The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Elliot: Your Legislature at work (don’t look)

The U.S. Capitol Building. A Senate health panel on Wednesday released a discussion draft intended to curb opioid addiction. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Some misguided souls believe the Iowa Legislature is boring. Hah. Boring like a jigsaw, and your fingers are on the board.

Beau Elliot

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So in today’s thrilling episode of Life and Where to Stick It: The Story of the Iowa Legislature … um, yeah.

You’re right. When we think of the Iowa Legislature, the first word that leaps to mind is not “thrilling.” In fact, among the first 12,000 or so words that leap to mind (which is more leaping than a kangaroo convention), “thrilling” is not among them.

I’m not sure what the Legislature can do about this, short of electing Sarah Palin as permanent speaker of the House. That would have fewer than few practical implications, but there’d be thrills and chills galore. Probably some other things galore, too.

Failing that, I suppose the Legislature could bring back the clown car. That’s where the Legislature sees how many legislators it can stuff in a VW Bug, and then it turns out somebody forgot to fill the Bug with gas. That’s always good for a few laughs, lots of legislators and no gas.

Because, in the immortal words of the great Donald Kaul, in legislative debate, pure drivel tends to drive out ordinary drivel.

Yes, I know; I’ve quoted Mr. Kaul before. But some phrases are timeless; they bear repeating. Such as, Don’t poke a grizzly bear with a sharp stick. Unless the sharp stick is two miles long.

(If you have a DadBod, say, along the lines of the Trumpster’s, don’t poke a grizzly with a sharp stick unless you’re already in the helicopter.) (And the helicopter is already 20 feet off the ground.)

And that pretty much sums up what the Legislature is good for. It basically exists so legislators can cut taxes and then discover a shortfall in the budget. That’s discover in the sense of, Hey, look what we found. A shortfall.

They almost sound delighted. Because then they can cut more funding for higher education. And then cut some more taxes. And discover yet another budget shortfall.

Don’t you just hate it when shortfalls become longer shortfalls? Me, too. Especially because it’s always so hard to tell exactly when the longer shortfall becomes a longfall.

We’re probably in longfall territory, at least as far as public-university funding goes. Hint: It doesn’t go very far, unless you’re talking about going away. Then it goes a long way.

A longer way than you might otherwise think. Let’s say the Legislature funded the UI to the tune of $200 million in 2001, then, in 2018, funds the UI to the same tune of $200 million. (Who knew legislators could carry a tune?)

That $200 million in 2001 is actually $283 million-plus in 2018. So the budget ax falls, and you didn’t even see it. Unless you were counting at home, and that’s never recommended. It upsets some landlords.

But, you know, legislators cut taxes. Find shorfalls. And cut taxes. Who needs a clown car?

That’s because conservatives, which the Legislature is chock-full of, believe that cutting taxes is the answer to everything, in addition to being the path to Nirvana. (I’m not certain why this is. Nirvana was a garage band, so the path to Nirvana was a driveway.)

So it goes like this: A great recession has hit, and unemployment is going stratospheric like a North Korean missile. What should we do? Cut taxes.

The economy is going great guns (though we’re not supposed to use that phrase anymore); in fact, such great guns that it’s overheating, and inflation is threatening to hit the boiling point of tungsten (which is somehow still not the inflation rate in Venezuela). What should we do? Cut taxes.

Turns out famed prognosticator Douglas Adams was right, and the Interstellar Planning & Zoning Commission is going to bulldoze Earth to make room for an Interstellar Nursing Home for Aging Black Holes. What should we do? Cut taxes. Quickly.

Next week on Life and Where to Stick It: Garbage Collection. (Oh, wait. That was this week.)

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