State lawmakes need to learn the rules

In the old days, a virus swept the land. It lodged in the inner ear and from there went straight to the brain. Children and teenagers were particularly susceptible and then huge populations of college students contracted the disease. I refer, of course to the “Like Virus.” “And I’m, like, my boyfriend asked me to like go out with him this weekend.”

Now, a new virus is running rampant and has infected many of the older adults in this country, including me. It is more subtle and you have to listen for it carefully but it is so there. There! Did you hear it? It is the word “so.” Listen on radio interviews. Listen in doctors’ offices. It’s a tick. It gives the speaker an extra moment to think before they answer. Unfortunately, this writer has contracted the “So Virus.” Here then are some of my political insights about New York state. Look for the “so.”

So, did you hear that the Democratic leadership in the New York state Senate decided to take a trip to China? This in the midst of one of the worst fiscal crises ever, as the state faces a climbing and seemingly insurmountable deficit. They are using either their campaign money or money from the Asia American Business Center. True, it isn’t the public dole but it still smells lousy. The public doesn’t like it when others pick up the tab and they don’t like it when campaign money is used for things other than campaigns.

So, do you think that their constituents are buying for a single minute that this is the real thing? Unlike their more accomplished congressional brethren who actually do have international responsibilities, taxpayers think these people should be staying put, working on the fiscal crisis.

At a time when they are under an ethical dark cloud formation, when polls show them to be despised by the general public, they just can’t seem to get the idea through their thick skulls that they have to be better, not worse, than the people who are paying their salaries.

So, why aren’t they getting it? How hard can it be to figure out that members of a civil service union facing severe financial setbacks or parents of students in a state university system that is being cut like a piece of meat in a butcher shop — to the point that our children will really suffer in getting on with their life’s work — will get very, very angry.

So, how did we get here? How did it happen that a group of Democrats who fought like hell to get into the majority have risked everything by doing something so politically stupid? This short-term, silly greed might well see them sliced and diced in the coming reapportionment.

So, do you think it stops with a trip to China? How about the whole Legislature giving itself expense raises when they must cut state spending? Did they really think that the newspapers, who are on them like fleas on a dog, wouldn’t hear about it? Did they really think that someone in the legislative bowels wouldn’t pick up a phone and call their favorite reporter just for the fun of making them squirm?

So, the point is that these people, who are unused to being in charge, haven’t figured out the rules. There is a subtlety to gaming the system. You so have to pick your times and your places. When people think that “legislator” is too often a synonym for “slime,” it’s time to rebuild your reputation.

So, you would think that our leaders would know that they face potential wipe-out, a crisis of the first order, around election time, and that they would think before they did stupid, symbolic things. But no —despite the fact that they have soiled their nests, they persist. They give the newspapers fodder.

I get press release after press release every day telling me of the good these folks do yet they can’t seem to help themselves from doing things that are just so intuitively stupid, they defy the imagination. I’ll bet that their antics have even caught the attention of the White House which seems to be micro-managing the party so that they can keep the recent Democratic Congressional gains in New York.

Maybe it’s time for the president’s men to call in the Senate Democratic leadership. The whole thing is just so, so.

Originally Published in the Legislative Gazette, 10-13-09

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