Editorials 2020-February-07

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You can’t repeal arithmetic…

LAWMAKERS seeking reelection this year all agree. The governor, not the Legislature, should cut the FY 2020 budget based on the new (and dismal) revenue projection — an estimated $40 million reduction.

Time was when lawmakers were “very concerned” about the governor’s emergency power and reprogramming authority which includes imposing cuts. But today, confronted with basic arithmetic (there are a lot of payables; there is not enough money) they say: be our guest, governor.

Which is just as well. This is the same branch of government that passes bills that usually cannot be or are not enforced or whose consequences are the opposite of the intent. (Not too long ago, the Legislature proposed to give its members a pay hike and they ended up getting a pay cut.) There is a word for that kind of record, and it is unflattering.

Lawmakers, in any case, say they want equal cuts applied across-the-board, but not to the lowest paid government employees. OK. Reneging on Settlement Fund and bond payments is out of the question, but what about medical referrals? Scholarships? Payments to CUC? Emergency-response OT in case — God forbid — another disaster strikes? These are the government’s usual, and annual, big-spending items. Should they be cut, too? If not, what else should be cut instead and by how much? Village projects? Fishing derbies? Little League? Off-island student competitions? “Non-essential” agencies and programs?

The House speaker, for his part, urged his colleagues to come up with “revenue-generating measures” as if these are just lying around somewhere, and all you have to do is to pick them up and wave them (exactly like a magic wand), and lo and behold, there’s the $40 million the government needs.

Some say the salaries of the governor and other top officials are “too high,” and they travel “too much.”

Again, where is the legislation to cut their salaries and/or to ban or restrict government-funded travels?

What about tax and/or fee hikes?

These should be introduced in the House of Representatives. Who will propose them? Anyone?

The FEMA reimbursements, you say. How much and what are the spending restrictions, if any? If they can be used for government operations, are they enough?

IPI tax payments and community fund contributions! Of course. But does anyone know how much is actually “owed” compared to how much we insist IPI should pay? Can we make a financially troubled business entity, not just IPI, give us more money because we keep saying so and we want it now?

Besides the usual motherhood and apple pie statements, is there even one specific bill that lawmakers will introduce to actually cut government costs or raise its revenue?

Or they want someone else to do that, too?

…or the law of supply and demand

YOU’RE an elected official and some of your constituents are complaining about the increase in the prices of hygiene products and face masks. What do you tell them? That the higher price reflects a higher demand? Of course not. You blame the usual suspects: greedy if not immoral businesses. (They have been blamed by rulers all over the world for the past 4,000 years of recorded human history.)

In the states, the New York Times reported recently that mask hoarding has begun: “Although masks actually do little to protect healthy people, the prospect of shortages created by panic buying worries some public health experts.”

What is the response of public officials? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “is now reaching out to manufacturers to head off the possibility of shortages, especially in hospitals….” The NYT quoted CDC’s Dr. Anita Patel as saying, “We see panic ordering and buying that doesn’t reflect the actual need. We’re talking to manufacturers. They understand the situation, and I’m confident that they are being responsible….”

Demand exceeds supply? Find ways to increase the supply.

According to the NYT, “Some experts want the government to step in and educate the public about the dangers of hoarding.”

But experts are not elected officials so they can say “outrageous: things such as:

“Hoarding by those who are well means that hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices could run short.”


“There’s no rational reason why everyone needs to run out and get masks.”

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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