Wednesday, March 05, 2014

State of the State While in a Deluded State

Rick Scott had his “State of the State” address this week, but it reveals far more about his state of mind than it does about the state of the state. Not surprisingly, the address contains one falsehood after another, and makes a vain effort to humanize Scott which is no more successful than it would be if you attempted to humanize the Terminator. It will also help me increase my list of reasons to dis-elect him, probably to 185 by the end of the day.

Let’s cull out the fact claims – and there aren’t many. 

I could talk about how our unemployment rate is now down to 6.3 percent

He can talkall he wants about it, but Scott ignores the facts: Much of that is due either to 1) a nationwide trend downward; 2) frustrated people leaving the workforce. But no, Scott would rather try to impress uncritical voters with a number than tell the truth.

How our crime rate is at a 42-year low

This is true by itself, but Scott deserves no credit for it. FDLE stats show that the crime rate in Florida has been steadily declining since the early 1990s. Why? I’m sure it has a lot to do with quality policing in some ways, but let’s face it, it also has a lot to do with our growing population. Not even criminals can keep up with it.

How we have invested record funding in protecting our environment

We have? Florida is now ranked the second most polluted state in the country, and Scott has devoted a mere pittance to things like springs restoration. If he inflated the budget for it this year, then it’s only because it’s one of those things he had a conversion on (like education spending)  after realizing that he wasn’t going to get votes by being a jackass.

Update: Politifact rated this one False.
While our tourism industry is breaking records

Of course it is. This is Florida, and travel is increasing as the economy worldwide slowly rebounds. Is Scott going to take credit for our beaches now?

Or how we have added more than 460,000 new private-sector jobs since the end of 2010

Once again, this is just normal economic recovery and has nothing to do with Scott. Here and later he’ll also forget that he promised 1.7 million jobs, not 700,000.

After this, Scott spends some time trying to make himself look human by relating stories about how he grew up poor. It really doesn’t work, because the Rick Scott who slept on the floor of his house in a sleeping bag disappeared into the haze of the wealthy one-percenter long ago, the one who doesn’t care what he does to people now in the same position he used to be. He got his; the heck with the rest of you. Wealthy barons like Scott use these stories to try to imply: “If you work hard like I did, you’ll get yours too. So you don’t need to ask for any help from me or the government.”

But the hard reality is that even if everyone had the exact same ability and opportunity, there’s no way it would be economically workable for everyone to be someone like Scott. To use an example from my list, which will represent the whole of industry, Kmart will always need a lot of cashiers. But they’ll never need more than a handful of corporate executives. Not everyone can become one of their executives, so inevitably, even if every worker at Kmart has a 200 IQ and earns a Masters’ degree in business, and is “diligent and hard working” as Scott puts it, most will still end up being cashiers. The tale Scott tells which implies that everyone can follow his lead if they just shut up and work hard (as he supposedly did) is nothing but a one-percenter fable used to keep the masses quiet.

Like Washington, Florida’s economy was driven into the ground by spending what some embraced as “free money.” Of course, there is no such thing.

Of course not. It comes from taxes, which barons like Scott do their best to avoid – by, for example, moving to Florida. The other day someone told me that if Crist were elected, Florida would end up with state income tax. Well, it’s probably about time we had one.

Florida’s big spending racked up big debt. Florida was in a hole. Unemployment was above 11 percent More than one million people were unemployed and our debt ballooned to more than $28 billion.

“Ballooned”? Not exactly. It was $24.3 billion in FY 2008. A rise of just under 4 billion is not a “balloon”. It’s maybe a puff.

Now if you think Scott was funny before, just wait. As we know, he likes to blame Crist for the worldwide recession of 2007 on. Here’s his response.

Some say these statistics were all because of a global recession. They say it doesn’t matter who was running our state – that anyone would have been just a victim of the times. 

I disagree.

As Americans, our freedom and our optimism make us anything but victims – even in the worst circumstances and the toughest times.

Our leaders especially – and every person in our state – are not simply bystanders in the arena of life where the hard battles are fought and history is made.

He goes on like this for a while, but the one thing he doesn’t do it explain what, exactly, Crist (or any state governor) was supposed to do about a worldwide recession. Optimism won’t pay your mortgage. Scott goes on about fighting battles and not being a victim, but he never gets around to explaining what, exactly, ought to have been done – because he can’t. The reality is that if he had been governor in 2008, he would have been standing around with his jaw dropping the same as so many other politicians.

Together, we have cut almost 3,000 regulations on small businesses.

There’s that large number again, but I’d still like to see a list of those regulations, and proof that getting rid of each and every one of them was the right thing to do. Scott will never do that. You can be sure he didn’t read all 3000 of those and carefully consider the impact of each. No, all he wants to do is impress with a big number.

Together, we have now paid down $3.6 billion in state debt 

As the story above shows, this is nothing special. The state debt runs in cycles.

And paid back another $3.5 billion borrowed from the federal government  for unemployment assistance.

Really? And all of this while the unemployed in this state suffer through Scott’s non-working DEO website, and are told they can only have a few weeks of assistance to get them through the worst job market since the Great Depression?

