Friday, January 14, 2011

Planet Otter

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is living on a different planet.

In his State of the State and Budget message, he called upon Idahoans to turn back the clock to a time when people were born, lived and died in the same town, when welfare meant support from nearby family members and a sole wage earner could support a family.

On Planet Otter, families, towns, churches and stay-at-home women take care of the poor, the sick, the aged and the disabled. He hearkened back to his life as one of nine children of an itinerant electrician. When money was scarce, they repaired shoes instead of buying new ones.

Said Otter, "Now, I don't know exactly where it started, but over the years instead of going to our families, and instead of going to those volunteer organizations that we were either socially or spiritually a part of—instead of going and having those kinds of conversations, it just got too easy when government seemed to have a lot of money to say "let's start this program," and "let's start that program."

Outside Planet Otter, times changed.

Families went in search of opportunities, just like Otter's dad, and found them—far from their hometowns. Membership in religious and fraternal organizations dropped. Families sought higher education for their children, and to pay for it, women left the home and went to work.

The economy shifted and families couldn't survive on a single income.

On Planet Otter, people died much younger due to the untreated ravages of age and illness. With today's technological advances, people live much longer.

Said Otter, "It's time to become family again. It's time we accept one of the greatest burdens and greatest opportunities that our creator gave us, and that is personal responsibility.''

From Planet Otter, it looks like families are shirking their responsibilities.

But what about the governor's responsibilities?

Medicaid programs, which are largely paid for with federal funds, serve an average of 210,000 of the poorest, sickest and most disabled Idahoans with hospital, nursing home, mental health, dental and physician services.

Despite growing numbers of poor produced by the national Republican recession, the governor proposed no new taxes of any kind. Not on cigarettes, which drive up medical costs with every puff. Not on Internet retail sales even though the tax-free sales compete unfairly with tax-paying bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Gov. Otter should ditch the gauzy stories, come back to Planet Earth as it is today and live up to his responsibility to guide Idahoans through these complicated times with more than sermons.

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