( – promoted by lowkell)
By Paul Goldman
Drowned out by the ultrasounds was another piece of super-charged Democratic vs Republican legislation which slipped through the State Senate on a strict 20-20 split broken by the tie-breaking vote of Lt. Governor Bill Bolling. It is Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Steve Martin, and backed by all of his GOP colleagues. On the General Assembly website, the description of its context is headlined this way:
“Substance abuse screening and assessment of public assistance applicants and recipients.”
Under the welfare reforms championed by Bill Clinton, states get a block-granted program known as TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Republicans in Virginia, and indeed around the country, claim that “waste, fraud and abuse” by welfare recipients using illegal drugs is busting state budgets. As I read SB6, it focuses on a subset of TANF’s needy families as viewed by local social service departments.
No one on the Democratic side of the aisle in the past years has written more than I have about the need to crack down on wasteful, out of balance spending; it was contained in my fiscal strategies for both Wilder and Warner. Indeed I have another article coming out in a few days on this very subject, with specific proposals I hope policymakers around Virginia, not just in the General Assembly, will consider. I believe the total savings and re-prioritization can reach into the many billions, if all the various proposals are enacted in one form or another.
And on that score – just to let the right wingers know what they can expect if they want to fight me here on SB6 – I have tried to get state and local officials to help me fix a glitch in the IRS law that forces localities in Virginia to waste BILLIONS of precious education dollars. That’s right, these funds, now wasted on unnecessary local construction expenses, could otherwise go to improving classroom and other learning needs so vital to a country whose ranking in education has gone from best in the world, to #31 in mathematics!!! (#17 in reading, #23 in science!)
The NEA weighed in big last month behind this effort, and so has Governor McDonnell, so I thank them a lot. But local officials have been AWOL in working with Senators Webb and Warner, and Congressman Cantor, all having been willing to take the Congressional lead since 2009. But they get no help.
However, this is a story for another day. Today, I write to applaud 20 Democratic State Senators who were not afraid to see SB 6 as ultrasound in a another form.
As best I can tell in reading SB 6 and the accompanying fiscal documents, the total savings might amount to .000001% of the state’s two-year budget. When I sued in the Supreme Court of Virginia to stop the General Assembly from passing an illegal pay raise – they backed down – and to stop them from padding their retirement accounts illegally – they backed down again – the savings were tens of millions more!
Indeed, if Senator Martin is really interested in fiscal responsibility, he can save a lot more for the state of Virginia by sponsoring legislation to cut back on unnecessary political spending by the General Assembly.
Even the fiscal documents accompanying SB6 don’t try to claim the bill is of the moment one might suspect, given the fact in other forms it has suddenly appeared around the country in about half of the state legislatures this year or last.
The fiscal document goes through the exercise of making it appear the backers have done a long and extensive mathematical modeling to justify their conclusion: as opposed to what we all know to be the case.
As Julius Caesar said, mass opinion must be fed periodically with bread and circuses so that the public is diverted from focusing on all that the political class has failed them by failing to do.
I know Mr. Martin to be a very religious person. So, I know he is well aware of Jesus’ admonition to him and to us all: Let he without sin cast the first stone. Other religions say the same thing. But none as powerful as Jesus, given the context of the admonition.
If SB6 was part of a package of legislation aimed at invoking fiscal and personal responsibility in a society admittedly suffering a downturn of both right now, then one could take such a package as a serious effort by serious people and view it as a whole. In that case, you could possibly accept it, even with reservations about certain parts. That is one of the realities of the legislative process.
But as a stand-alone measure, given the accompanying document, it is precisely the stone Jesus referred to had in mind.
Singling out welfare recipients, among the least powerful in our society, is hardly going to impress today’s religious leaders, much less Jesus.
I have heard, either directly or indirectly, how Mr. Martin and others voting for this bill have lamented the growing lack of respect, as they see it, for religious values in our society.
That is a discussion way above my pay grade.
But even those of us who don’t breathe the rarified air down at the General Assembly understand this:
If there is a growing lack of respect for such values in our society, then those supporting SB6 had best accept their share of the blame, for it is a thinly-veiled stone that was just as wrong 2,000 years ago as it is today.