Saying “Reform” Will Solve All of Our Problems!

The Columbian has a bold strategy to plug the horrible budget hole without the hassle of raising taxes or cutting programs that people depend on. Magic? No, silly. Reform. But without getting very specific or putting a price tag on it.

This special session was necessitated by a projected $2 billion revenue shortfall. Many lawmakers talk about dealing with this only by various combinations of spending cuts or revenue increases. Again, though, state Sen. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield, the Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, is advocating a third tactic that never seems to draw the attention it deserves: reform.

Oh. Reform. Of course. If we do things better then things will be better.

And Washingtonians have to wonder why reform never carries more clout in these agonizing budget discussions. After all, the concept of reform is largely (though far from totally) nonpartisan. Reform means simply changing the way government does its business, maximizing efficiencies. While conservatives advocate budget cuts and liberals insist on boosting revenue, both sides ought to agree that a bigger bang for the taxpayers’ buck would be a good thing.

It couldn’t be that there isn’t much money in the so-called reforms. That will require the rest of the article to mention some of the ones that will have the most “bang for the taxpayers’ buck” and really delve into them. How they effect the programs, how they effect the workers tasked with implementing them. That sort of thing. Or I guess quote one state senator.

Even with the limited attention given to reform, Zarelli points to steps already taken by legislators in that direction: “more choice for injured workers, a refocusing of the Basic Health Plan and disability lifeline, and clamping down on fraud and abuse involving food and cash assistance to low-income people,” all accomplished with bipartisan support.

You guys, all we have to do is cut the fraud and abuse budgets! Also, if we make Workers’ Comp and Basic Health less effective, it’s not a cut, it’s reform. Anyway, you know what would make this article the best ever? More vague suggestions from the same person without any attempt to see what they would do to state services and state workers let alone how much they might save or cost.

Surely, that cannot be the end of what can be done. In his article for The Herald, Zarelli advocated focusing on “long-term obligations that are huge cost drivers, such as state-worker pensions, health-care services, paying off the state’s debt and efforts to bring our K-12 education system into compliance with court rulings” plus at least having discussions about “services for non-citizens, state liability, non-Indian gaming, state workplace efficiencies such as competitive contracting and defined-contribution pensions, and how the state subsidizes low-income child care.”

Almost all of those things will cost money, or are cuts (except expanding gambling). This article promised something other than “combinations of spending cuts or revenue increases” and yet pay down debt is on the list? How do you expect to pay down debt without raising taxes or cutting spending?* Hopefully the next paragraph will answer some of those questions instead of being a whiny nonsense metaphor.

The reform menu keeps getting longer, doesn’t it? Why, then, are legislators so reluctant to place their orders?

It’s because most of those reforms are bad ideas, cuts by another name, or bland generalities. While some of them may be part of the solution, this article doesn’t make the case for any of them, and certainly doesn’t weigh the pros and cons. The legislature is trying to solve a $2 Billion budget gap, and the Columbian is proposing gimmickry and trickery while demanding we take them more seriously.

* Yes, grow the economy. Paying down debts in times of a bad economy is probably not the way to grow the economy.


  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “Zarelli advocated focusing on ‘long-term obligations that are huge cost drivers, such as state-worker pensions, health-care services, … state liability, non-Indian gaming, state workplace efficiencies such as competitive contracting … and how the state subsidizes low-income child care.'”

    Ah, yesss … we can plug a $2 billion budget hole by eliminating pension and health benefits for state workers, barring negligence lawsuits against the state, contracting out state jobs to private contractors who pay minimum wage without benefits, and balancing the rest of the budget on the backs of poor single mothers. Where have we heard this before?

    If the Columbian ever stops publishing WSRP press releases on its editorial page, people might think it’s a newspaper.

  2. 4

    Michael spews:

    Magical thinking as in there’s some sort of magic bullet that’s going to come along and save us so that nothing has to change and we can keep doing exactly what we have been doing. James Howard Kunstler and John Michael Greer use the term a lot.

