Cry Wolf Syndrome
A recent opinion piece from James Spann, Chief Meteorologist for ABC 33/40 in Birmingham regarding severe weather explored the various reasons that Alabamians fail to heed the warnings of approaching dangerous storms. Based on meteorologists’ collaboration with social scientists studying why there was such a tremendous loss of life from the April 27, 2011 tornadoes despite the timely warnings of that day, Spann relates that he learned many things.
Given that my interest leans towards all things political, Spann’s first conclusion that there are “too many false alarms” leading to a “cry wolf syndrome” was an analogy of why Alabamians are also reluctant to pay attention to the current woes of the 2015 legislative session and the General Fund budget.
Along with a failure to respond to severe weather alerts, too many Alabamians, and an alarming majority of Americans for that matter, disregard the danger signs of government spending beyond its means at ALL levels, and only a major catastrophe of monumental proportions is likely to wake up the masses.
I have no doubt that we have a General Fund problem in Alabama but haven’t we known for years that this crisis was coming? When Gov. Robert Bentley and other influential lobbying organizations encouraged a “yes” vote on the September 2012 amendment that “borrowed” from the Alabama Trust Fund, didn’t many conservatives warn that this was only a short-term solution to a long-term problem? I might be more likely to give a pass to those newly elected to the legislative body, but what about those re-elected this past November? Quite of few of those members have been serving for more than one quadrennial term and have in fact been far too aware of the “kick-the-can” method of dealing with our General Fund, and that applies to Democrats as well as Republicans.
Every political pundit across the state is offering solutions to the funding crisis and many mainstream journalists are pointing fingers with glee at the increasing drama being played out with Gov. Bentley pushing for tax increases against the resistance of the Republican legislative body.
Because I believe in a more limited government, I tend to lean towards starving the beast so that we can truly determine the essential role of government at a state and federal level. Whether we reduce the size and scope of government or raise taxes, there will be pain because it’s time to face some hard truth about our state government.
On April 21st, Gov. Bentley released a 9-page memorandum to the State Legislature outlining the pain and suffering to come should the legislative body not concur with his budget and tax proposal. It’s ugly reading and is guaranteed to prompt an even uglier response from citizens across Alabama. Will everything come to fruition should Gov. Bentley’s tax increases not be enacted? No one has that crystal ball but I am sure that agency heads presented a worst-case scenario, and I also tend to believe that government, by nature, does not voluntarily shrink or relinquish funding without a great degree of gloom and doom prognostications. We’ve heard these warnings before with little to no negative consequences; however, we have relied far too heavily in the past on federal or borrowed funding to keep the state government operating and/or growing beyond its means, and looming shortfalls were disguised with Band-Aid solutions.
So it should come as no surprise that Alabamians are now discounting these warnings. After all, were we not told by numerous candidates in the last election cycle, including Gov. Bentley, just how wonderful things were in our state?
But in all honesty, I can’t place all the blame on politicians’ campaign rhetoric of how great we’re doing financially – John and Jane Q. Public likely don’t want to know the truth and based on the way we vote, whether at the local, state, or federal level, most are fairly content with growing government and helping to kick that can down the road along with those we elect.
Marcia Chambliss is the Alabama State Coordinator of Smart Girl Politics, a 501(c) (3) non-profit which focuses on conservative issues. She can be reached at: Marcia@sgpaction.com. Her views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart Girl Politics.