Florida’s rookie governor celebrates a good opening week.
Charlie Crist, Florida’s feckless and lazy ex-governor, has fetched up on the payroll of mega personal injury law firm, Morgan & Morgan. Good place for him, as the ideologically nimble Crist caused countless cases of political whiplash across Florida over the four years of his quirky and accomplishment-free governorship.
Rick Scott, Florida’s new chief executive, entered office last week with a top-to-bottom conservative agenda. The Naples businessman, a wealthy former hospital entrepreneur and political novice who financed his own campaign, says his main missions are to create private sector jobs and make Florida’s government more efficient, svelte, and less expensive.
To accomplish these goals Scott has promised to right-size the state work force, use vouchers to improve education by lowering government school enrollment, and do away with unnecessary state regulations, perhaps even unnecessary state agencies. He wants to cut Florida’s corporate income tax and property taxes.
Liberals, Democrats, union officials, incompetent school teachers, environmentalists (please excuse some unavoidable redundancy here), government supernumeraries, and many of the state’s newspaper editorial writers are worried. They should be.
“Taxation, regulation, and litigation” together make up “the axis of unemployment,” Scott said in his inaugural address. Just so. And there was this: “It requires magical thinking to expect government to create prosperity. Government has no resources of its own. Government can only give to us what it has previously taken from us, minus a huge cut for the government middleman.” In case some still didn’t get the message, he added that government is “the enemy of prosperity.” Clear enough.
No wonder Democrats and their media apologists are stressed. Scott is going after all three legs of their policy stool.
Suiting the action to the word, Scott has instituted a freeze on all new state rule-making until the good regs can be parsed from the bad ones, which will be eliminated. He will create an Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform to do the sorting.
A successful private sector executive before seeking public office for the first time this year, Scott is turning out career politicians and bureaucrats from Florida executive positions and going to the world of business and the military for talent. He appointed a former developer to head the state’s growth management agency and put a shipyard executive in charge of Florida’s environmental protection agency. His chief of staff is a savvy retired Army colonel. This has put a real chill in the trail mix at Florida Sierra Club meetings.
For many Republican office holders it has been little more than a tic to say that they plan to bring more business-like practices to government. Their resolve in this area often hasn’t lasted much longer than the inaugural hors de oeuvres. This guy may actually mean it.
Scott won’t find it easy. The recession hit Florida harder than most states. Along with the sunshine, Florida still has 12 percent unemployment, more than two percentage points above the national average. The state is looking at a $3.5 billion shortfall in next year’s budget. So Scott may well have to back up his pledge to make state agencies justify “every penny they spend” just to break even this year. He says he wants to cut Florida’s state budget back to 2004 level spending.
Scott is even considering turning back federal grant money for high-speed passenger rail projects in Florida, which has put those who would profit from rail in a swivet. Rail is many times more expensive per passenger mile than any other form of transportation, and is famous for large cost overruns everywhere it has been instituted. The grants wouldn’t pay for all of the construction, let alone the huge maintenance and operating expense that will be forever with these costly train sets.
Rail foe David Hurley, Tampa businessman and political seer who served on Hillsborough County transportation committees, calls rail “the gift that keeps on taking.” But much of the corporate and commercial real estate communities are on the other side on this one. If Scott turns thumbs down on rail he will get plenty of blow-back.
If Scott sticks to his guns, things will only get more difficult as he attempts to cut popular state programs. It’s not clear yet just how much stomach for serious government reform and downsizing Florida’s 2-1 Republican majority legislature has.
As well as from a heavily Republican legislature, Scott will get at least some help from an all Republican cabinet. In addition to Scott and Lt. Governor Jennifer Carol, Florida’s governing board includes three newly-elected Republicans: Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, all conservatives. If Florida can’t advance a conservative agenda with this lineup, it’s hard to imagine what it would take.
One area Scott will not get any help from is Florida’s major media. Perhaps recognizing that the media, especially newspapers, have far less clout than they’ve enjoyed in the past, Scott bypassed them during the election. He genuinely doesn’t seem to care what the media think of him.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online