By Zaldy Dandan

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Sept.30, 2010) – The original title of this week’s column was "Wanted: A responsible opposition," but then I realized that there is no opposition on Capital Hill, only the "outs" waiting for their turn to be "ins." You can always expect the "outs" to oppose measures unpopular to voters. You should also realize that the "outs" will change their tune once they’re already "in."

It’s still a long wait, however, and in the meantime, the House minority bloc members could do themselves and their constituents a huge favor if they start doing their homework and get more details about the most important issue the CNMI government is facing today — its finances, or lack thereof. They have to study the budget, the way Senator Frica did in the previous Legislature. They have to check and double check the figures provided by the administration and spot any inconsistencies. As elected representatives of the people they’re supposed to know more about these things so they can explain them to the public and offer better alternatives to what the administration is proposing.

What’s already clear is that the government must impose budget cuts. How? Where? These are the questions that the House minority bloc should answer. The administration and its allies in the Legislature propose 16-hour cuts.

The Senate and the House minority say no. They claim that an eight-hour cut should be enough if government fees and taxes are raised. But they provide no financial analysis to justify their position. They are, in fact, playing to the gallery. They are saying things voters would like to hear, even if they’re not true. "Good politics," perhaps, but certainly irresponsible leadership. If the House minority block members cannot afford to be honest now, then nothing will change once they’re "in."

But they can always prove me wrong. Show us the figures. Bring out the data. Explain how and why fee and tax increases will not be bad in this economy. Disclose the numbers that will illustrate why an eight-hour cut should be enough even though the government has other mounting and pressing financial obligations.

The expenses of this overstaffed, overpaid and overspending government cannot be sustained. This is painfully obvious to everyone, even to voters. Indeed, voters should now realize that they are always disappointed with their elected officials because they, the voters, always prefer to believe promises too good to be true.

Right now, considering the state of the economy and considering that this administration is headed nowhere, there is no way the CNMI government can pay all of its obligations. Something’s got to give. The government must make hard choices. But for most politicians already looking forward to the next elections, the best choice is to advance their political ambitions.

People of the CNMI, politicians who are telling you that they will protect government jobs are either liars or fools. In either case, they’re not fit for office. Elect them at your own peril.

There must be cuts. The government is broke. If the Senate and the House minority bloc insist on an eight-hour cut then they should also propose slashing everyone’s salaries and benefits, and doing away with the cars and the cell phones and the air-cons and the travels.

The token opposition must seize the moment. They should be a real opposition and show the public that they are not as untrustworthy as this administration and its allies.

Zaldy Dandan is Editor of the Marianas Variety

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