THE TOUGH CHOICES LOOK SUSPICIOUSLY LIKE EASY ONES

Posted in Rants on March 2nd, 2010 by Ed

In news that can't be interpreted independently of my arrival just a few short months ago, Georgia is the latest state to reach budgetary armaggedon. Having already gotten $265 million in rather draconian cuts out of the state university system, the state legislature yelled "Surprise!" and flying drop-kicked us in the nuts by demanding $300 million more. Just to be clear, that's over half a billion in cuts from higher education in a state that is one city away from being Mississippi. This is going to necessitate closing entire campuses, eliminating entire departments, and firing tenured faculty – not to mention jacking up tuition, although part of the problem is that half of our students aren't paying anything anyway (why make white people in the suburbs pay tuition when we can send their kids to college for free with money taken from poor people?)

The last round of cuts hurt, bringing furloughs, layoffs, and paycuts. This round will be fatal, especially for people like me who are untenured and easy to fire. These decisions are always made with the maximum of highly public hand-wringing and boilerplate monologues about how we had to "make some really tough choices" (the judges would also accept "tightening our belts" or "making sacrifices" for full credit).

This is at best a serious misrepresentation of the political choices being made and at worst, not to mention more likely, it is a bald-faced lie. There is nothing remotely "tough" about the choices Georgia and the other states in similar financial predicaments are making. This is, by any reasonable understanding of the motives and incentives of elected legislators, the easy way out. Raising taxes would be a tough choice. Making in-state students pay tuition (or at least pay a few tax dollars into HOPE rather than funding it solely out of the Lotto) would be tough. Cutting money-losing athletic departments from universities would be almost suicidal in this state.

The state legislature is doing none of these things; they barely have the balls to whisper them in private let alone propose or vote on them. Instead they choose to beat up on the schools, gut public transportation, and eliminate services that mostly benefit the poor. In the context of modern American politics this is the very definition of the easy way out. Aside from disagreeing with this course of action ideologically and politically, I resent the phony emotional agony with which our elected officials make such easy and expedient decisions. What I would like to hear is one legislator saying "Hey, in this hillbilly backwater we don't dare touch taxes. But our dedicated base of rubes will be perfectly happy to see us hack away at fancy book learnin' and the buses that poor Negroes use in Atlanta." It makes no difference in the practical outcome, of course, but I prefer to hear some honest commentary while I'm getting fucked.