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The Young Gun

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The gentleman we will call Brugan is 90% real, his balance is made up of input from other folks present at our chat who shall remain nameless but not voiceless. Recall that YOU are 90% water. Brugan is a twenty-something light-skinned brother about as ghetto as Arthur Ashe. He is feeling his oats and so he should. He has a plum gig; he is breaking into the business of politics as an advisor to a challenger to John Lewis for his House seat. That challenger is, of course, a Democrat and his aspiration to replace Lewis is, ah, quite a project. But this cat was definitely loving life, on the payroll of a real, honest-to-god campaign. We have the opportunity here to observe the gunslinger in his pupal form.

Brugan was lightly but diligently selling his wares. He did have a few slick flyers but he had to go out to the car to get them. He was Barone-like in his apparent mastery of Georgia demographics and Axelrod-esque in his confidence that President Obama would improve his performance in Georgia over 2000 although the odds of our fifteen electoral votes going his way are nearly nil. I get the feeling this guy is a recent graduate of a seminar in rhetoric, a wise initial investment for any campaign. He kept his cool and not just superficially; you all know how I can be, but maybe my unforced admission to admiration for our own Kasim Reid paid its dividend.

Leading with a tricky question, I asked, what is the knock on Lewis? He repeated the question, ordinarily a negative tell but I think rather he had been prepared or prepared himself to give a statesmanlike answer. By the book, he begins with praise for Lewis, aknowledging his civil rights history but sadly admitting that to every thing, there is a season and this was the season to knock off a tired, aged wildebeast who was just not getting the job done. Said job, according to Brugan and presumably Johnson, is to “bring home the bacon”. His is the oldest of political justifications. I can get you more loot from that dragon’s hoard that sits, poorly guarded, in Washington DC.

This may not be the best historical moment to be offering to raid the federal treasury, if only because it has been raided, re-raided and the plumbing sold for scrap, but we may forgive Brugan and Johnson. Their formula has scarcely failed since FDR, certainly in a Democrat primary. Theirs is a deep and literal conservatism in a universe where the nation was established not by the Revolution, Constitution or Civil War but by The New Deal, going on eighty years old. Indeed this seems to be the only reason that he chose The Glum Thirties as his reference point on a curious issue. The conversation turned to education; a nightmarish thicket, yes, and especially thorny locally but the problem, according to Brugan, is that this system that pays six-figure separation bonuses where fraud prosecutions might be more warranted, is pathetically underfunded. Indeed, we would need a serious bump in education spending to return to the pinacle, reached in the thirties!

So how does one answer? With a brief recitation of the history of public education in the Americas? That doesn’t seem practical but you and I both know that public schools scarcely existed at that time, so likewise its funding. Many statistics like that do not exist prior to the Roosevelt Administration; the collection of such numbers being one of many jobs quite literally created by the Brain Trust, but my phone wasn’t up to the challenge of supporting my guess that ed funding was up easily four or five fold since lifting painfully from zero in the pre-War period. If only I could have produced this. No, it doesn’t go back to the birth of Buster Brown but total inflation adjusted ed spending has nearly quadrupled since the mid sixties. It is easy to understand how Brugan could be so far from reality. All his media-consuming life he has seen dire warnings of impending cuts to education, never learning that while the cuts perpetually impend, on net they do not occur. The constant, consistent and parabolic increases all the above charts display is something of a state secret, covered by constant complaints of underfunding at the desk-level, which does, it seems, exist.

But why? Brugan was critical of bloated administrative costs, something I take as a prodigious leap for a professional Democrat especially as he had no idea what the per pupil spending IS today! It is nearly $9000 annually to operate a single desk for nine months. A class of twenty members represents a cash flow of about $16,000 a month year round. So if education is underfunded now, what would be appropriate? Another 50%? Double? Triple? Quadruple? He seemed to commit serious reflection to his response that a four-fold increase would indeed be about right. Does he, as a Johnson spokesman, advocate a 400% property tax hike in ever precinct of the State? Oh, no no no. We make it up from Federal funds, recall Johnson’s promise to get more bacon off a pig skeleton. What the state of the Federal debt might be, he knew not at all but didn’t think the current 110% of GDP was troubling. After all, HE had debt of many times his annual income, which he feels is considerable now and very likely to go up dramatically in the future.

Whatever Johnson’s future, which is not rosy, Brugan may well go from contract to contract even if not from success to success. He is not just the perfect candidate for his vocation, he is the only sort that could possibly fill the bill. He promises to spend more, far more than has been spent to date on so-called “education” and every other government function you could name excepting only the military. He is for not just more borrowing but an endlessly increasing RATE of borrowing which, with the Federal Reserve having become the largest holder of T-Bills, amounts to printing money on a Weimar scale. He is ignorant of current tax rates and policy but certain they are far too lenient. When I observed, after several minutes of this, that he did not seem to know much about his business he chuckled like Wilford Brimley. “Oh, I know enough. I know enough about politics. I don’t get surprised very often.” I asked if he had been surprised by Wisconsin. He didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

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