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Welcome to Mudville

Even as we begin lowering our face guards — possibly too quickly, probably only temporarily — from COVID-19, it’s time to start raising them for yet another pandemic.

The virus we’re about to catch is hardly a novel one and has little connection to Coronas, except that it might drive us to quaff a few.

One of its main modes of transmission is clearly visible if you’re among the ever-shrinking audience that watches even a few minutes of local TV without zapping commercials or that actually looks before tossing junk mail delivered by postal workers not cowered by barking dogs.

We’re entering the rainy season for politics, and like county roads, everything seems to be turning to mud.

On the state level, big-money interest groups with no real interest in Kansas or its values, are shoving bags of cash onto our TV screens — often campaigning against, rather than for, any particular candidate.

The presumed standard for electability, at least in Republican primaries, is which candidate loves President Trump the most and is willing to vote without question to grant anything and everything he wants.

We respect the president — as president. We even agree with him from time to time on some of his objectives and ideals. But to expect voters to line up to elect ditto-heads, who will unquestioningly do whatever this president — or any president — wants, is a perversion of democracy.

The hubris of political fat cats in thinking we voters are dumb enough to fall for this is staggering. To them, we’re mere boobs mesmerized by a glowing tube.

Start making your list and checking it twice. Naughty is the candidate whose main platform is how much he supports the president, how big his family is, how many guns he owns, and how many years he’s served in the military.

All are fine things. But what would be nice might be to hear from a candidate who has some idea how we’re going to pay for all the admittedly needed COVID-19 bailouts that have mortgaged the economic future of our children and grandchildren.

A good first step might be promising to freeze government salaries and benefits at a time when most of the people, who pick up the tab, count themselves as lucky if they haven’t been laid off.

Locally, we’re all lucky that mud remains mainly confined to county roads, but we’re growing concerned about attempts by some candidates to pack letters-to-the-editor columns with clearly orchestrated testimonials. One candidate didn’t even bother to have an endorser mail a letter on his own. We got it straight from the candidate. And like all letters endorsing all candidates, it went straight into our circular file lest we allow an arms race among candidates competing to submit the most scripted, unpaid ads to fill our editorial page each week.

Looming large, like a pile of unrecycled trash, is another key local issue — what to do with recycling. For reasons unknown, recycling centers now want to charge to accept recyclables, even though scrap sellers still have a market for such goods.

Aluminum cans are selling for 56 cents a pound on scrap markets, and paper is selling for 5.4 cents. Soon, however, Marion County will begin charging — not paying — cities and residents 4 cents a pound to accept either of them. Recycling’s business model appears not far removed from that of a slick talker who offers to give you two 20-dollar bills for a 50.

The political question isn’t whether the county should be charging. Until it can find a recycling center that isn’t in the two-$20s-for-a-$50 business, it has no choice but to pass along its expense.

The real question is whether cities will force all residents to pay even if some choose, as economics would dictate, not to put anything out for recycling. The right thing to do is to charge extra for those who want to recycle — or, better yet, to get government out of the way and let some charity or private businesses offer to collect cans and paper that can economically be recycled.

Local officials often talk about protecting local businesses, but such talk often is perverted. County lake visitors long have clamored for some form of bait station and convenience store at the lake so they don’t have to unhook their RVs and drive into town, only to find limited bait available because of closed shops or restricted inventory.

When those willing to risk COVID-19 go to the ballpark, they expect to find a concession stand. Why not have a concession stand at the lake, too? The county could lease it to the highest bidder and let any business that wants to take advantage of the prime location run a shop in the best traditions of a free market. It might even be able to get away with charging ballpark prices, like recycling centers do.

So far, at least President Trump hasn’t weighed in on any of these issues — though we haven’t checked his Twitter feed in the last few moments. Perhaps commonsense can replace big money, ditto-heads, and mudslinging. If we’re really lucky and don’t give all our tax money away in raises, we might even be able to dry out and properly grade some of those muddy roads.

If we all put our faith in candidates who have more ideas than gimmicks, big-money endorsers, and consultants, our faith might just be rewarded.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified June 24, 2020

 

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