You’ve seen it on 1000 websites by now: Jan Brewer’s long, awkward pause during her opening remarks in the gubernatorial debate in Arizona. That’s a little bit embarrassing, I suppose, especially considering that those were her prepared comments. Really, though, so what? We all get tongue-tied, and for most of us we don’t have live television cameras pointed at our face to increase the pressure. I hardly think her brief confusion says anything about her qualifications for re-election.

Here’s what I find astonishing, though. Moments before her stumble, she proclaimed, “We have cut the budget. We have balanced the budget.” WTF? No, “we” haven’t. According to the state’s own reports, if you take out the budget tricks, the budget shortfall in the current FY2011 will be $1.691 billion (see page 17). That is 20% of the state’s total spending. The deficit remains in the $1 to $2 billion annual range in the projected years ahead.

To be perfectly fair, the actual budget deficit in FY2011 is projected to be between “zero and $1.2 billion,” which is a better picture than the structural deficit of $1.691 billion, and which may provide Gov Brewer with a technically defensible claim to balancing the budget. What is the difference between the two projections? Two things. One is federal stimulus money, and the other is the governor’s sales tax increase, which lasts for three years. Do y’all hear what I’m saying? The only reason the governor can lay even a remotely plausible claim to balancing the budget is federal stimulus money and a tax increase. That’s right: federal stimulus money and a tax increase. One more time:  federal stimulus money and a tax increase. Tea Party people, take arms!!!

The media? They think the important news here is 13 seconds of dead air.