David Reynolds | Cruel times

OK, we got out of January alive – but with our portfolios still getting beaten to a small pulp. There is no need for anyone to go skiing this winter. Just latch on to a few blue-chip stocks and slide down with them. But that’s not my style. I buried gold coins in my back yard.

This has truly been our cruel winter of discontent. The most recent cruel event was the end of the football season. That may be good news to you bridge players out there, but not to the 90 million Americans who watched the Super Bowl on Sunday. Did you? If not, don’t feel guilty. You may have spent Sunday playing with your kids. Some folks just don’t get it. During my Super Sunday (Why didn’t our churches coin this term first?), I focused on the commercials that cost up to three million bucks for half a minute. I’m the type of guy who feels sorry for anyone who doesn’t get their money’s worth. So I watched them all. And if a player was running down the field, I ran to the bathroom. It did not matter. This “ultimate game” will be played again next year. I’ll catch it then.

There is nothing as cruel as war. I have been told that there is one going on. I checked the newspapers to see if it was true. Apparently not. I could not find a single war story. That produced even more cruelty. When things go well, there is no news. This makes no sense. Maybe February will provide us with some bad war news. At least we will learn what’s going on over there.

The cruel months of January and February always mean that there is the usual mischief going on downstream. The General Assembly likes to keep warm by burning thousands of bills in its legislative hopper. And a few are saved to be hotly debated. Two reasons why the General Assembly only meets during cold months. But the House of Delegates got serious concerning global warming. There is now a cap on the number of bills a delegate may introduce. Cutting back on hot air coming out of Richmond will go a long way in cooling off the commonwealth. Al Gore must be pleased.

Cruelty also reigns in our neck of the woods. Shortfalls in local budgets keep cropping up all over the place. Of course, such cruelty could have been prevented for Rockbridge County and Lexington if we could simply strike the unknown millions spent on our local Taj Mahal Hall of Justice. The same goes for Buena Vista. If that struggling city could only slice off its golf links line item, then all would be balanced in its fiscal world. But never sweat stuff you don’t understand. I can’t understand these ‘smoke and mirrors’ budgets. And I know a high local government official who can not either.

But local cruelty goes beyond attempts to balance budgets. We continue to deflate democracy. As many of you know, Buena Vista assigned a city council seat to one who never ran for the office! A smart move by BV. The city found another way to restrict voter participation. Then last month Lexington decided not to be outdone. It did away with majority rule! The Lexington City Council voted back into its chamber one who received 211 fewer votes in last November’s election than another office seeker. Reason: “experience and continuity.” Suggestion: Abolish city elections. This will better enhance council’s experience and continuity.

Another cruel item concerning Lexington’s strange form of democracy is worth mentioning. Its three latest school board appointees stated their opposition to any school consolidation. I assume they are speaking for themselves, not our children.

There is one more sad piece of news. After eight years, on Jan. 20, 2009, we finally came up with a new president. In my last column I wished President Obama well. I still do. But the honeymoon is over. It lasted eight days. (Actually this is twice as long as my own honeymoon in the year Mr. Obama was born.) What happened? This old budget examiner saw his favorite lines from the inaugural address thrown away. The president said, “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works . . . to spend wisely, reform bad habits and do our business in the light of day . . .” Then eight days later he introduced his economic stimulus package – a 647-page House-approved bill that may stimulate Democrats, but certainly not this nation’s economy.

You get the drift. It is not the weather that is cruel, it is we ourselves. But please don’t despair. My friends claim that they have it on the highest authority that one day this cruel winter of our lives will be over and spring will be here. I like having friends with the right connections.

 

– Column by David Reynolds


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