Columns 2016

Stop wasting our time

Maybe I’ve missed this, but in the weeping and gnashing of teeth that is the Republican response to anything Obama does, where and when did they reveal their plan for health care in America? They keep attempting to repeal Obamacare but I missed the announcement of their plan to replace it. Or do they just expect people with pre-existing conditions to go back to no coverage? That’s one way to sock it to that kid born with diabetes. Shouldn’t people who want to repeal Obamacare have to have an alternative? Perhaps most important, knowing they have no chance of overriding the inevitable presidential veto, why are they wasting their time and our money when there might just be other issues that need attention?

Given two of the bills pre-filed by our Republican legislative leaders focusing on issues that have little relation to the financial tailspin we are experiencing in Alaska, I guess Republicans like putting the spotlight on anything but the problem for which they have no viable solution.

For those of you who missed the announcement, bills have already been filed in Juneau to reverse the Medicaid expansion and to allow civil servants to pick and choose to whom they will provide their services, despite the fact that the people they are denying services to pay taxes just like everyone else. Given that no one in Alaska has yet gone to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, this sounds suspiciously like a solution looking for a problem. Or maybe it’s just another diversionary tactic to keep us from realizing just how bankrupt our current legislative majority is when it comes to handling Alaska’s financial crisis.

Despite the fact that every financial analyst who has looked at the state budget has firmly declared that simply cutting the budget will not close the gap, all we seem to hear from our supposed leaders is that we need to cut – cut schools, cut education, cut health, cut oil company tax breaks… oh wait, that last one is actually never ever mentioned.

In case conservatives haven’t been paying attention, trickle down economics has yet to trickle down to the middle class. In fact, the disappearing middle class is seemingly evidence that trickle down economics is the voodoo economic theory so many reasonable people tagged it decades ago. Yet here we sit in Alaska with a huge budget deficit, talk of cutting basic services to the poorest and most vulnerable flowing out of Juneau, and yet not a word about the benefits the oil industry accrues on a yearly basis thanks to our legislators generous tax package to them. Why is that not also on the chopping block?

I guess in the end it’s just easier to be negative about every new idea that is proposed than it is to actually come up with new ideas on your own. The health care issue that opened this column is the classic example. Congress is wasting time passing bills they know will be vetoed rather than dealing with the real issues in this country. Now our state legislature is following suit. Rather than dealing with the economic crisis, they file bills to solve problems that don’t actually exist.

Quite frankly, if you are not willing to carry out the duties of your job, then you should find another job. Issuing a marriage license to a same sex couple is an exercise in civil law and has nothing to do with the clerk’s personal beliefs. Unless, of course, this bill also covers Muslims or Jews who don’t eat pork and so when you show up at the checkout counter with your bacon, they can tell you to get in the back of some Christian checker’s line. Or maybe they won’t wait on you because you are a woman whose hair is exposed.

Is it really that hard to ask our legislature to actually deal with the real problems facing us and stop wasting time filing bills that avoid today’s financial realities? Or are we entering another session in which nothing will get done for the first 89 days and then on the 90th we will suddenly hear that they don’t have enough time to finish their work. Drop the extraneous bills and focus on your core responsibility – steering the state through the bad times while praying for the next boom.