Sunday, May 01, 2005

"Elect me Governor of Commonwealth High."

Columnist Barton Hinkle at the Richmond Times Dispatch recently compared the Virginia Governor's race to a sandbox fight. For me, Barnie Day's suggestion of high school elections resonates truer. Remember how in those high school races there didn't seem to be any real issues? There were just some bright, well-spoken kids who wanted to be Student Council officers, but it wasn't like they were really going to do anything if they got elected. It was more a popularity contest revolving around who was a better athlete, who spoke like a "sissy," who had the neatest, most plentiful signs --- that kind of stuff.

Maybe this is the reason that so few voters pay close attention to campaigns during the summer. I know this is the earliest I've ever paid attention, and I'm not sure I've learned anything I wouldn't have if I'd awaited until September. For example:

Roads and transportation. Despite all the barking for more roads expenditures, has anyone in Southwest Virginia heard anything that makes you think we really, really need to spend truckloads of money on roads? I'm not saying we don't, I just haven't heard anything that convinces me this is a looming problem. How often do you get in your car, drive somewhere, and on the way say, "Dang, I wish we had more and better roads in Virginia? Gosh, why doesn't someone tax me to build another road?" Maybe this happens in Eastern and Northern Virginia, but down here, I'm quite happy with our roads. Got just enough. Don't need no more. Those people who live in the more congested parts of Virginia make 4 times my salary and have access to a bazillion cultural things I don't. Let them pay for their own damn roads. If I want to get to those spots, I-81 and I-64 are just fine.

Education. So we need lots more money in education? My affection for and confidence in public schools decreases yearly. Why pour money into a system which is abandoning the values that made America a great nation, a system staffed mostly by members of the liberal wing of the Democratic party?

A high school teacher friend of mine, a good Democrat, teaches in Fairfax county. He says he would never require his students to say the Pledge of Allegiance because this would cause too much "trouble." And discipline? Forget discipline. When my wife and I took our foster son off the highest legal dose of Ritallin, his elementary school teachers reported us to social services for child abuse. The reason was they had no system of discipline -- no standing in the hall, no sending kids to the principal, because these things were too "harsh," so naturally the kids went wild while they were studying the deep wisdom of Third World dirt cultures (which I saw in the Peace Corps). Of course, the teachers have no problem with controlling the kids with drugs, not even kids whose lives are wrecked by drug-addicted parents. That is OK, even if the kid hasn't gained a single pound in 1 1/2 years and eats only at midnight because that's when the drug's appetite-suppression wears off. My wife and I won that battle and the kid has been drug-free for over a year. He's a healthy, happy "B student with weight normal for his age. The school has not changed. The teachers continue to treat my wife and I like Abu Ghraib prison guards. I'd tear the "Kucinich for President" bumper stickers off their cars if I didn't think I'd get caught.

Stories like these are legion. Am I advocating completely abandoning public schools? No. I'm just saying I don't feel like pouring souping up the motor of a tractor when its steering isn't working.

Medicare. Norman over at "One Man's Trash" offers good notes on this, and though he's talking about the candidates, you can count me in his statement that, "I doubt...they have a clear picture of how this program is eating away at the state's finances."

Absolutely. No one has explained the problem to me, and I have this sneaking suspicion that politicians definitely won't. Because, from what little I know, they would have to say, "Look, we and our brethren in Congress have arranged a very big transfer of wealth from you to older folks. And, uh, some of that transfer is for things like Viagra, unneeded doctors' visits, rides in ambulances to relieve boredom, a new prescription benefit for medicines that wouldn't be needed if some folks didn't overeat, smoke and refuse to exercise. And, oh yeah, it's not means-tested, which means while you are sitting in traffic pondering whether you can afford to replace your used 10-year-old car with a used 5-year-old heap, the elderly fellow in the spiffy new Town Car next to you is on his way to fill his Viagra subscription before he heads to the golf course. Sorry about that. He gets the Viagra; you get the shaft."

I mean, for goodness sakes -- VIAGRA -- nobody needs that at Commonwealth High.