Monday, May 09, 2005

When being "right" is not enough

No New Taxes!

Taxpayers Bill of Rights!

Two tenets of the conservative movement, both made into household terms by our friend David Strom of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota (whom you might meet at Keegan's if you aren't lucky, according to a recent funny Northern Alliance Radio ad).

But sometimes just being "right" -- in the sense of correct, valid, commonsense, ideological -- may not be quite enough.

On his radio show last Saturday morning, Mr. Strom was challenged by his guest, Plymouth mayor Judy Johnson on these proposals and others. For Johnson, current President of the League of Minnesota Cities, it's a matter of another conservative tenet: local control.

Most Minnesotans would probably be surprised at how much state law restricts local units of government, from levy limts to salary caps, to the proposed surveys which would constitute an expansion of the existing Truth in Taxation provision. I was clueless about such things, until Johnson enlightened me a while back with her years of experience trying to serve the citizens and solve the problems of our growing western Twin Cities suburb. In nonpartisan offices like the city council (and like the Legislature was until 1973), ideology tends to take a backseat to getting the job done. Being nonpartisan also allows you to ask questions and point out contradictions from both sides of the aisle.

Faith and politics don't mix in some churches, but they often combine over coffee and doughnuts at my church. Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a retired executive who is advocating on behalf of the daycare associated with our church. He is finding that fiscal conservatism is sometimes at odds with Jesus's commandment to clothe the naked and feed the hungry. He argued that increased "investments" in early childhood programs have a manyfold return down the road. Sure, we should encourage kids to finish school, get a job, get married, and have kids (in that order), but the reality is, stuff happens, and the adults and children caught in circumstances are very real.

The challenge for policymakers of all political stripes is how to remain true to your school of thought while solving the very real problems of society. Sometimes they are forced (or choose to) set aside society's problems until after something else that is very real: the next election.

1 comment:

sd42webmaster said...

Frist of all, David Strom will point out that Minnesota currently goes WAY beyond clothing the poor and feeding the sick. We didn't get to be #4 highest taxed state by just taking care of the essentials. Where in the Bible does it say, for example, that we have to pay for a Twins stadium? Matthew 25 is often used by liberals to promote the welfare state - the idea that government ought to have the power to coerce people to hand over their money under the threat of imprisonment. Are you sure the Bible is talking about this or is it talking about personal charity? Second, the same Bible says "If you don't work, you don't eat". Obviously there are needy individuals, but government does a poor job of weeding out welfare cheats and able bodied people who simply refuse to work. Third, there is ample evidence that social services often destroy individual initiative to the point where you institute generational poverty - people who no longer are able to work because it is no longer part of their ethic. In some cases you are actually doing more harm than good. Finally, liberals are the last people in the world who ought to be quoting the Bible - aren't they the ones who constantly harass schools and the Boy Scouts and people who believe in the sanctity of marriage about seperation of church and state? It could be argued that a state that spends 30% more on welfare than any of its surrounding states is most assuredly not doing something right. It is certainly unjust to characterize someone who opposes yet another tax increase as being selfish or, as you put it, uninterested in solving the state's "problems".