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Olympia Album #5

President's Day.  The rest of the world has it off, but the Legislature keeps grinding on.  The State Constitution limits the session to 60 days, and that includes Sundays and holidays.  On days like today the folks who have the day off like to schedule rallies and protests at the State Capitol.  Today we had two.  Both on extreme opposite sides of the issue.  The state is suffering through a terrible budget crisis like many states are.  Being a state with no income tax, the state budget runs on sales tax mostly and because people aren't spending, tax revenue is down, and with people being out of work, state services increase.  It's a deadly combination, and it makes for a pretty tense environment here.  Days like today make it worse.

The morning protest was by the tea-baggers on the far right side of the spectrum.  Most of the folks on this side are very very angry and hostile at the Obama administration in particular, and at state leaders here who want to raise taxes to dig out of the budget hole.  They are cheered on by talk-radio bloviators and tend to worship the water Sarah Palin allegedly walks on.  They all look like creatures from one of my favorite web sites, peopleofwalmart.com  They took over the front steps with placards and posters of Obama as Hitler and saying "Keep your government hands off my medicare" and the like.
They shouted and cheered and derided the Government, complained about "illegals" and "aliens", and demanded no taxes and no health care and worried that "they" were out to "get them", confiscate their guns, and put them in "re-education camps".  (I'm not kidding -- there were signs on all of those topics.)  Then they all went away, probably up the road to Cabella's to buy more ammo or to Walmart for other supplies.

The afternoon brought on the other side -- lots of Union workers and social do-gooders with the day off, here chanting like it was 1960 and the Vietnam War was still on -- "What do we want?" the bullhorn carrier would shout, "Revenue!" the union sheep would shout back.  "When do we want it?" from the bullhorn, "NOW!" the sheep bleated back.  Funny thing is that all the revenue they want would come out of their pockets in the form of taxes passed on to the things they buy, it's not like it comes from a magic printing press in the basement of the capitol.
This crowd showed up in buses paid for by their union dues or in Priuses powered by the smell of their own farts, and marched up the street to the capitol steps which had just been vacated by the tea-baggers who moved around to the other side of the building.  Inside the building all these people are keeping the rest of us from doing work, and keeping legislators locked up in the chambers as no one wants to come out and talk as they would have to deal with the crowds of tea-baggers or the flock of union sheep.  Me, I'm waiting for the two to mix up and cross paths and watch the explosion that would result -- like matter meeting anti-matter.

Neither side has an articulate argument, both sides respond to their astroturf organizers and  bloviators on talk radio or union bosses and left wing "progressive" bloggers.  It's what's wrong with politics today.  This job used to be about sitting down and crafting good public policy that benefits everyone and improves the lives of all of us.  Now days it's zero-sum, winner take all, run to the extreme and try to take over.  It seems on one cares about getting the policy right and working it out together these days.  To his credit the President is trying -- inviting Republicans to sit down and work -- but recognizing this doesn't benefit them, they aren't coming to the table. 

And all these "real people" tend to slow the process down too -- I've often said we'd have a week long session if we just restricted the capitol to the members of the legislature and the professional lobbyists.  We'd all adjourn to the Spar tavern in downtown Olympia, smoke some cigars, hash it out, and be done with it.   That's what it was like in the good old days.  Maybe that's the way it should still be.

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