If you didn’t see it, here’s a taste…
Angela Lorio is tired of the begging, tired of the trips to the Louisiana Capitol to plead to shield the services that provide for her disabled son and so many others like him. But she’s gearing up to do it again.
Lorio, whose 3-year-old son John Paul uses a tube to breathe and requires round-the-clock monitoring, is among the many parents who rely on the state for assistance to help them keep their children at home.
“All we’re asking for is to not have to bury some of our children because of budget cuts,” Lorio said. “I am so tired, and I am road weary, battle weary, whatever you want to call it. It’s beyond frustrating. It’s unconscionable.”
Parents like Lorio are readying to pack House and Senate committee rooms, urging lawmakers not to cut those health programs as they look for ways to rebalance Louisiana’s budget and eliminate a $304 million deficit.
They’re among an array of advocacy groups, business organizations, lobbyists and others who use state programs that are worrying about what the budget rebalancing will look like and who will end up on the chopping block.
It goes on from there. But while Mrs. Lorio is surely tired of playing lobbyist at the Capitol and one can sympathize with her plight, the rest of us ought to be tired as well.
Because this is the tired old “Washington Monument” strategy at work. In Louisiana it’s so pervasive the public doesn’t even recognize it.
What’s the “Washington Monument” strategy? Taegan Goddard’s Political Dictionary describes it this way…
Named after a tactic used by the National Park Service to threaten closure of the popular Washington Monument when lawmakers proposed serious cuts in spending on parks.
Roll Call calls it “an old legislative ploy where an agency threatens to close popular services first.”
The strategy is used at all levels of government in an attempt to get the public to rally around government services they take pride in or find useful. Closing libraries on certain days of the week or reducing days of trash pick up appears to have the same effect.
So in Louisiana, you cut the budget by de-funding the kids with tracheotomy tubes. And everybody freaks out about it. Meanwhile, you have perfectly healthy people clogging emergency rooms with a minor sniffle and bleeding the state’s Medicaid program of hundreds of millions of dollars, and nobody is even paying attention. And the state just wastes money on bureaucracy across the board, which everybody knows but no one is willing to root through the jungle and identify that waste.
And why? Because here’s the truth about all budget issues, and it will bite budget-cutters on the derriere every time: the majority of the public wants to see the budget cut, and will vote for the budget-cutters. But the majority of the public isn’t passionate about budget cutting; it’s just something they want done and it’s worth a vote every four years. But the small minorities who are on the receiving end of that budget are extremely passionate about getting what they get from the government, and they’ll lustily scream about it 365 days a year.
Mrs. Lorio might say she’s tired of going to the capitol, but she’s not. She’ll be there again this year, along with lots of other parents and kids who get state aid. And they’ll scream about budget cuts which put that aid in danger, and that passion will – they hope, and they’re usually right – convince enough of the non-passionate budget cutters to leave their funding alone.
The intelligent thing to do is to take care of the Angela Lorios of the world, and finding the dollars to do so in the government offices where computer solitaire is played with a level of mastery ordinary people cannot fathom. But this is never done. Instead, it’s the Angela Lorios who end up being effective advocates for higher taxes – because if those aren’t paid no one gets to see the Washington Monument, and the kids don’t get their trach tube funding.
It’s an evil, vicious, dishonest cycle and it’s enough to make you despise government. But it’s what we have, and until enough budget-cutters become passionate about rooting out the waste and making tough decisions about the size and scope of government that make it fit within its budgetary box this will play out again and again in Louisiana. Don’t think for one second that John Bel Edwards, Louisiana’s politically-damaged governor who’s afraid to propose the tax increases he really wants in the coming special session, isn’t happy to see that AP story.