Gotta have us some enemies. Enemies being ‘bout as necessary to politicking as money.
Judging from the targets of legislation percolating through the Florida Legislature, we’ve got ourselves a passel. Enemies lurk everywhere. And, oh my, retribution looks like a fast train coming (but not of the bullet kind).
Public school teachers, known saboteurs of our American way of life, were at the top of the hit list. Lawmakers this session worked quickly, yanking away tenure and tying pay raises to a new array of test scores, though without bothering to fund those mythical raises.
Students made the list. The Legislature has decided to roll back school funding by $400 a pupil and pack ever more of these diabolical little rats into core curriculum classrooms. (Getting around limits voted into the Florida Constitution by redefining “core curriculum.” History, calculus, analytical geometry, anatomy, zoology, Spanish – all that becomes so much fluff.)
We especially despise students with the temerity to wear droopy pants, a horror apparently worthy of its own state law.
We don’t like school boards. One bill would eliminate their salaries.
We don’t like judges. Especially Supreme Court and appeals court judges. Bills would cut their power, cut their budgets and cut their chances of getting re-elected.
We don’t much mind electric utilities and insurance companies jacking up rates, or farmers who get careless with fertilizer run-off or homeowners with leaky septic tanks. We love developers, especially if they promise to build over wetlands. But we loathe water management districts and the Florida Department of Community Affairs, with their niggling rules — a bunch of damn job killers.
We don’t like regulators (who remembers tow truck and moving company scams?) We don’t like unions. We don’t like state workers. Those who survive the coming layoffs (some 6,000 are goners) will see their paychecks zapped another three percent to pay for pension benefits.
We don’t like immigrants (except, of course, when we need cheap labor.) Some 30 bills dealing with illegal immigrants swirl about the Legislature, three off them modeled after Arizona’s round-’em-up-and-send-’em-home law.
We really don’t like the developmentally disabled, who’ve been leeching money from the state that could be going to corporate tax breaks. The proposed budget reduces their aid by $42 million.
We loathe foster kids, particular the $8.2 million program to help former foster children to adjust to life out on their own. That money’s gone. Along with $25.6 million (and 352 jobs) that the House of Representatives budget would eliminate from the Department of Children & Family.
Don’t like psychiatric outpatients. Half their treatment budget is gone. Along with money to pay for hearing aids for the poor, prescription drugs for the impoverished and assistance for the long-term unemployed.
Legislators may be against raising taxes, but they think nothing about raising tuition — again — popping college students with a 15 percent increase, while mulling over new limitations on Bright Futures scholarships. Don’t think of it as a tax increase. Think of it as sweet revenge.
Druggies remain perpetual members of the Florida enemies list. The proposed budget erases $43 million for substance abuse treatment. We’d rather send them to private prisons. Private-prison corporations, known for their generous political contributions, are definitely not on the enemies list.
We don’t like doctors, who think they have a right to ask about firearms.
We don’t like environmentalists, with their notions about restoring the Everglades, preserving natural spaces and protecting endangered species. “We are under assault on all fronts,” complained Eric Draper, director of Florida Audubon Society of Florida. “We’re getting beaten up pretty hard up here.”
It must be a struggle for dutiful legislators just keeping track of who to punish: teachers, judges, foster children, environmentalists, state workers, prison guards, probation officers, the mentally disabled, school kids, immigrants, college students, school board members, nosy doctors, the poor (especially if they’re sick), state regulators.
So many adversaries. It’s as if the wild and vengeful 2011 Legislature has adopted the old Pogo observation as the state motto: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”