The Bright Side of Politics
Posted on May 30, 2013
I am in the middle of a short trip to California, and a couple things attracted my notice that show that sometimes good things can happen in the world of politics.
First, the seemingly helpless budget situation that has paralyzed this state has suddenly reversed. California has a surplus.
They got a surplus by employing simple mathematics. They spent less and they got more revenue.
The California economy has turned around, housing prices have stabilized, and the fundamentals that have made this state so strong (Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Agriculture, defense spending) for so long, kept it from going over the edge.
It is weird to come to a state and see Jerry Brown as the voice of reason, but he has been pretty successful in solving the once unsolvable budget situation. He is the one who is arguing against spending the surplus, who is underestimating the size of the surplus, who is doing everything he can to keep the barbarians from spending the sudden windfall.
What is happening in California should give any political observer some hope for the future. If we can solve the California debt problem, we can surely solve the U.S. government debt problem.
It’s a math problem after all. All it requires is a readjustment of spending and revenues. California spent less and got more revenue. That has to happen at the Federal level, and there is some evidence that it is already happening.
The political system can work when it puts its mind to it.
Speaking of minds, another piece of news floated westward as I flew here in yesterday.
Michelle Bachmann, the leader of the Tea Party movement, announced she was going to retire at the end of the Congress.
Bachmann, who won the Iowa Straw poll to shock the political establishment two years ago, fit the Tea Party movement moment perfectly. But as often happens in politics, that moment passed, and she proved to be a less durable political star than some might have hoped.
By winning the straw poll, Bachmann proved a couple of things. She proved first that the straw poll is a complete waste of time. Secondly, she proved that with the right sound bites and the right “look” just about anybody can become a political star for more than 15 minutes.
I don’t know why she is retiring. Perhaps she was worried that she couldn’t keep her seat in what could prove to be a tough reelection next November. Perhaps there is some scandal that is brewing that hasn’t been revealed as of yet. Perhaps she decided that being a member of Congress wasn’t nearly the kind of job that she wanted for the long-term.
But for whatever reason, she is no longer going to be the voice of the Tea Party in Congress.
For some of us who found her to be a bit more than we could take, her leaving is a welcome relief. And it renews our faith in the essential wisdom of our political process.