  3. 5

    proud leftist spews:

    “Reform.” Wow. Yikes. I don’t even know where to start to confront such nonsense. Is that editorial writer, by chance, paid by the GOP?

  4. 6

    Ekim spews:


    Give them what they want. Make reform easy to understand and implement at the state level. Stop the flow of tax revenue from Seattle/KC to the Republican welfare counties. The money saved will easily pay for the $2 billion revenue short fall. The welfare counties can then either learn to live within their means or raise money some other way. Maybe take out a bank loan or something…

  5. 7

    rhp6033 spews:

    Whenever a Republican starts to talk about “reform”, you better get a firm grip on your wallet. Because he’s talking about “reforming” YOUR money into HIS money.


    Tort Reform: Ensure that insurance companies can continue collecting high premiums from policy holders, without ever paying out a dime on claims.

    Tax Reform: Making the poor and middle class bear the lion’s share of the tax burden so the rich can pay only a small fraction of their income as taxes.

    Government Reform: Taking away the social safety net so the 1% can get away with paying poverty wages and 3rd-world working conditions.

  6. 8

    rhp6033 spews:

    Republican tactics have, for years, been to muddle the issues to the point where voters are frustrated at making difficult choices based on incomplete or innacurate information. They insist that Democrats be very specific in their alternatives, then throw rocks at those proposals – using outright falsehoods, if necessary.

    Then the Republicans offer an “easy out”, a magic wand which will solve all the problems if you just vote for them. I first became aware of this when Richard Nixon offered a “Secret Plan” to end the Vietnam War in 1968, which he wouldn’t explain becuase it was, you know, secret.

    Then when we had to make some hard choices in taxes or budget cuts in the late 1970’s, Ronald Reagan offered the Laffler Curve which would magically allow us to reduce taxes but increase revenues at the same time. Even George H.W. Bush called this “voodoo economics”, and he was right.

    Realizing that the Laffler Curve no longer worked as a diversionary tactic, around 1989 the Republicans circulated studies from their own think tanks which claimed that lowering taxes on the top earners in the country actually created jobs by giving them more money to invest. After experimenting with that theory between 2001 and 2008, it’s only proven effect is to increase the wealth and earnings disparity between the top wage earners (the 1%) and the rest of us.

    Surprisingly, the current batch of Republicans are still clinging to this approach, despite the fact that it’s been proven to be false, and it is generating a huge backlash against them and the 1% it protects. Either the Republicans are paid lackys who are willing to carry the water for the 1% no matter how ridiculous their campaign, or they really are so immershed in Repubican propoganda over the past 23 years that they can’t recognize reality if it bit them in the rear end.

  7. 9

    rhp6033 spews:

    Speaking of “picking up the tab”:

    American Airlines’s parent company, AMR, has four major pension plans, with 8.3 billion dollars in assetts and 18.5 billion dollars in future liabilities. AMR is likely to ask the Bankrupcty court to relieve it of any further responsibilities under those pension plans as part of it’s Chapter 11 Reorganization.

    This transfers those liabilities to the Pension Benefits Guarantee Association. But it is already operating in a deficit due to the difficult economic circumstances over the past four years, and is unlikely to be able to cover more than a fraction of those obligations.

    Which means that employees who agreed to accept lower wages in return for a guaranteed pension will, at the end of their careers, find that they won’t receive their end of the bargain, unless the Congress agrees to subsidize the PBGA with additional funding – an unlikely event.

    But expect that the banks, leasing companies, and AMR executives will be able to withstand this storm very well, thank you.

  8. 10

    ArtFart spews:

    So this is supposed to be news? “Reform” has been a right-wing euphemism for “Let them eat cake” since before most of you were born, parroted by the Vichy Democrats (or should I just say, “the Democrats”) since before you hit puberty.