The many meanings of "now"

John Taylor: November 28, 20070 Comments

"Now" means hitting the brakes when a dumb schmo cuts you off on the 180/168 merge. "Now" means saying "I do" or running away from nuptials. "Now" means swinging the bat instead of watching as a third strike  whizzes by.

But in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., "now" morphs more ways than do the Transformers. Every presidential candidate has ideas about reforming health care "now." But "now" is not a defined time; it's a bludgeoning tool allowing all manner of horrid anecdotes about the uninsured to be recalled/retold to hammer opponents.

Gov. Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers have been wrangling for months to get health care reform and a water bond measure on 2008 ballots. Remember that special legislative session Schwarzenegger called?  "Now" means a vote next week, maybe, except that the Democrats have scheduled a vote on the same day Republicans are away on their annual policy retreat.

Some lawmakers and critics insist "now" is the time to address a possible $10 billion state budget shortfall -- cut services, announce layoffs, raise taxes. "Now" is not the time, they say, to instigate new mandates when we can't afford existing ones.

All the players are nervous. They expect to get crushed by Big Tobacco if a $2 a pack tax is on the ballot to pay for health expansion. They say the other idea, leasing the state lottery to a private company, won't pay the freight. And California counties are wary of becoming the fall guys in cost shifting from the state, as they have in the past (check out the "health advocacy" link at www.csac.counties.org -- the California State Association of Counties). 

The meaning of "now" has been corrupted by the traditional political triple play -- delay, deny, deflect. But not to worry. Pretty soon, "now" will become way back when.