Dave Simpson: Good News, The Legislature Got An F

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

The good news this week is that our paper in Cheyenne has given the Wyoming Legislature a failing grade for the budget session that ended last month.

And not just a failing grade – a whoppingly failing grade.

(Failing grades begin to whop at 50 points or less out of 100. You could look it up.)

Our lawmakers didn’t come anywhere close to a passing grade, according to an editorial in our paper, scoring just 35.5 points out of a possible 100. As an old publisher I once worked for used to say when the fertilizer hit the fan, “Uh-oh!”

When it came to judging the session, the paper told us how the cow ate the cabbage, as my Oklahoma wife likes to say when someone really gives someone else the dickens.

Our state lawmakers took it in the seat of the pants for their stubborn, continued failure to raise taxes, for their stubborn, continued refusal to cash in on free Medicaid expansion money, for not spending as much American Rescue Plan Act money as humanly possible on all kinds of stuff having little to do with Covid, and for wasting time talking about silly issues like prohibiting guys from competing on girls’ athletic teams, and parents butting into what teachers teach. 

They also got their knuckles rapped for a general inability to play well with others, and didn’t even get credit for kicking my state senator – the allegedly unrepentant scoundrel Anthony Bouchard – off all of his committee assignments.

“But wait, Dave,” you’re thinking, “why is it good news that the Cheyenne paper gave the legislature a mere 35.5 points out of 100?”

Because, Grasshopper (obscure Kung Fu reference), I worked in newsrooms for the best part of four decades, and I can tell you that the last thing Wyoming needs is a legislature that passes everything editorial writers want.

No, no, no. 

I can count the conservative journalists I’ve worked with over 40 years on one hand, with a middle finger left over.  Editors and reporters are almost always for higher taxes, more regulations, new powers for government, for tough mask and vaccine mandates, for any candidate with a “D” behind his or her name, and for cracking down on evil private industry. 

At one paper I worked at (not our Cheyenne paper – I never worked there), plans proposed by anyone in private industry were met in the newsroom with deep suspicion. Such plans were no doubt crackpot schemes “ginned up” by greedy shysters. What jobs they provided were dismissed as low-paid “nickel-95 jobs.”

A woman who went on to write editorials for a major newspaper once told me I was naive for putting money into an Individual Retirement Account. Because, she explained, any idiot could see that inflation would far out-strip any money you could accumulate in an IRA. (I’m glad I was naive enough to salt money away in my IRA. And I wonder what her retirement looks like, if she took her own advice.)

The editor of a weekly paper once explained to me that President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua was an inspired leader, a great man, far more intelligent than the amiable dunce (Tip O’Neill’s term) Ronald Reagan. 

In one newsroom, they just about fell over laughing when I said labor unions had a lot in common with political action committees. No, Dave. Unions good. PACs evil. Case closed.

For years I wrote columns for a paper in Illinois. I wrote one about investing in shares of Caterpillar stock, and cited the impressive growth anyone with a few bucks to invest could have realized. That was such a ridiculous idea that the editor read it aloud in the newsroom, so everyone could get a belly laugh at the notion of a journalist investing in stocks. They thought, “He’s kidding, right?”

An editor in Nebraska liked to introduce me to friends because they considered a conservative journalist such a rarity, a freak of nature, a two-headed calf.

So, let’s not lose sleep over our legislature’s failing grade on the editorial page.

Far from it. I think our failing grade is a badge of courage, and the editorial is suitable for display on our refrigerator doors.

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