Thursday, February 10, 2011

Just When You Thought You Knew Whom to Be Mad At

Ah, government.  For the people, by the people, people who need people, Foster the People, yadda yadda yadda.  To quote Duran Duran “What is happening to it all?  Crazy some say…where is the life that I recognize?”

While the left and the right are throwing stones at each other the man on the street is left to trust our elected officials to make some common sense of it all and do some things that the rest of us have to do at home and the office, such as stop spending money we don’t have (what a concept).   I mean, we CAN continue borrowing money from China but if they decide to call the notes one day and we can’t pay them my guess is they aren’t going to take back a bunch of fake watches and cheap electronics as collateral while we get our act together.  Maybe postage stamps?

The truth is, nobody knows what the heck is going on.  Obamacare is a catastrophe if you’re on the right and a lifesaver if you’re on the left, until you dig a little further.

Repealing the bill has been the Federal House Republican’s #1 priority but Politico reports some of the 16 freshman lawmakers — many of whom swept into office fueled by tea party anger over the health care law — are facing monthly premiums of $1,200 and fears of double-digit rate hikes since they declined their government health benefits.  As always, there is a different side of the story — about tough out-of-pocket expenses, pre-existing conditions and support for health reforms that would help those who struggle with their coverage as they venture into the free market for health insurance.  SURPRISE!

That does not change the face that Obamacare is 4700 pages long (that’s War and Peace on steroids and not nearly as interesting), questionably constitutional and has a list of other negatives for small business and others.

But I digress.  The thing I wanted to find out is who’s zoomin’ who about ALL of it?

As a Board member of the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, I am focused on the $27 billion potential budget shortfall in the State of Texas and our Moving Picture Industry Incentive Program, as with many others, is facing severe budget cuts.  So naturally, our efforts have been to work with the powers-that-be, which would seem to be the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, the State Comptroller’s office and various and sundry influential types so we can advocate for our share of the pie.

Then I read an article from former State Representative Sherri Greenberg who says in the Austin American-Statesman (paraphrased):

However, the state's finances are not accessible and readily understood: discretionary spending, structural deficit, gimmicks, contracting out, economic development and budget process.  As a freshman legislator in 1991, I was shocked to learn that the Texas Legislature really only has direct control over about 15 percent of the total state budget when you take into account dedicated funds, tax exemptions, mandates and the like. This fact makes balancing the state budget a lot trickier.   Government has its own set of budget-balancing gimmicks. “   

Really?   Of course, your local government, other states and the Feds run a COMPLETELY transparent system.  And I invented the internet.  Sorry Al.

So, we really have a lot to learn if you are curious enough and have enough time on your hands to navigate the waters.  If so, God bless you.  No, really.  If you really figure it all out a lucrative book deal is waiting for you – or a show on talk radio or the new Independent Open-Minded News Channel, coming soon to a fledgling cable news network near you.  Because the guys talking to you now - they don't get it either.  It has largely been set up so you can't and that's probably no accident.

Craig Berlin is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in Plan II, the Liberal Arts Honors Program and Radio-TV-Film.  He has operated audio-visual production and support company Take 5, Inc. dba/Pro-Tape since 1986 and is a founding Board Member and former treasurer of the TXMPA.