So I'm reading an item in the LAT about the city facing a $100-million budget shortfall, even after the Council grudgingly approved some cost-cutting measures. And then I read how City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana says this is actually good news because before the deficit was $400 million. "One hundred million sounds like a lot, but when it started out at $400 million, it's much more tangible," he said.
Then I notice Mayor Villaraigosa talking about his plan for a mass transit building boom that would have mega-billion dollar projects completed within the next decade instead of the 30-or-so years that the experts are saying it will take. A Times reporter asked how exactly he expects to make this happen, and the mayor's response was, "Yes, this is a stretch goal. Yes, this is going to be tough, but I think by now folks shouldn't count me out." He said pretty much the same thing the other day on Larry Mantle's "Airtalk." No specifics, no game plan - just take his word for it.
I can't tell you how depressing it was to hear those comments. Folks shouldn't count him out? $100 million is more "tangible"? What planet are these people living on? For more than a year it's been clear that L.A. officials hadn't the vaguest notion of how to cope with this terrible economy - and guess what? They still don't. This is what government has come to, and as Peggy Noonan notes in this morning's WSJ, it's happening everywhere - all parties, all levels of government.
The biggest threat to America right now is not government spending, huge deficits, foreign ownership of our debt, world terrorism, two wars, potential epidemics or nuts with nukes.The biggest long-term threat is that people are becoming and have become disheartened, that this condition is reaching critical mass, and that it afflicts most broadly and deeply those members of the American leadership class who are not in Washington, most especially those in business.
Part of the trouble, Noonan explains, is that our problems are too big and complicated for governments to fix. So we end up getting the old the old warhorses - tax more, tax less, regulate more, regulate less. "In the long term everyone--well, not those in government, but most everyone else--seems to know that won't work," she writes. There is little imagination, virtually no courage, and, well, just a mindlessness when it comes to running government. Again, at all levels.
They don't feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases--"strongest nation in the world," "indispensable nation," "unipolar power," "highest standard of living"--and are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally. We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they're not optimists--they're unimaginative. They don't have faith, they've just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don't mind it when people become disheartened. They don't even notice.