March 7, 2010

Raising Arizona Cain

I often worry about people I know from Arizona. There seems in them to be a combination of extreme arrogance that would make a Texan jealous and a level of stupidity that would make the most ignorant Appalachian appear to be Einstein.

The New York Times offers an amazing assessment of what it takes to get an Arizonan riled. Using the tax payers' property as a cash cow doesn't faze them one little bit, nor does the arrival of those damn liberals from Jon Stewart's Daily Show to make fun of the situation.

No, it takes something far more important to get Arizonans upset. It takes not having any public outhouses on the Interstates anymore. That just chaps their hides!

NYT also reports that Arizona has the largest budget shortfall of any state when measured as a percentage of the total state budget. They don't cite a link or source to support this statement, but the state Department of Transportation allegedly has a $100 million dollar shortfall and had to take action. There was no reserve.

It seems that the Arizona Legislature was under a great deal of pressure to pass a budget which dealt with the state's $3 billion deficit and not include any additional taxes. They slashed aid for various needy children programs to facilitate this effort. Needy children don't vote, so who cares, right? So if they were willing to throw kids under the bus, you know they mean business! So sorry Arizona travelers! There just wasn't any money to keep these public conveniences available. We're only doing what California, Colorado, Georgia, Vermont and Virginia have done!

"Why don’t they charge a quarter or something?" whines one woman interviewed by the Times. “There was one rest stop between here (Pine, AZ) and Phoenix, and we really needed it.” But another woman reveals what is truly important to your typical Arizonan: “I honestly think they are setting us up because they want to do a tax increase, I think by shutting down things people want, they will give us one.”

Is it not ever thus? You get in financial trouble, and you are on your own. But when the big guys need assistance, they put you on the spot to bail them out with your tax money. But our second distaff dissenter ignores the forest for the trees. The government might well shut down valued assets like public highway convenience stops, but they cannot "give" the tax payers an increase unless the tax payers do nothing to stop them.

Here in California, anti-taxers are on the spot whenever a Sacramento politician even hints at a new tax. In fact, they are almost as fast as when the California Legislature in thinking about cutting a valued public service - like road maintenance. This state lives, thrives, or dies on its highways. Nothing infuriates a Californian more than to not be able to get their motor runnin' and head out on the highway lookin' for adventure,

Yet they aren't about to willingly pay for these highways to hell-raising. They blame the high costs of road maintenance on Cal-Trans workers for being so greedy by not working for Wal-Mart wages. I would love to see how many Californians would work on third shift with no fixed schedule, and have to work in foul weather conditions, amid dangerous and callous drivers who think it a game to see how close they can come to hitting a road worker while driving 80 miles an hour, and only accept whatever it is that Wal-Mart actually pays (It works out to less than minimum wage, I assure you!).

But California has a much larger population to distribute the road load. When the California cut our budget for roadside rest stops, no one really raised an eyebrow, because there are lots of gas stations and fast food restaurants into which a little rest must fall. Not so in Arizona. One can drive for hours and not see much except the sand and bushes along the side of the roads. It isn't too much different from when the stage coaches used to cross the desert; not an air conditioned 7-11 or a Circle K in sight for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles!

So the plight of our deprived Arizonans raises the much bigger issue of what we do about the economic reasons we are all about to have to make adjustments, not only in our standard of living, but in our standards generally. Closing the rest stops only means that we go back to squatting behind a bush and hope that there is no rattlesnake taking a nap in it.

Arizonans should be paying attention to what is happening in Colorado Springs. Up there, they have essentially eliminated ALL civic services because the people don't want to pay for them anymore. I haven't researched it in detail yet, but I suspect that the people there don't feel they use little things like street lights very much and don't want to have to pay for them. Public Safety? They think their Glock will protect them just fine, thank you very much, so who needs police or fire when the pioneers had neither?

All of these situations point out a sad truth about life in America today. There never was a free lunch, and it's now time to go over the list of where the money goes. Many things is going to have to come to an end and that is going to be that. You can't have it all. Only the people have yet to catch up with that reality. They still want the world and they want it now! Free! At No Cost!

I just wish there was enough wisdom in the people to do more than complain after the fact. This reckoning has been a long coming time, and people chose to believe economic fairy tales instead. Had earlier action been taken, these closings -and many other painful losses- could have been avoided if wisdom and foresight were common attributes. But venality and selfishness are the norm today. We can no longer pay to play, so we can just go shit on the roadsides.

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