Proposition 13 has sent a message to everyone in politics. People are tired of paying taxes, and they're tired of their money being wasted by government bureaucrats on programs and services they don't want. The message has reached Washington and every politican running for office this year is trying to deal with it. It is not as easy as it sounds.
Congressman Turnstyle visited his home district over the weekend and returned on Monday more perplexed than ever.
"Almost everyone I talked to agreed with Proposition 13," he told me. "They said I better pay attention or I'd be out of a job in November."
"I can believe that," I said. "Did anyone have any suggestions as to where you could cut the budget?"
"Yes and no. A lot of people said they were sick of all the pork-barrel legislaton going on in Congress. I thought I got the message, but then the question of the new flood control dam for my district came up and they asked me when it was going to be built. I told them it might not be built if we had to tighten our belts, and they said if I didn't have enough influence on the Hill to get one lousy dam for the district they would find somebody who could."
"Most people get very angry when they can't get a new dam," I agreed. "What else did they ask you about?"
"They said the heard that the Defense Department was closing the Iroquois torpedo factory that employs 3.000 people.
"I told them the rumor was true. It was part of the U.S. Navy economy drive. I explained that I had talked to the top defense people about it, but was told the Navy didn't have enough old submarines that carried torpedos any more."
"What did your constituents say to that?"
"They said it was my job to see that the Navy built enough old submarines to carry torpedos. They said if the torpedo factory shut down I could kiss my re-election goodbye."
"You must have had a fun weekend."
"Then," Turnstyle said. "The question of athletics came up. Because of the taxpayers' revolt it seems that most of the high schools in my district are going to have to eliminate their football and basketball teams. If there is one thing the people in my district will not tolerate it's the abolition of high school football and basketball games. They want me to get a federal grant for the sports programs to be continued if the high schools have to shut down."
"Do you think you can?"
"They said I'd better if I wanted to return to Washington next year."
"Didn't anyone tell you what government programs they wanted cut so they wouldn't have to pay so much taxes?"
"They said they saw no reason why they should bail out New York City. At the same time. Quagmire, the largest city in my district, warned me that if I didn't get federal funds for the new hospital, which is only half-finished, there was no sense in me coming back to campaign because I'd just be wasting my time."
"At least they're telling it like it is."
"The farmers want me to vote for higher price supports, the unions want more protection against health hazards, the builders want federally guaranteed loans, and everyone is screaming because the government isn't going enough to help them pay tuition to send their kids to college."
"So what kind of message did you get out of all this?"
"Anyone who runs for public office in 1978 ought to have his head examined, even if the taxpayers say they won't pay for it."