The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

BUDGET BLUES: You may not know this, but here in our happy little burg a bicycle’s rear reflector must be amber. No other color will do: not scarlet, not strawberry, not crimson, not vermilion, not Kelly green, not even on St. Patrick’s Day; only amber will serve the purpose at hand. Now, in fairness to the always wise council of solons who govern our mighty micropolis, this particular bit of legal fluff was not their idea, although they might have come up with it if they weren’t busy plotting ways of injecting politics into the annual civic homage to the power of Gina DiNapoli’s breasts, of which more at another time. No, indeed, this legal privileging of amber over all other shades in the visible spectrum comes to us courtesy of the state legislature, an educational institution best known for annually demonstrating the concept of inertia to visiting high school physics classes. You see a lot of this sort of thing here in the Vampire State; worrying about the colors of bicycle reflectors (the reflectors on the front of the bicycle can stay red, for the time being) gives the assembled malfeasants who would otherwise be circling the state budget like a pack of starved lawyers at an accident scene the feeling that they are actually accomplishing something without actually letting them do anything, which would require them to bestir themselves and actually do something, and there’ll be none of that here, thank you very much. Here in the Vampire State we also have a state muffin (the apple muffin; we may graft, but we are regular), a state insect (Joel Steinberg), a state fossil (Mario Cuomo), and a state beverage (milk) that everyone in the state legislature is in favor of, just as long as they don’t actually have to drink the stuff. That’s odd, too, now that I think about it, given the power of the dairy lobby in this neck of the woods; you’d think the milk peddlers would come up with a forty proof chocolate milk, just to grab the legislators’ attention in between their prolonged bouts of looting and pillaging on the public dime.

In any case, the citizens of the Vampire State must endure this legal nitpicking because the legislature finds that it has precious little to do most of the time; our state, like all other states in this our Great Republic except Nebraska, which has a unicameral legislature, an arrangement that no doubt came about because those good and sensible prairie folk objected to shelling out their good hard-earned tax money to support not one but two sets of work-averse peculators, follows the organizational format of the Federal government, with its two houses and a chief executive and a snappy looking capitol building. This is what all of us who live here learned in the seventh grade, when the main focus of history class is the history of our state. This bit of civics instruction is, of course, pure nonsense; the Vampire State is a triumvirate, a government of three men: the governor, the senate majority leader, and the speaker of the assembly, none of whom like each other very much at the moment. There are other state legislators, to be sure, and I would like to think that some of them want to do a good job for their constituents, but you could drive a herd of sheep into the capitol building and get the same results that you get now. And better yet, sheep work for less than a legislator makes these days and during the spring and summer legislative sessions you can turn them loose in the public parks to graze, thereby saving a fortune in lawn mowing and fertilizer costs.

Now, the reason why none of these gentlemen like each other is fairly easy to grasp; it’s budget time and the state budget will be late yet again, just as it has been late for the past several decades. The reasons why the budget will be late this year need not concern us here; suffice it to say that pols in search of boodle exhibit all the table manners of an ill-bred shark in a feeding frenzy, and if they’re not trying to get money out of the taxpayers’ hide then they are out to give their campaign contributors in the much loathed special interests tax breaks that mere voters are not important enough to rate. At this point, Vampire Staters no longer wonder if the legislature will pass the budget on time, but rather how late the budget is going to be this year, a topic of immense interest for people from one end of the state to the other. Betting on when the budget will pass is a major part of the gaming industry here, with tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars put on dates from April Fool’s Day, which is when the legislature, by law, must vote on the budget, a date that, frankly, only suckers play, to New Year’s Eve, which is pushing the far edge of the fiscal envelope, but is not entirely outside the range of fiduciary irresponsibility, especially in this neck of the woods.

This year, though, there’s been a mad rush to get the budget in on time, or at least within spitting distance of on time, and so most legislators had to make some sacrifices, one of which was the pleasure of actually seeing what was in the budget before they had to vote on it. Usually, your average state legislator will get his copy of the budget out of the mail, peruse the table of contents and see if there’s anything worth reading, and then check the index and see how many times they get mentioned in this over-baked screed (they also want to make sure the printer spelled their names right) before looking over their shoulders and taking a quick look at the centerfold. This year the speaker and the majority leader thought that it would be better for everyone concerned if the legislators just skipped reading the budget altogether, as the budget can be a fairly boring bit of prose in need of a good Indian attack in order to hold the reader’s interest. Since, however, passing a budget without actually looking at the text makes people wonder why we bother electing a legislature in the first place instead of simply having the finalists of the state spelling bee legislate on the public’s behalf—they are available during summer vacation, if they don’t already have plans to go to Disney World with their parents and their annoying younger siblings—the speaker and the majority leader did make sure their legislative comrades each got a copy of this morbidly obese tome an hour or so before everyone had to vote on the contents; some legislators, bemused by this turn of events, pointed out to all and sundry that their copies were still warm when they got them, the ink still wet, and many a conscientious legislator wound up accidentally smearing charts and tables for subsidies to the state barge system all over their fingertips. Life is hard in the state capital, there’s no doubt about that, boys and girls.

But all is not lost, I hear. Rumor has it that lost in all of that verbiage there really is a good Indian attack; it’s in the ninth chapter, in between mandates for school bus purchases and a member item for a new state monument to Grandma Moses. After years on the warpath, the Trump Indians may finally get a reservation in their ancestral hunting grounds in the Catskills, and if you call now, you can get a reservation to see the grand opening of the brand new and absolutely spectacular tribal education center and casino. I know I want to learn all I can about Trump culture and show girls, and I’m sure you do, too.

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  • At 10:41 AM, Blogger Neil said…

    Vampire State? I always thought the Empire State was a little pretentious.

  • At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Yankeewombat said…

    I just want you to know that we in Australia have one state that has a unicameral legislature - all the others having and upper and lower house like the British parliament. Of course there are no Lords here in Australia so they tend to call them Senates which confuses everyone into thinking that the system is like the US, which it isn't. And that's that. But back to the lone unicameral state, Queensland, which resembles Nebraska in no way I can think of. Queenslanders are peculiar in that in addition to growing a lot of bananas and sugar cane, they refer to migrants, particularly those from Victoria, as 'Mexicans.' "Because the come up from the south", they inevitably explain. It also may be significant that in Australia that the color of automotive turn signals must be amber. I'm not sure if this requirement is connected to the color mandated for bicycle reflectors in New York. There may be a subliminal connection between the unconscious minds (in the Jungian sense) of what you call state legislators and we call mongrels.


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