It seems like a first to me, this imperfect storm where every level of government is scratching and scrambling to make ends meet. We should all be used to the minor boom/bust cycles locally and in the state. Every now and then revenues just don't meet expectations.
But can anyone remember a similar convergence, a time when local and state governments all over the country were locked into epic battles to overcome funding shortfalls, many in the billions of dollars, and the federal government's position was even worse?
What went wrong? Locally, what was Kingman's tipping point? When did prudent management take a back seat to wishful thinking?
Did anyone on the Council raise an eyebrow when the ratio of city employees to citizens hit one for every 200? If they did, raising an eyebrow was probably about it. The number of employees now is well over one for every 100 residents.
Subsidized non-essential services are big, too, and I'm not just talking about the golf course. About the time the Council was raising salaries across the board in one of those giddy "we're growing and it's never going to stop" moments, it was also creating a money-sucking public transportation system - KART - that at last report was losing $75 for every passenger it served. Say what you will about Cerbat Cliffs, the golf course doesn't lose money like that.
With little fanfare out in this part of Arizona, the state has crafted a balanced budget. We have been assured by Democrats that thousands will die and public education will be destroyed, so there is probably a lot to like in the budget the Republicans ramrodded through.
It sure beats the alternative of higher taxes, an idea that our City Council hasn't slammed the door on. At the federal level, no one is openly talking about higher taxes, but you know if the Democrats take back the House it will happen. Heck, with "Republican" John Boehner as speaker of the house, it's likely the only thing keeping us from massive tax increases right now are those freshmen tea party Republicans.
And that's the difference between the Republicans in the Arizona Legislature and many of the Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate. A little over 50 years ago, a Democrat said this: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
This is noteworthy for two reasons:
1. The guy who said it was Ted Kennedy's brother, and Ted was one of those guys who demanded that the country do something for you, especially if you vote Democrat.
2. The guy who said it was probably more conservative than many of the Republicans in Congress today. Boehner just might be conservative enough to be a JFK Democrat.
The end result of Boehner's principled bargaining late last week is a phantom reduction of $38 billion to a budget that doesn't exist because Democrats couldn't muster the guts to throw one out there for public consumption last year, back when they had big majorities in the House and Senate and the same leftist in the White House.
And why didn't the Democrats have a budget last year, one that was in place before the elections? You already know the answer to that one.
Now, rather than having to defend a budget with a huge deficit, they can shriek about how mean-spirited, extreme Republican cuts will kill each and every one of us and will also probably be bad for wood shop students in Cincinnati.
For the time being, I suspect this means we'll still fork over money for PBS, even though Bert and Ernie are rolling in cash, and for NPR. Cowboy poets will still perform in northern Nevada, and you and I will continue to pay for it.
Heck, it may be possible to take a KART bus, subsidized by both your local and federal tax dollars, to the Kingman Airport where you can catch a flight to Las Vegas, one paid for in part by your federal tax dollars.
But leave your golf clubs at home. The federal government isn't subsidizing Cerbat Cliffs yet, but I'm sure we can find plenty of politicians in both parties willing to throw money at it for a few votes.