Funny fiscalcuffs

Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson had the stage, and that’s where he likes to be. He’s not just another elected official with a penchant for platforms. Wesson has a style and edge that sets him apart in this town full of amateur orators with egos.

Wesson’s audience on that particular day was a roomful of suits—the California Newspaper Publishers Association. They were almost exclusively middle-aged white men and women, yet Wesson was candid and had a bit of spice in his delivery. Perhaps he thought they were a hip crowd. They weren’t.

He started his speech with a reference to the skeptics who don’t think the budget crisis is as awful as it really is: $34 billion in the red. “If you don’t think the situation is really bad, send what you’re drinking and smoking to my office, so I can see it that way,” Wesson joked. A smattering of laughs followed.

Wesson tried his hand at stand-up comedy in his earlier days. Perhaps it was a wise career choice to leave it behind.

His recent choice of topic for comedy was a difficult one: the confusing and dry budget fiasco. It’s not easy to find the humor in, or a common-sense solution to, the government’s fiscal problem.

That’s why we’re taking the stage and presenting our own take on the budget (see “The Budget Czar,” page 18). It’s our attempt to show you that if politics are taken out of the equation, a solution can be found without too much bloodshed. Nobody will agree with all we propose to cut and tax because nobody has to.

Taking politics out of the real budget process at the Capitol is as difficult as selling cookware door to door. And that’s another job Wesson had before politics.