I've recently been involved with a group that is trying to exert influence over Arizona's budgeting process. State budgets are deadly dull things, right up until we find out that our state is insolvent. Then it gets exciting.
Things have been very exciting in Arizona lately.
The Center on Budget & Policy Priorities released a report indicating that 46 of 50 states are facing insolvency. Not mere "budget crunches" - actual insolvency. Arizona leads the pack with a budget shortfall that totals almost 16% of the general fund.
We wish it were different.
We wish we had enough money to pay for everything people want from their government. We wish we didn't have to exercise fiscal restraint. We wish we didn't have to make hard choices. We wish we didn't have to work so hard and get so little in return. We wish greedy people wouldn't shove and grab. We wish lazy people would work hard. We wish sick people would get well, and poor people would get rich, and bad people would behave, and good people would be even better. We wish someone else would fix it. We wish someone else would sacrifice. We wish that wishing would change things. We wish for a fairy godmother instead of self-discipline. We wish for strokes of good fortune instead of years of diligent labor. We wish for Easy Street and Happy Days instead of "nose to the ground", "hand to the plow" and "shoulder to the wheel".
For a long time, we've inhabited a fantasy world where dollar bills were equated with wealth, credit was the same as money, and good intentions were the same as good works.
We wish lies were the truth.
But all of our wishes and all of our good intentions have amounted to less than nothing. When Fantasy Worlds collide with the Real World, the Real World always always always always always wins. Fantasy is fine, as long as it is never exposed to the harsh ways of reality.
We have fantasized since August 15, 1971 that printing money was the same as creating wealth. We managed to avoid reality for 38 years. That's really quite impressive. But we can't do it anymore. Reality is here. The fantasy is over.
Arizona will be bankrupt within 4 months, unless we stop fantasizing.
Sorry folks, it's time to live in the real world again.