The Gristle

Idiots Useful and Useless
  • Google+

IDIOTS USEFUL AND USELESS: The Washington Legislature adjourned last week without passing a state budget, prompting Gov. Jay Inslee to call them back for a special session that begins next week. Broad consensus that the budget must feature no new revenues or new policies to glean more from revenues already approved means lawmakers may come to quick agreement about state spending; however, several potential laws remain unresolved in limbo, including a proposal championed by the governor to raise the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon to help pay for maintenance of existing roads, as well as for a handful of pending big-ticket projects. The proposal would also allow local governments to raise taxes and fees to help pay for mass transit improvements.

On their way out last week, law­makers passed a transportation budget intended to maintain state roadways and ferries, but contained no new revenues. That earlier transportation budget passed the House by a 72-25 vote, with Democrats united in favor and Republicans split. It advanced from the Senate to the desk of Gov. Inslee by a 46-1 vote.

Neither representative from the 42nd District, Vincent Buys and Jason Overstreet, supported the bill; it was, however, supported by Sen. Doug Ericksen.

Perhaps the most significant bill to pass in the recent session was a stripped-down version of the governor’s plan to study and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (SB 5802). Under the law, an outside consultant will review both Washington state’s ongoing efforts to cut carbon emissions and similar endeavors elsewhere before reporting their findings to a panel consisting of lawmakers and the governor.

Again, the effort was rejected by Republican Reps. Buys and Overstreet; the measure was ultimately supported by Republican Sen. Ericksen, who chaired the senate committee.

Is Whatcom’s 42nd District receiving effective representation in Olympia?

A political outlook and doctrine is effective only insofar as it achieves goals, so one raw way of looking at the question is to ask whether representatives are introducing bills that can make it out of committee and get passed into law. In our bicameral system of government, that means a bill reasonable enough to gather support in both parties, in both houses, and that does not sufficiently alarm the executive branch to rise to a veto.

Another way of looking at the question is to ask whether, pass or fail, the bills being introduced have specific utility to the district.

The intersection of these models can define effectiveness.

Of eight bills introduced last session by Vincent Buys, roughly half had utility to resource-based Whatcom County—advancing either fishing or agricultural interests, or more generally focused on job creation. Of the eight, two passed with bipartisan support from the 40th District.

Of ten bills introduced last session by Jason Overstreet, nearly all were clones of national efforts crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the National Rifle Association (NRA), designed as wedge issues to leverage national conservative party goals. In Overstreet, these national organizations have found a convenient shill and useful idiot, someone just venal enough to call their work his own; for this, they give him campaign funding. None of the ten had utility specific to Whatcom County, and all failed.

Both through the nature of the senate and his long­evity in government, Doug Ericksen has graduated into the realm of elder statesman, introducing 36 bills as senior leader of powerful committees engaged in state infrastructure—energy, environment, transportation and health care. Of these, several with statewide utility, 11 passed out of the senate. One was specific to raspberry farming, another increased the number of authorized superior court judges in Whatcom County from three to four, certainly matters of great local utility.

So, a mixed bag of representation: one effective; another learning to be effective; a third a waste of time and oxygen in Olympia, with no hope of ever becoming effective.

While all state Republicans express in one sense or another the dysfunction of their party seen at the national level, the specific peculiarities of Washington (notably its regressive 1930s-era revenue structure coupled with a requirement to balance the state budget, held in check by a strong liberal voting base) tend to shave the roughest edges off the collective lunacy. State Republicans deal because they must. In Overstreet, however, the worst malaise and dysfunction seen at the national level is made manifest.

Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein, writing about the “broken GOP,” describes its characteristics:

“It’s true,” he writes, “that Madisonian institutions often yield gridlock… [but] party polarization isn’t nearly as important as the array of problems within the GOP—antagonism to compromise as an organizing principle; a closed information loop dominated by the Republican-aligned press; a conservative marketplace that blunts the electoral incentive for much of the party; and loss of interest in and capacity for public policy. Without those internal dysfunctions, even an extremely conservative Republican Party would be able to cut deals and allow the political system to function relatively smoothly even with divided government.”

A comical lack of interest in substantive public policy; the motive for obstruction and pointless “Constitutional hardball;” the closed lunacy of his views to the wider context of state goals are all strong in Overstreet, and matched only by his ineffectual weakness to build coalitions to advance any part of it. It’s in the harvesting of the conservative marketplace—collecting goods and goodies by acting as a footsoldier of the Far Right, immunized by that and safe redistricting to the absolute indifference of serving those who vote for him—that really sets Overstreet apart, in a class all his own.

Any idiot can deliver gridlock. Overstreet is such an idiot.

blog comments powered by Disqus


Past Columns

November 18, 2015

MELTING POINT: Think of it as a mathematical formula that describes a physical reality: A metal melts at a precise temperature. It takes an equally exact amount of energy—expressed in… more »

November 11, 2015

HUMPTY DUMPTY: Like a certain storybook egghead, the county’s jail tax proposition wobbled on the wall of passing in early election returns last week. But in strongly trending later returns,… more »

November 4, 2015

IMPERATIVES IN COLLISION: The big question going into this election was whether the population center of Bellingham, given so little to do on this ballot, would participate in countywide issues.… more »

October 28, 2015

TRICK OR TREATY: The coal industry zombies and their hobgoblins were haunting Cherry Point again last week—Montana delegates and corporate shills arriving in hungry packs to scan our coast with… more »

October 21, 2015

‘JAIL-ROADED’: Did the county bend election law in service to the jail?

Last week, on the day voters expected to receive their ballot and voters pamphlet they received instead a… more »

October 13, 2015

RIGHTING THE RULES: Whatcom County goes to court again next week, this time facing the Supremes. And on the eve of the update of their Comprehensive Plan, might significant portions… more »

October 6, 2015

THE TYRANNY OF ONE: Bellingham City Council held a special meeting this week to study and receive comments on proposals that will appear on the countywide November ballot. As several… more »

September 30, 2015

BUSINESS CLIMATE: Two major employers have announced layoffs, prompting discussion of the health of the local economy.

At one of the first candidate forums at City Club last week, Whatcom… more »

September 23, 2015

NO BAIL FOR JAIL: Oddities combine for one certainty, the $100 million jail sales tax proposal is struggling and in need of a Plan B.

With hardly a grain of… more »

Cascadia Weekly

Home | Views | | Archives | Advertising | Contact | RSS

© 1998-2015 Cascadia Newspaper Company LLC | P.O. Box 2833, Bellingham WA 98227-2833 | (360) 647-8200