to remain more vigilant
Waiting for returns from Tuesday’s election, I can’t help but feeling sorry for an unlikely victim.
Sam Brownback, now effectively retired, doubtlessly would rather be remembered for witnessing the world’s largest marshmallow roast at Marion County Lake than for turning the state’s economy and schools into a flaming mass of goo, sticking to his image years after he left office.
What’s interesting is how a candidate so revered that he was elected with 54% of the vote in 1996, 69% in 2004, and 63% in 2010 fell to winning with just 50% in 2014 and, by 2022, became the Republican equivalent of Democrat Nancy Pelosi, now perhaps the soon-to-be former speaker of the House, as political poison to anyone who supported him or her.
Democracy, as Winston Churchill once said, is the worst form of government — except for all the others. We voters sometimes make mistakes. Brownback may have been one of them. Most assuredly, we made others in casting ballots for Tuesday’s election. Time will tell who they are.
Part of the problem is that we don’t always pay attention to what we should be asking of candidates. We get so caught up in largely meaningless hot-button issues that we ignore issues politicians really should be dealing with.
I seriously doubt there’s a band of teenage boys planning to get sex-change operations so they can win medals in girls’ swimming. I have yet to see hordes of undocumented immigrants stealing jobs, which business owners can’t fill, or stuffing ballot boxes, which an unfortunately large number of legitimate voters never visit.
Why people who support individual rights to carry guns don’t support individual rights to marry whomever they wish or control whether to become a parent is beyond me.
Issue No. 1 this year should have been the economy.
When I moved back to Marion full-time 2½ years ago to remotely teach university classes during the pandemic, I could occasionally find the elixir of life (caffeine-free diet Dr Pepper) for as low as $3 for 12 cans on local grocers’ shelves.
When I checked this week, stores no longer were stocking the caffeine-free variety, and the price for a 12-pack of regular diet Dr Pepper had soared to almost $9 — three times what I used to pay for a product I actually wanted whenever it was on sale, which was quite often.
My ritualistic day-after-deadline hamburger steak dinner, which used to cost $9.99, is now $20.10. Talk about double-digit inflation. That’s triple-digit or more. And it’s just the beginning.
I minored in economics in college and spent many a year as editor of economic news at a metropolitan newspaper. One thing I can tell you for sure is that economists don’t understand how to fight inflation. If prices go up, workers want that much more, which then drives prices up again, which in turn fuels further wage demands, and the cycle continues, unbroken, until the whole system falls apart.
They do know what causes inflation, and a prime cause is excess government spending. All those stimulus checks we and especially local governments received were like shocks from a cattle prod, angering rather than controlling the giant economic bull that’s now poised to charge back at us.
The real question we needed to ask candidates this year is whether they have the courage to actually cut government spending, not treat borrowing like a credit card on which they will pay only minimum balances, and try to break the cycle of inflation by not automatically giving full cost-of-living raises to already highly paid government workers.
The problem in most localities is that everybody and his brother — along with his sister, mother, father, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, and shirt-tail cousin — work for the government or in a business that depends on government spending: law firms, banks, engineering firms, parts suppliers, various service businesses, and the like.
Government is a giant sow from which an ever-growing number of piglets suckle. And those piglets vote or, at least, are relied upon by others to tell them how to vote.
For the rest of us, inflation aside, the burden of all this overly bullish behavior is becoming unbearable.
My last year in Illinois, I registered my economical 2½-seater car, which gets 35 miles per gallon, for $102.22. So far this year in Kansas, I’ve paid $303.78, including tax.
Property taxes in Illinois, on a house valued at 2.6 times the value of the house I live in here, were only 1.6 times as much as the taxes are here. In other words, they were 38% less, dollar for dollar in property value.
State income tax here is higher. State and local sales tax — which takes more of most Kansas taxpayers’ money than any other state or local tax — is the same. Electric rates, which here include a huge surcharge to local government, are four times higher than what they were in Illinois.
It’s not just the tax-and-spend liberals in Washington we have to watch out for. It’s the borrow-and-spend conservatives who meet in our own communities that we have to watch.
Instead of trying to instantly gratify voters and employees by running up a tab that they’ll be out of office before it comes due, they need to hold the line — and throw the rest of us a lifeline — rather than borrow our way into trouble down the line.
It’s not transgendered swimmers we need to be worrying about. It’s the rest of us, waiting to drown in an Olympic-size pool of currently burdensome taxes and future impossible burdens of debt.
We may have voted Tuesday, but we need to remain vigilant every day thereafter.
— ERIC MEYER