Throw pillows

$6222 per person.

That’s about what the state budget is.

$28,000,000,000 as in billions. Divided by 4,500,000 residents, roughly. That’s what the state spends.

Then there’s the individual parish and city expenditures, let’s say another $5,000,000,000 as in five billion. Now let’s add, oh, I don’t know, what is 4,500,000th of $3,800,000,000,000 as in trillions. That’s $84,000 a person. These are the numbers we deal with. Can they be real? Are we really taking 50 to 60 percent of everyone’s income and redistributing it to the ‘toon, or is it tune, hmm, of $90,000? And they say there’s poor people in America? And no more middle class? And the rich aren’t paying their fair share? Who’s doing the counting here? Are we spending this much?

Sure we are. It’s wild isn’t it? To what purpose is confusing. For today’s headlines are about some funny stuff with money in the budget. It seems that there’s an artificial reef fund of some $10,000,000. According to the State Wildlife & Fisheries Secretary, Robert Barham, “oil and gas companies donate money into the artificial reef fund to turn obsolete platforms into artificial reefs to attract life marine life and create fishing spots.” Though exactly why $10,000,000 is need to scuttle a rig is not said.

On the other hand, ah, yah, well, I know where there’s one “obsolete” rig that’s not going to be an attractive reef for a while. Or maybe not, for no one really knows how long it will be before the Deepwater Horizon are will be inhabitable by fishies. Mt. St. Helens did blow up, not unlike our oil leak, and did destroy and befoul a few thousand square miles of nature’s bountiful energy, ash, toxic fumes, wildlife killing plumes of white hot heat and falling trees kabonking moose on the head. It’s been some 30 years now, and it’s coming back just fine, in it’s own sweet time, as nature does.

Still, the money is the issue. Now, the legislature did apparently take, no, “Move,” this $10 million, and “move” $18 million in “emergency funds” to, as our Advocate puts it, “to help pay for $30,000,000 in projects they deemed important for their districts.” Yep, and the governor, brilliant man he is, did go sign this Senate Bill 711, which is now, as they say “law of the land.” Certainly it’s not law for the fish, for the reefs shall not be.

Yesterday our Advocate did offer up the sob stories of five legislaTORS, as they pronounce it here, who had little $100,000 to $300,000 pet projects vetoed by Jindal’s use of the line item veto. So the governor, very well informed, on top of things at all times, it’s said, found a few measly hundred thousand to cut, and the legislators did say that it was for “political reasons,” because the guys would not vote the way the kahuna wanted. Not that this hasn’t been going on since at least Huey Long made it a state sport. Kahuna hunt for votes, kill pets of wandering legislators. It’s the Louisiana way, unique, unless you count the other 49 states where they have a similar game to play.

But still, who wouldn’t want a pet project? Most of us are lucky with a dog or a cat. I’d like a project of a new piano – but alas, I spent $6222 on state services, including some other guy’s pet project.

But amazingly the governor did miss the $30,000,000 in pet projects that he should have vetoed. Not only that, he actually threw our emergency money in a time of emergency into the pet bowl, to be slobbered up by legislators. He also threw in $10,000,000 in “donated” money into the pet bowl. Barham says it breaks contracts, so I’m sure the lawsuit will be forthcoming no? Or can a cabinet secretary sue the governor? Or can the oil companies who donated the reefs sue Jindal?

And while I don’t mind the state sort of coordinating the reefer madness, perhaps this is something that also could be done privately. Like, all those enviro-groups, so busy for the fish, couldn’t get together with the reef donating oil companies and sink them where they thought best? So, because the government is involved, with its politics and favoritism, and funny bunny money ideas not much different than Marie Antoinette had, things donated for one purpose to a third party don’t get used. As if the things were donated to the environmental groups who might just be professionals at reef making. Surely there’s a fish expert in the menagerie of enviro-protection groups, no? And if the oil companies sat down with the enviro-groups, like the lamb with the lion – though who is who is hard to say, given the high caliber lawyers they both have – and decide where to sink the rigs? Then they could take that plot map and go to the state and feds and say, “well, guys, we got 10 rigs and 40 potential good sites, what do you think?” And thus the thing be done.

But no, we get political stuff. And weirdly, this is a time for the old Hearst sort of “yellow journalism.” I don’t want my paper, as it does, to just spew forth what the talking points of the government’s minions are. It serves me no purpose. I’d rather have the Advocate go look at the contracts of rig donation, and the law relavent to it, and then shout from the headlines –

Governor falls afoul of Article 4857 – rig donations law.

