Paul Jacob

The making of law, like the making of sausage, is said to be necessarily messy. I'm not so sure. Not all sausages are equal. Neither are laws. Or lawmakers. Some are less disgusting than others.

As a reprieve from the behavior of our representatives in Washington, D.C., I often turn my attention to the states of the union, where government sometimes shines, if dimly. But politicians are politicians, and the desire to rule forever raises its ugly head everywhere. Recently, Florida has been getting my goat. So, for further reprieve, I turn my head to the other corner of the continent, to Washington, the state.

Washington's a strange place. Its geography is amazingly diverse, from the fjords of Puget Sound to the rugged mountains of the Cascades; from wet, mossy, ferny, conifer rain forests in the northwest to scrub deserts in the southeast; from the still-active Mt. St. Helens volcano to . . . the federal government's Hanford nuclear waste dump, leaking radioactive matter into the mighty Columbia.

There's a rivalry between Washington and its neighbor to the south, Oregon. Washingtonians labor under a sales tax but resist an income tax, while Oregonians do just the opposite. Oregonians pride themselves on things like the country's first bottle deposit-and-return law. But every time such a bill comes up before the citizens of Washington, they vote it down. By increasing margins. There's much to be said in favor of the Washingtonian as a political animal.

Right now, however, the state is instructive for mirroring the much larger government housing itself in a city of the same name nestled near the continent's opposite shore. In Washington, D.C., there exists a government pretty much united under one party, the Republicans. In Washington, the state, there's another united government, but under Democrats. The two governments are very similar in their desire to spend, spend, spend. But a basic difference shows through: in the state, they are busy raising taxes; in the federal enclave, they prefer to pay for increased spending by increasing debt. Between these two examples, we see the Scylla and the Charybdis of modern politics. One monster or the other.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.