The simple truth is that our state…just like our small businesses and our families….has to live within its means.  

We can’t spend more than we take in.

The problem here is that Scott made enormous, hurtful cuts to a budget that was alreadybalanced. The extra money was stashed away. We didn’t spend more than we took in. He took away what we took in and stashed it, oblivious to the suffering it caused. Now we’re paying the price, with things like more the 40 dead children because DCF was understaffed. For Rick Scott, living within your means, means it doesn’t matter who gets shafted. He can decorate it with words like “the hard thing” and “courage” all he wants, but it took him no effort or courage to slash budgets, to defund things like DCF, rape crisis centers, children with disabilities, and the salaries of state workers who made under 30K. He was never hurt by any of this. Scott doesn’t have any courage to speak of.

Together, we have cut taxes 24 times already. And my hope is that we are about to cut them again... by another $500 million this year.

Of course, up until now, those tax cuts have been overwhelmingly for businesses. It is only in the last year of his term – when he is up for re-election – that Scott thinks to restore a pittance to the everyday person, by way of a cut to tag fees. If it’s “our money” as he says, why did he take so long getting it back to us?

That’s why we are again proposing to invest record amounts in our K-12  education system. With your support, this budget will invest a total of $18.8 billion in education – the highest in Florida history. This record investment builds on our previous budgets, which invested an additional $1 billion in K-12 education for two years in a row.

What he misses, of course, is that this was following enormous, billion-sized cuts his first year in office – which he is only partly restoring, while we still lag far behind in per-student spending.

Of course, ensuring students get a quality education means they must have excellent teachers. That’s why, last year, with your support, we gave every fulltime public classroom teacher the opportunity to get a pay raise.

The raise in question comes after a 3% cut to teacher pay, under the premise of shoring up the pension fund. However, the money did not go back into the pension fund, but back into the state budget, and the pension fund did not need shoring up.

This investment is sure to pay off: Florida teachers are ranked among the most effective in the nation.

Scott is relying on a report that isn’t exactly known to be reliable. But of course, it will serve for his purposes.

 Because of their hard work, our fourth and eighth graders have had the largest achievement gains in the nation. Our fourth graders are now second in the world for reading.

This one at least has a semblance of truth. But it still requires Scott to stretch the truth, as usual. Florida isn’t “second in the world,” it was second in a sampling study involving worldwide participants.

 And, Florida high schools are 4 out of the top 10 in the country.

This one is half true. Like the prior claim, it requires a large number of caveats.

My commitment to every family dreaming to send their children to college is simple: We will hold the line on tuition.  Parents saving for their children to get a four-year degree from a public university today need to save over $53,000. Fifty-three-thousand-dollars. We shouldn’t celebrate how accessible higher education is until we can make it more affordable. That’s why I am proud that all of Florida’s 4-year state colleges now offer bachelor’s degrees for only $10,000.

This last one ranked Mostly False.Beyond that, this “McDegree” program is still in its infancy, and has yet to produce any measurable results. Will we get what we pay for? It’s a little early for Scott to start bragging, I think.

When we set out to jump start our economy four years ago, we talked about creating 700,000 jobs in seven years.

No, we talked about creating 1.7 million jobs, after being told that economists predicted we’d add 1 million no matter who was governor.

It was an ambitious goal. Today, we are moving the bar even higher. If we continue to pay down debt – like we do in this budget by another $170 million. If we continue to cut taxes – by rolling back the 2009 tax hike on annual motor vehicle fees so Floridians keep more of the money they earn and, if we continue to cut taxes on small businesses - by cutting the tax on business leases and rolling back the business tax to now exempt 4 out of 5 Florida businesses from paying it. If we do all this, we can make Florida not just the land of 700,000 new jobs. We will make Florida the land of opportunity.

This is fantasy of the kind that exceeds anything written by Robert Jordan. How, exactly, does paying down a mere $170 million from a debt that exceeds $20 billion going to create jobs? How is returning a mere $25 to a taxpayer going to help them create a job? They may have a smidgen more buying power, but collectively, that still won’t add up to much. Cutting taxes on businesses hasn’t helped that much so far either, as I’ve already pointed out.

The last moment of high comedy is this one.

The second reason for talking about my story is that I hope it explains just a little about my passion for creating jobs and opportunities for all Florida citizens. I know that reporters get tired of me constantly talking about creating jobs when they are asking other questions.  I know that some people think I’m too singularly focused on growing Florida’s economy. Well…all I can tell you is that we are all products of our own experiences in life.  I’ve seen what happens to families who are struggling to find work. I’ve had Christmas without any presents. And, I don’t want any of our people to ever feel stuck in those situations.

Well, the bad news is, because of Scott, far too many in Florida do – and this is just Scott’s amazing excuse for not answering questions about other important issues that he doesn’t have a good answer for. Only a CEO with the mental gymnastics of a lizard could come up with a way to spin question avoidance into a positive.

That’s the state of the state. How surprising is it that the state is in the state it is in, when our current governor’s state is one of deluded fantasy-spinning to this degree? Falsehoods, half-truths and quarter-truths, rage all through this speech.

Let’s make sure Scott’s lies are exposed – and that he has a very bad Christmas this year.

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