A wise old owl emailed me the other day and asked, "It's really something when Ducey has to deliver an address in an isolated location because he doesn't think the Legislature is safe but he's telling teachers to get back to work, eh?"
In the original Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi told Daniel, "You walk on road, walk on right side, safe. Walk on left side, safe. You walk middle, sooner or later (sound effect), you get squished just like grape."
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is long overdue for being squished like a grape. He's the smarmy kind of politician who tries to offer a little bit of appeal to everybody. And now he's doing it again with education.
"I'm all for public education...as long as it doesn't cost too much...but private education is great, too and we need to help parents send their kids to private schools by diverting tax money for that...but we can never raise taxes...as for the pandemic, I think you should wear a mask, but I'm not going to tell you to wear a mask, but I think you should wear a mask, but I don't think mayors should be able to force you to wear a mask, but you probably should wear a mask, but I'm not telling you to wear a mask..."
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. Taxes pay for schools and roads, police and fire protection, our military, and so many other things. But somewhere along the way, "tax" became a dirty word and cutting taxes became the singsong mantra used by politicians with no brains or imagination to entice voters with no sense of community.
A majority of Americans believe that foreign aid makes up 25% of the federal budget while, in fact, it's actually less than 1%. They also believe that we are one of the highest-taxed countries in the world; we're not even in the Top 20. I sincerely believe that Americans are generous by nature, but for some reason when it comes to paying for all of the services that they want and expect from their various layers of government, people's sphincters seize up and their wallets slam shut. We, as a society, should be better—and smarter—than that.
A great politician would be able to explain why higher taxes are necessary, while reassuring their constituents that the increased revenue will be used wisely and prudently. A good politician will commiserate with the citizens, trying to explain the need for taxes while sharing in everybody's pain. A crummy politician (like Ducey) can remain in office by blathering on like Richard Pryor's pimps on cocaine ("be talkin' all the time but don't be sayin' sh-t") and then ending with "Let's cut taxes!"
It's like that scene in Billy Madison where Billy, in front of a packed high-school auditorium, is asked about the Industrial Revolution but instead talks about the children's book "The Puppy Who Lost His Way." After babbling on for a while, he realizes that he has lost his audience, so he yells "Knibb High football rules!" and the crowd goes crazy.
A quick aside: This shouldn't matter, but it does (to me). I can't watch Doug Ducey talk, because when I do, I see Richard Kind. (Google him; you're sure to say, "Oh, I've seen THAT guy a million times!") He's got a unique face, a distinctive voice, and a marvelously whiny way of talking. Watch a clip of Richard Kind, then watch Ducey. They both make the same faces, their mouths move the same way, and they both linger over certain syllables in words. It's uncanny and quite distracting. In 20 years, Ducey will no longer resemble Richard Kind. He'll look like Statler and Waldorf, those two crotchety guys who sit up in the balcony and heckle on the Muppets.
While I am certain that there are a handful of teachers in the state that are just as happy as pigs in slop to be able to stay at home and teach in their pajamas, the vast majority of teachers want desperately to get back in the classroom and fulfill their life's calling. But they shouldn't have to risk their lives (or those of their families) to do so. If Ducey had done his damn job instead of walking down the middle of the road (thereby managing to piss off everybody—the people who are concerned about health and those concerned about commerce), Arizona wouldn't be worst place in the entire world for COVID cases.
Teachers and students are doing the best they can under horrible, once-in-a-century (we hope) circumstances. We desperately need to get the vaccine into the arms of teachers as quickly as possible. But we can't rush them back into the classroom before it's safe to be there.
And, instead of talking about health and safety, what is our jackass Governor talking about? Money. In his State of the State, delivered from a bunker somewhere, he said, "...we will not be funding empty seats or allowing schools to remain in a perpetual state of closure."
Who cares if teachers die? I want to cut taxes!