Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
Whatever the outcomes of November's elections--local, state, and federal--we can count on less money from Washington. Our Congressman, Steve Womack, has already instructed area emergency food banks to expect less help from the Feds, and several politicians at the federal level, like Womack, have said that local government, churches, and individuals need to take on more responsibility for the social safety net--and for just about everything else. An accurate summary of the view is, I think, "your local problem is not our federal problem."
District 97's Republican candidates for state representative, Bob Ballinger and Jeremy Miller agree: they call for deep cuts in federal spending, promise to lower local taxes, and promise that we'll have a new heaven and a new earth if we elect the right kind of Christian and pack heat.
Bob Ballinger says, for example, "our property tax rates are too high and rise too fast, and our state income tax is higher than that of all of the surrounding states. We must make tough choices and find ways to minimize the tax burden on the people and businesses in Arkansas, and encourage new businesses to locate here. That means keeping our needs separate from our wants and funding those critical things which are necessary and proper for the government while encouraging innovative ways to provide non-essential services."
Among the critical things Ballinger finds necessary is "seeking ways to encourage a world-class education for our children" and "finding new ways to fund critical infrastructure" like highways, and "taking up arms against aggressors who would destroy our liberty and way of life by force, be willing to be a soldier of our flag."
I find nothing objectionable in Ballinger's litany of critical things; I am for world class educations, essential infrastructure, and taking up arms against aggressive armies. But I wonder how we pull all that off without significant federal contribution, and with a minimized "tax burden on the people and businesses in Arkansas"? I agree with Ballinger's assessment that the Democrats provide these things by simply borrowing and printing money, surely a bad thing. But he--and his party--propose to do it by magic. How does this trick work?
According to Ballinger--and I suppose Republicans everywhere--if you cut taxes and cut regulations you will "unleash America's entrepreneurs" and they'll start businesses and become "job creators." Pretty cool, right?
Well, it is half right. Entrepreneurs do start businesses and they do become job creators. But it is simple fantasy, magical thinking really, to say that men and women start businesses--or don't start businesses--because of taxes and regulations.
Did Mark Zuckerberg consider the tax and regulatory environment when he founded Facebook? How about Steve Wozniak and Steven Jobs, back when they were screwing around in Wozniak's garage and baked the first Apple? How about Bill Gates when he dropped out of Harvard because he loved to write code more than studying for a required English composition class? Did Sam Walton have second thoughts about starting Wal-Mart because of the tax and regulatory environment?
My wife started an antique store because she loves treasure hunts. My dad started a trucking company because he was too owly to work for anybody else; he started a charter airline company when he was in his 70s because he loved to fly. I started a medical software company because I wanted to solve a problem posed by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. My brother became a painting contractor because he hated teaching 4th graders.
People--like my wife, and like Sam Walton--started successful businesses because they figured out how to cash flow them to, and then beyond, the break even point, and because they found customers for what they were selling. Taxes and regulations? Please.
To the point of replacing the government safety net with local community and church resources, let me ask Bob Ballinger and Jeremy Miller a few questions. You can ask yourself these questions too:
Is your church willing to significantly expand its support for your community's disadvantaged people in order to replace reduced government support?
Are you willing to increase the amount you tithe or donate to your church or local civic agencies in order to supplement reductions in government funding for the poor?
Should we shut down the Area Agency of Aging in Northwest Arkansas and eliminate these non-essential services?
Should we repeal the Hill-Burton act and free our hospitals and healthcare facilities from the unnecessary burden of caring for the uninsured?
Will your church pay for the medical care of uninsured persons in your community?
Can and should your public schools operate without federal support?
Should people needing emergency assistance report to their County Judge--rather than to the Office of Human Concern--to appeal for "poor relief?"
Are you willing to increase the hours you volunteer to replace social service workers and other helping professionals who are laid off due to reduced funding?
Republicans can certainly make the case that Democrats have not delivered on what we have paid for. But if they want to be taken seriously--obviously not a requirement for election, so let's say taken for honest--they need to say that not only is there no free lunch, there is no lunch at all.