no new taxes. Maybe they're right; maybe the state is wasting taxpayer money. It's naive to think states don't. And, no doubt, there are people gaming the system. But it also requires one to define waste by health care for poor children, which is being cut. Or a GED program for teens, which is no more. Voters are being asked to rescind an 80-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes which was dedicated, I believe, to early childhood development programs. Like Minnesota, the money was dedicated so ideologues couldn't get their hands on the money. If the voters disapprove of the tax they already approved, the tax will stay but the money will be swept into the state's General Fund. You think that money is going to be spent on early childhood education? This is how lawmakers define waste.
There's also an income tax cut being kicked around while this is going on, with most of the money being saved by the very wealthy. Earlier this week, we visited a pal who lives on a private, gated airpark. There were million dollar homes with attached hangars containing Citation jets and helicopters (in the same hangar). Drive around Phoenix and you see plenty of Cadillac SUVs.
No doubt there are people of means struggling with a lousy economy; recessions are like that. I don't pretend to know much about Arizona, having spent only a few days here. But you can live anywhere in America now and feel the same twisted vibe. Moral bankruptcy usually follows the financial kind. We solve our education problem by guaranteeing a more uneducated population. We solve the health care problem by creating more sick people. We address poverty by assuring it grows. No doubt a lot of people are gaming the system. But that doesn't make the approach logical.
On one of the airplane lists I follow on the Internet, a current thread was started by someone looking for a place with lower taxes than California. And people in various parts of the country are writing with suggestions while acknowledging their tax situation is out of control.
Again, maybe it is. Or maybe they've just all gotten their kids through the taxpayer-paid public school system, maybe even had them educated at a public university, are living off their public pensions, or their private pension from their job with a private company that got fat off government contracts, with their education paid for by the GI bill.
In any case, they've got theirs and got where they are without the help of the guvmint. It's the job of others to make it on their own.
Oh, and they don't want to live just anywhere where the taxes are low. They want a 'quality of life' to go with it.
This is the way it in this country right now. We'll ask our children to die in a desert in Iraq or Afghanistan so the people can have a better life there, but in this desert, you'll need to pee behind a cactus if you have to and hope your kid doesn't (a) get sick or (b) need to compete in an international economy with an education.
We've seen an incredible cross-section of American geography in the last week and there's more to go. But everywhere we visit, we also see and hear the refrain of the American. "I've got mine." At a time when people are invoking the Minutemen and other images of our glorious battlefields past, I just can't square dead people on Omaha Beach with the country that's fast becoming one hell of a son of a bitch.