Arizona State University professor emeritus David Berman spoke recently at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe about our state's first governor, George W. P. Hunt. Berman said that today, Arizona is at a polar opposite position politically from Hunt's time as president of the convention that developed the first state constitution.
Hunt was a force to be reckoned with, a strong voice for establishing a populist state government.
Our current governor, Scrooge McDucey, as we already know, is indeed a polar opposite to Hunt. McDucey is far more interested in what will enrich his benefactors than ensuring the executive branch of state government serves the people of Arizona.
The contrast between the two political leaders -- from different eras -- is incredibly striking. I will explore that contrast even more on this blog once I finish reading Berman's new book, George Hunt: Arizona's Crusading Seven-Term Governor.
For now, however, I must point out a significant paradox. Berman's research into Arizona political history has demonstrated the underlying reason for Hunt's need to crusade. Early Arizona revolved not around scenarios from John Wayne movies but rather the corporate interests (largely mining and railroads) that had been exerting undue influence on public policy and lawmaking at the state capitol.
From Berman's perspective, scandals like AZSCAM gave life to the biblical notion that there is no new thing under the sun.
Will any of you (regular readers of the Arizona Eagletarian anyway) be surprised to learn that the 2015 regular session of the legislature disgusted me tremendously?
The leading indicators (similar to leading economic indicators, but in this case, leading political indicators) for the last few years have been screaming out warnings of what the Koch, Cathi Herrod and Alec-driven politicos would be doing as soon as they developed a solid enough base of political power.
In 1980, a mythology emerged with the election of Ronald Reagan. Widely known as Voodoo Economics, Reagan's people called it "supply-side" and "trickle down." Led by economist Milton Friedman, they sold the nation, and the world, on the fantasy that enacting public/economic policy and laws to deregulate and privatize EVERYTHING, and cut taxes on the richest citizens, would make everything peachy for working and middle class America. Those financial advantages would "trickle down" to the rest of us, Main Street America.
Now, 35 years of experience has proven that myth to be about as far from reality as a society can get.
Yet, in spite of the facts, Scrooge McDucey, AZ Senate Pres. Andy Biggshot and House Speaker David Gowan -- really the only three elected officials who had any substantive say in the development of the FY2016 state government budget -- went, as the latest pop culture expression goes, "all in" on the Voodoo. The House Ways and Means committee, which has the ostensible purpose of figuring out ways and means to pay for the functions of state government, spent the entire session laser-focused on bills to cut revenue sources.
Many people -- nearly all of them smarter than me -- have eloquently documented that the myth of Voodoo Economics actually plays out in massive exploitation and greed, imposing overwhelming oppression on the vast majority of Arizonans (as well as in every other state).
Now comes AD 2015, a year when quid pro quo ran amok at the Arizona Capitol.
You do not have to take my word for it. Long time Republican lobbyists and community leaders are now speaking out.
Kevin DeMenna, who has been lobbying in Arizona for more than 30 years, in an op-ed published by the Arizona Republic, wrote recently,
Like the proverbial dog that finally caught the car, it's time to confront the question of what to do next. A solid effort to reboot Arizona government by updating or eliminating outdated programs, processes, and laws belongs on the agenda. There is always room for improvement.Because he makes his living by sweet talking state lawmakers, his criticisms are not harsh and his suggested solutions do not necessarily hit the mark. But he does recognize the increasingly problematic conduct and does give hints about situations that are gravely in need of reform.
The fact is, populists (including populist Republicans) have been pointing to solutions for decades. However, the reigning cabal has persistently resisted enacting the solutions that have been staring them in the face for more than a generation. Clean Elections is a big one. Incrementally chipping away at it since inception and inviting the increasingly lopsided accumulation of power by monied special interests, we now have exactly what Koch/Herrod/ALEC want.
Community leader (and Maricopa Community College District Board member) Dana Saar, in a letter to the Arizona Republic wrote,
Now that another Arizona legislative session has ended, will our lawmaker's efforts improve our overall quality of life?
After all, isn't that why we paid them and for which we should all hold them accountable?
I don't remember seeing any form of enduring outcomes or ends that guide Arizona's legislation or policy. The old saying from Alice in Wonderland, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there" seems to be Arizona's legislative model.
It's time for our state leadership to establish a publicly accessible strategic plan that identifies a pathway to what citizens of Arizona consider their reasonable and attainable outcomes.
The Harvard Strategic Planning process identifies essential first steps in the development of a results-based accountability system and asks the following questions:
Where are we? What do we have to work with? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? These questions are easily answered if one brings the community's vision to the table. (emphasis mine)Both DeMenna and Saar obviously recognize the same problems anyone paying attention would see. They may not easily embrace the solution-oriented approach Democratic lawmakers and activists suggest, but I have to rejoice that people of all political backgrounds are getting fed up with the status quo at the Capitol. If people from all points on the political spectrum DO come together to discuss the community's vision, common ground can be found.
When that happens, we'll be able to see, as Ralph Nader wrote in Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.
Many major changes can be accomplished in areas where self-described liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and progressives all agree on the goal, not because they are pushed to these stands by pressure groups, but because they feel it is the right thing to do. But beyond words, it requires what Republican Bruce Fein calls "advocacy without an agenda."**In the meantime, people like Saar and DeMenna might want to look back and recognize that the leading indicators have been there all along and the fundamental reform necessary (along with ideas they may have worth considering) is to stop electing people who have the hooks of the Koctopus, ALEC and Cathi Herrod into them so deeply that they can't make independent judgments and decisions in the best interests of Arizona and its people.
** Pages 4-5 in the hardbound edition. Nader footnotes that the Fein quote comes from an interview he conducted with Fein on October 31, 2013.