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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"To the pain"

Budgets are as much political documents as spending outlines. They offer a vision -- and the most recent vision from Deval Patrick brings mind to a monologue from Westley to Prince Humperdinck in "The Princess Bride":
"To the pain means that the first thing you lose will be your feet below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists, next your nose ... The next thing you lose will be your left eye, followed by your right ... Your ears you keep, and I'll tell you why: so that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish; every babe that weeps at your approach; every is what 'to the pain' means; it means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery, forever."
While Patrick isn't proposing anything quite so brutal, the $30.5 billion budget unveiled yesterday gets to the heart of the reality facing Massachusetts and other states after four years of rising demand and sliding revenues: the moment of truth has arrived and truly painful choices await.

The Patrick plan will undergo total revision first by the House and then the Senate and no one seriously believes two state prisons will close or that streets and highways will go unplowed. But the images are strong ones, stark reminders of where the state spends money and how it is in increasingly short supply.

The other sharply painful reminder in the Patrick plan is the blunt statement that 39 percent of state spending goes to health care in some shape or form. Two-fifths of the budget!

Health care reform is not killing jobs as Republicans in Congress allege. Those jobs are being killed by the choking costs of providing benefits to workers, trying to heal those who can't afford the insurance and the high cost of receiving care. We've already delayed too long in trying to deal with those issues.

Patrick is letting us know there are painful choices ahead. Dealing with those choices will test our values. Here's hoping that in the end no one will be delivering on Westley's unnerving vision.

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