Michael P. Ackley has worked more than three decades as a journalist, the majority of that time at the Sacramento Union. His experience includes reporting, editing and writing commentary. He retired from teaching journalism for California State University at Hayward.More ↓Less ↑
Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
The backlash against federal budget cuts is transforming from wild arm waving and random bleating to coherent assault. As usual, criticism of program cuts derives from two basic forms:
“It’s just a drop in the bucket not worthy of concern,” and
“If it saves just one life …”
An example of the former comes from Democratic Party spokesman Howard Bashford.
“Look,” he says, “we could eliminate all – I mean all – domestic programs, and the federal deficit still would be more than a trillion dollars.”
He was joined in this gambit by Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. She told the Los Angeles Times, “Banning Planned Parenthood will not do a single thing to reduce the deficit.”
Noting Richards’ statement, Bashford said, “You see, there’s really no point in trying to save money. It won’t do any good, and if something won’t do any good, what’s the point of doing it?”
Taking the if-it-saves-just-one-life approach was Paul Billings, a vice president of the American Lung Association. He told the Times, “We don’t think the American people want to do less to prevent kids from getting asthma.”
Numbers, he said, were just numbers, but “beyond those numbers are stories and people.”
Others mobilizing to fight budget reductions were county sheriffs, municipalities counting on block grants, construction unions hoping for public-works projects, even the recipients of foreign aid. And, of course, public broadcasting advocates threatened the end of “Sesame Street” and “Masterpiece Theatre.” Also awakening were government employees.
“Do you realize that if they cut our departmental budget, there might be layoffs of hard-working federal, state and local government workers?” asked Amy Handleman, assistant sub-deputy associate director of the Department of Education. “You know, just talk of a budget reduction has department heads scrambling to spend existing funds before they are taken away. Normally, we wait until the end of the fiscal year to do our wasteful spending.
“And the secretary has said we might have to drop our bi-weekly ‘sharing’ meetings and hold a single sensitivity session instead. You can’t imagine the stress. Productivity has dropped below zero!”
Bashford concluded, “You can’t escaped facts. We simply can’t afford to give up what we can’t afford.”
Save the planet! As interest in “human-caused global warming” has waned, the movement’s constituent lobbies have despaired of government intervention. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, therefore, turned for succor last week to the most powerful force outside the U.S. military – Hollywood.
The United Nations leader made his way to Tinseltown to address entertainment heavyweights at what the Los Angeles Times called “a daylong forum … on recent heat waves, floods, fires and drought, which scientists link to human-induced climate change.” (The Times apparently has banned the word “some” as in “some scientists.”)
“I need your support,” Ban told the gathering. “Animate these stories! Set them to music! Give them life! Together you have power and influence to send to millions and billions of people around the world. To make planet Earth environmentally sustainable is a political and moral imperative.”
Judging by the newspaper’s report, studio executives weren’t sold. The incorrigible capitalists among them noted the need to make profits. However, director James Brooke was quoted, “We need to integrate climate change into what people watch on TV. What about a show like ‘The Biggest Loser,’ except it would be about decreasing our carbon footprint?”
If they very idea makes you snore, think what Hollywood could do by just revamping films and programs already in the can. For example, a Disney nature classic could become “The Living Desert (That Grew to Devour all the Arable Land on Earth).” We could have films like “Cat on an Ever-Hotter Tin Roof,” “No-Ice Station Zebra,” “Forbidding Planet” and “In the Heat of the Night in Drought-Stricken Georgia.”
TV sitcoms and soaps could provide further help for Ban and his minions with “The Young and the Sweaty,” “As the World Turns Hotter,” “Guiding Fluorescent Light,” “Gilligan’s Sinking Island,” “The Endangered Partridge Family,” and so on.
Ban made his pitch during Oscar week in the city of guilty consciences, so the idea of such films and shows isn’t really far-fetched. And perhaps if movie makers reduce the carbon footprint their limousines left on the way to the Oscars, Ban will institute a Hollywood seat on the U.N. Security Council.