I had an interesting experience this evening - I attended a hearing conducted by the Oregon State Ways and Means Committee, who are considering 118 new ways to milk working Oregonians via new taxes and "fees". Here are a few of the things that I thought made the hearing "interesting":
1. The hearing was held in Ashland, OR in the Student Union Building of Southern Oregon University, a 42 mile drive one-way. After finding the campus it took another 15 minutes to find a place to park, then it was a ½ mile trek to the Student Union.
2. Everybody had to sign in at the door, which was no big deal.
3. The room seated about 400 people, with another 75 or so standing along the inner walls, and about 20 outside on the adjacent patio. Let's call it 500 people just for a round number.
4. The hearing was scheduled to last 3 hours, but after the moderators explanation of what was desired ("2 minutes time allotted for each speaker vs. 3 minutes advertised, no applause", and the how total hearing time had been reduced to 2½ hours), and the introductions of each of the Senators and Representatives on the committee, there was only an hour and 45 minutes left.
5. If only 1 in 5 wished to be heard that would be 100 potential speakers. But, at 2 minutes per speaker, only 52.5 people (105/2=52.5) could be heard, and the remaining 47.5 would just be mad as hell.
6. Somehow they allowed "chain testimony", where one person was called upon to speak, and then they passed the microphone to as many as 3 of their allies. The representatives of the Developmentally Disabled took full advantage of this tactic, knowing full-well that nobody would dare to call them on it for fear of being labeled insensitive. This display was an obvious emotional ploy to gain sympathy for their cause, burning up precious minutes while the DD attempted to express themselves as they stumbled and were coached through their talk. It was an improper use of extremely critical time, but their handlers are battling for limited available funds. Can you blame them?
Now, here's how I saw the process of our government at work for us:
1. There were undoubtedly other venues available in which the hearings could have been held. However, by insuring limited available parking, and holding the hearings on a University campus
the odds of sympathetic support for the "tax and spend government" were significantly enhanced.
3. Approximations - (insert old adage of "close enough for government work" here).
4. Reducing the available time for citizen comments served at least two purposes:
a. Insured more people were provided an opportunity to be heard.
b. Insured that nothing of any real significance could be brought to the attention of the committee.
5. My math is good.
6. Poopoo propagates.
What did 95% of the people who spoke want? They brought emotional pleas wanting Oregon to save their program. "I represent the...", "I'm from the...", "Our program is vital because...", Whine, whine, whine - want, want, want! Only one person actually asked for fiscal responsibility from the government! Do what is necessary in these difficult economic times, when Oregon unemployment is the second highest in the nation - make those cuts in the areas that give us the least return on our tax dollar! Eliminate pork! The citizens cannot be taxed into prosperity, nor can the government spend its way to a balanced budget.
I was not that person. Although I was prepared to talk along a similar line, I was one of that group of 47.5 previously mentioned.
The entitlement whores were out in force with their beggar bowls, asking the government to save their program. Where do they think the money for those programs comes from? Is there a money tree arboretum in Salem? Does the State Legislature have a paper route? NO! It's TAX money! And, the only way to save all the giveaway programs is to increase taxes. Are these people out of their minds? (I should probably define the adjective "entitlement whore" about now. In my mind, an "entitlement whore" is somebody who would trade any of our freedoms for a handout from the government. They believe that they are entitled to the same things that most people have worked to acquire. Most career welfare recipients are glaring examples of "entitlement whores".)
Basically, I got the feeling that the entire hearing was simply a box to be checked off, indicating that the illusion of concern for citizen input was maintained. Call it a "feel good" exercise. I'm sure some people felt that there was a genuine concern for their input, and that it would be seriously considered in the decision making process. I also doubt that any of those people were members of the committee.
I could be wrong about this... what do you think?