The pain increases

E.Y. Harburg wrote the lyrics and Jay Gorney composed the music in 1931. Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee had hit records with the song. Part of it went:

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Why don’t you remember, I’m your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

The halls of the Missouri Capitol are crawling with the Al’s and Albertina’s these days, people visiting their lawmakers urging them to protect this or that program or service. Groups often rally in the rotunda before setting out to visit the offices of the people who represent them. Some wear t-shirts proclaiming their demands that the program that serves them not be touched in budget cuts.

Citizens have constitutional rights to petition their government, to freely speak or plead their causes, to assemble to exercise their collective muscle. There are plenty of folks who argue that it is the obligation of citizens to do so.

How much good these hordes of Al’s and Albertina’s do with their one-day blitzes is hard to measure although consistent, persistent contact with their Representatives and Senators is likely to be more beneficial in the long run. The feeling is, however, that one-day blitzes do have value in making sure lawmakers have faces, not just numbers, to think about when they work on the budget.

The work on the budget is getting more painful. State income is down by double digits for another month. Some painful messages are going to be given to a lot of Al’s and Albertina’s in the next few weeks.

The hard reality is that people have been hurt by budget cuts. And more people are going to be hurt more as the state’s economy continues to struggle.

We’ve seen and heard the economists tell us the recession has bottomed out and the recovery has started—we had one on the air earlier this week talking about how Missouri’s economic indicators have shown improvement for eight straight months. But history tells us indicators are only previews of what might be coming and the “coming” might take a long, long time. Economic history shows Missourians won’t feel a recovery in their pocketbooks or through state services and institutions for quite a while after the indicators turn positive.

New cuts are coming. Programs will be reduced. Services will be cut back. Vulnerable people will get hurt. More comfortable people might feel some discomfort. Sorry, folks, say the lawmakers we’ve talked to, it’s all on the table. There is no alternative. The human beings we elect to represent us know their decisions will hurt other human beings, some of whom walk into their offices begging not to be hurt.. .

Somebody has to make the tough decisions. Our state legislators are the ones we pay to make them. Be glad you are not one of them, trying to decide who gets hurt the most.

Sorry Al. Glad you came by my office.

But there are no dimes to spare.

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