Or, conversely:

Secretary Barham misses reef law override section of Article 4857

But, like the soap opera, I know just enough to want me to come back for more, and see if the drama ever gets resolved. Which it doesn’t.

Still, there’s more to this odd story, and that of yesterday. A few hundred thousand, maybe a million or two cut from $30,000,000 – so where’s the list of “very important projects” or VIPs that the state cannot do without? Wouldn’t that be news? Shouldn’t I know why an emergency fund in the midst of an emergency is not going to the emergency?

It’s like someone is picking out curtains while the flood is rising in the house. Or perhaps worrying if the beds are made before leaving the conflagration consuming your domicile.

What pets, or VIPs, or, and let’s call them what they are: Re-election advertisements – can’t we go without for a year or two?

When real people are broke, or down to the “emergency funds” and a tree falls through the living room, they don’t go couch shopping. But that’s what our governor and our legislators are doing. Oddly, it’s a strange mix of Republicans and Democrats – showing the two to be as completely out of focus with reality as the other. And sadly, or “Lens” on the process, a.k.a. Our Advocate, is busted or something. For it tells me naught that is useful to see if some other people might use emergency funds for emergencies, and use donated goods for the purpose donated, and not like these bums for pet projects.

A major disaster is said to be unfolding at our coast line, like Huns at the Gates of Rome, and these guys want to put up a swing set in Minden or a horse barn in Winnfield. All so that some tyke who’s not going to have a job in the future, will be poorly educated, and will almost certainly leave for Texas where the tax burden is oh so much lower and the services oh so much better, if he doesn’t die of some oil pollution related disease first, has a place to go once or twice a year, in between his Wii and Monster Quest games.

And we wonder why the state needs $12,000,000,000 it’s said, in billions, for roads. I wonder how many bridges might be redone for $30,000,000? For bad bridges might be something you’d spend on before a playground.

Oh I know, we have to make priorities. The problem with this theory though is that the legislature can give itself more money to spend. It just raises taxes, fees, or moves funds around this year so that the hole made can be plugged next year with other funds moved to stave off reality. It’s sort of like a payday loan in a way. You know, one of those places that you can drop off a personal check held against your paycheck and walk out with some cash now for a pet project you might have. Which for most people is silly stuff like food and new shoes for the kids who grew four inches over the summer.

But still, that’s nearly $7 a person. Which to a legislaTOR is very cheap, what with their $100 or more “per diems,” which is a nice latin way to hide “daily cash” in the governmental process. But to a family of two or three kids, and mom and dad, well, that’s like, you know, $30.

And cut spending for legislator’s pet projects, and taxes correspondingly, $30,000,000 here, and thirty million there, to paraphrase former Democratic Kleagle Senator Byrd, and pretty soon you’re talking a few extra hundred bucks in folks pockets. Which might mean they don’t have to supplicate themselves to the legislature for a little electricity payment help.

Then, too, they might go spend some of it on all that retail stuff they need to survive, or their own pet project like new curtains. And the economy would be helped. And the retailers would sell more. And hire more. And those people would make money. And pretty soon there’d be real economic growth. And then all those people could give, say, One Dollar to some guy so he can build a playground and put his mom’s name on it. Or they could put a playground in their own backyard’s and invite the neighbor’s over for a good time, you know, organizing the community or something.

Or, say perhaps you asked the 4 million people in the state over the age of oh, 5 or 6, where they’d put $18,000,000 in “emergency funds” and I’d bet they’d say “clean the beach, save the birds” or some such. Why, if they had this $18,000,000, divided among themselves, instead of taxed away, they might even donate it to someone who actually knows what an oil spill emergency looks like.

But no, our governor, with his line item veto, and a multi million dollar budget short fall staring him in the face, did find good use for “emergency funds” to feed the pets of the legislators, which will, it’s said, help the people. For no doubt, a “Big Wig Legislator Community Center” is very much more needed now than a future in the future.

I can imagine someone in their home saying to themselves “Hmm, I have $18 bucks, should I buy some new throw pillows for the couch or should I fix the leak that’s flooding the kitchen?”

And choosing the pillows.

Such are the mush heads of our times.

If ever there was a reason to vote the bums out of office, I give you 30,000,000 of them right there.

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