Friday, January 25, 2008

Embrace the Chaos

My father, despite being a successful businessman and owner of the complete set of Clint Eastwood movies, is not the first person I look to for political insight.

Maybe I'm not giving him enough credit. His latest zany scheme would save the state umpteen millions of dollars with no more chaos than would result from a herd of paranoid elk stampeding through an MPBN membership drive:

Invert school vacation. Shut down classes for three months in the winter, and keep them going through the summer.

As heating oil prices soar to $19 a gallon by 2012, this unlikely idea will look more and more appealing. Still, the powerful summer camp/Little League baseball lobby will never let it happen.

But conventional wisdom has the Maine taxpayer reaching his or her breaking point relatively soon. Actual relief will probably require radical changes:

“... in other news, the legislature has passed an emergency supplemental heating bill that requires all cremation to occur in the state house lobby...”

Is Baldacci the man to turn things upside down? True, he's not afraid to be just a teeny bit unpopular. According to a recent poll of likely voters in my area (my area is the living room), the governor's approval rating is close to 50%, but his annoying little pipsqueak rating has skyrocketed to almost 90%.

In short, it's hard to imagine him with a menacing grimace, pointing his .44 magnum at the legislature, and asking, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

He's more likely to do things the general population finds moderately irritating (SAT initiative, Sunday hunting, consolidation, telling that restaurant story again), but not bothersome enough to divert attention and resources.

Switching school vacation to the wintertime is a move too gutsy for the likes of our current governor. It would cause severe problems for huge numbers of Mainers, the most obvious of which is that summer jobs would have to become winter jobs.

Teenagers who save up for college (“college” is a popular euphemism for “first car”) by landscaping or by serving ice cream would have to start doing apprenticeships or job shadowing for the actual careers they might have some day.

The many teachers who earn second incomes by prostituting their dignity to the tourism industry would be especially put out. The would have to (ouch) get paid more from their regular jobs.

And it's hard to motivate students as they bake in the 90-degree heat, staring wistfully out the window at the beckoning sunshine, wishing they could burst outside and run home to their air-conditioned rooms to play video games.

Meanwhile, families who like to spend their summers “up to camp” would instead have to vacation “down to Florida,” or maybe even (gasp!) “over to Europe.”

Obviously, these circumstances are intolerable. Therefore, the $44 zillion it costs to keep our drafty old schools open while our end of the Earth tilts away from the sun is clearly well spent.

Never mind that the CEO of the second largest oil company in the world (Shell) has now admitted that in seven years, global oil supply will no longer be able to meet demand.

No big deal. We'll just install wood stoves in all our classrooms.

See, regardless about what the environmentalists say or what happens to your tax bill, we can keep our society running pretty much exactly the way it is forever and ever.

Or at least until the next election.

Message to Gov. Baldacci:

Go ahead. Make my day.

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