Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:
● Help me think. Excluding anything to do with the personal lives of celebrity athletes and entertainers, has more ink been spilled needlessly on any issue more frivolous than voter ID? The Georgia Supreme Court this week joined others in smacking down the whiners who kept arguing that somebody somewhere would be kept from voting because of the requirement — but could never produce a living soul. Or, heck, even a dead one.
● A cap on state spending, as proposed by State Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, would be an admirable addition to the state Constitution. The proposal is so flexible that only the most partisan proponents of big government can find objection. Spending is limited to the highest previous budget or to the previous year’s, plus population growth and the rate of government inflation. Collections above that will go to pay for increased school enrollment, retire debt and build the state’s “rainy day fund” to 15 percent of the budget (up from 10 percent now). When the rainy day fund’s exhausted, the Legislature by a two-thirds vote can waive the spending cap. In an emergency, that’ll happen. Besides, 15 percent reserves will ordinarily keep governors and legislators from having to make really tough budget cuts.
● Arguing against proposed changes in the HOPE program, the former president’s grandson, state Sen. Jason Carter, sounds a lot older than his 35 years. In fact, he sounds a lot like the politicians of yesteryear. Said the young throwback: “There is no doubt if we cut HOPE …there will be some students who won’t graduate from college because they can’t afford it.” A student so easily dissuaded may not have been college material to start with — and, furthermore, will have some real coping issues with adult life. Politicians always seem to be solving, or proposing to solve, problems that existed in their childhood — or before they were born.
● If one of those college enrollees who’s freaked out by a slight decrease in HOPE handouts is looking for a career alternative — though, fair warning, it does involve work — Kennesaw’s Superior Plumbing is begging for qualified plumbers. The job offers good pay and virtual lifetime security. Skilled machinists are in demand, too. The downside to those jobs is that you stay too busy to go downtown to boo and hiss state legislators while insisting that “fairness” demands that you be given more public money.
● Georgia has a projected deficit of $250 million in its $3 billion health benefits program for state employees. Since the state can’t print money or run a deficit, the proposed solution is to raise premiums for current employees and retirees. Legislators could make a contribution by eliminating taxpayer-provided health care coverage for themselves and for other part-timers whose primary employment is elsewhere.
● As the nation comes to grip with the terrible debt that we’re allowing to be passed on to the unborn, the media really does incur an obligation to be responsible stewards of information. It’s awfully easy for journalists to rush out and find “victims” of heartless government — and, in fact, advocacy groups will produce them on cue — for quick stories allegedly detailing the impact of spending reductions. Most journalists lack the expertise to assess the real impact or to know, for example, that the job training program is one of 47 and may or may not be effective for “victim’s problem.” Another problem is that such stories are often a fact or two shy of providing the context that would allow us to know. The point really is that if we’re going to be a nation of adults making responsible choices, we have to know if programs work. Otherwise we’re teaching people how to game the system.