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MONEY TALKS

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords brought a brainy guest to Tucson last week: Comptroller General David Walker, the head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

We couldn't make it to Walker's talk because we were busy learning about the latest trends in hard-hitting investigative journalism at a big alternative-newsweekly confab in San Francisco. (Just wait until you meet The Skinny's new online avatar!)

But we digress. Walker has a pretty depressing message for the American people: The United States government is going to crash and burn if it doesn't do something about Social Security and Medicare.

As part of his talk, Walker said that the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund is already facing a deficit and, as the baby boomers retire, the Social Security surplus--you know, all that money we're currently using to finance the federal deficit--is going to evaporate.

Walker points out that if Congress doesn't act to change the status quo, GAO simulations show that by 2040, the federal government would have to cut total federal spending by 60 percent, or raise federal taxes to two times today's level.

In a 60 Minutes profile, Walker said the federal government was suffering from a steadily growing "fiscal cancer" that required treatment to prevent catastrophe.

The GOP's reaction? Pima County Chairwoman Judi White sent out a screechy bulletin expressing her dismay that such a man would be allowed to speak.

"I am deeply troubled that Gabby Giffords, a woman who had promised to protect seniors, has invited a high-ranking government official who sees the programs promised to our seniors as cancer," White press-released. "We all know Gabby is always on both sides of each issue, so I want to be clear: Does she advocate the 60 percent spending cut, and how will she do it, or will she double the tax rate?"

The next day, White followed up with another release that included this canned quote: "Gabby Giffords invites a controversial Washington insider who calls vital programs for seniors a cancer and who advocates massive cuts in spending or massive tax hikes. Yet Gabby won't tell us where she stands, so I ask again: Does she support a 60 percent cut in spending, or does she favor a doubling of our taxes? I urge Gabby to be more open about her positions on the issues and end her Enron-style lack of transparency."

Enron-style lack of transparency? Puh-leeze. White is totally distorting Walker's point, which is that drastic measures will be necessary three decades from now if nothing is done today. Once upon a time, that would have been a GOP talking point.

So this is what the Republican Party has come to: A guy who makes the rather obvious point that Social Security and Medicare programs are going to bankrupt the country if we don't do something about them gets dismissed as a "controversial Washington insider."

Then again, the GOP has demonstrated throughout the Bush administration that it has embraced the notion that, as Lord Cheney observed, "Deficits don't matter."

We understand the political parties are going to belch forth stinky attacks in the Giffords-Bee race. (The Arizona Democratic Party complained last week, as another example, that Bee abandoned his responsibilities at the Capitol for an afternoon last week to meet with Karl Rove. Apparently, Gov. Janet Napolitano can bounce across the Southwest campaigning for Obama, but if Bee skips out for an afternoon, the state stands on the brink of collapse.)

If we're going to have to listen to these attacks, please, could both sides perhaps be a little less goddamn dumb about it?


SPEAKING OF GIFFORDS/BEE AND THE BOTTOM LINE

So a couple of weeks back, the Great KreSkinny predicted that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords would report raising something like $300K in the last quarter of 2007.

The big reveal finally came last week--and the actual amount was about $272,000. Not a bad guess on our part, although we did go over, which would have disqualified us on The Price Is Right.

At the end of the year, Giffords was sitting on $1.3 million--a tidy sum that will help her reach out and touch voters through TV, radio, telephone, door-to-door canvassing and mental telepathy, if they can just get the technology operational by October.

State Sen. Tim Bee's campaign is doing its best to spin its fundraising, but the bottom line remains that between August and December, while he was in exploratory mode, Bee raised less than $286,000 and blew through a big chunk of that, leaving him with just $161,246 in the bank.


MORE ON THE MONEY FRONT

We mentioned last week that we found it odd that political mastermind Karl Rove would do a fundraiser for the Pima County Republican Party rather than the Arizona Republican Party.

We suggested that maybe it was because some members of the GOP establishment have decided to use the Pima County party as a vehicle for fundraising rather than the state party, because they're not fond of state party chair Randy Pullen.

The latest fundraising reports show that the Arizona Democratic Party has clobbered the GOP when it comes to hauling in the big bucks over the last year. The GOP's state party raised a mere $214,000 between Nov. 28, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2007. They had just $2,594 in the bank at the end of last year.

During the same period, the Arizona Democratic Party raised $943,000 and had almost $92K in the bank at the end of the year. That's what we in the biz call a smackdown.

The state GOP's reports for federal activity paint an equally dismal portrait. The party had about $14K on hand on Jan. 1, 2007. Over the course of the year, they raised about $603K and spent about $542K, leaving them with about $75K in the bank. That's a big drop from 2005 (the most recent year without a federal election), when the GOP raised more than a million bucks.

Compare that to the state Democrats' federal committee. In 2007, the party raised and spent almost $1.8 million and had about $104K in the bank at the end of year.

We're sure the state GOP fundraising troubles have nothing to do with Pullen's decision to take on the congressional delegation during the immigration-reform debate last summer. Who needs the business community, anyway? The conservative base can give the party all the support it needs.


ACADEMIC QUESTION

Think you saved your school from closure by attending a Tucson Unified School District meeting last week and convincing the Governing Board to reject Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer's proposal to shut down four schools?

Not so fast. Board member Joel Ireland has already suggested that the board needs to take another look at shutting down the four schools Pfeuffer recommended, or maybe a couple of others.

We understand that school districts face a lot of financial pressures, especially with a new mandate to teach kids who haven't yet mastered English.

But here's what we can't figure out: Why is it that smaller districts don't seem to face these same problems? We're always hearing that TUSD has the advantage of economies of scale, but they also seem to have bigger financial problems than Amphi, Flowing Wells and other Pima County districts.

At any rate, you might want to get over to the School Board meeting at 1010 E. 10th St. on Tuesday, Feb. 12. The school you save may be your own.

More by Jim Nintzel

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