Kansans want real solutions — not false choices
By Dave Trabert, Kansas Policy InstituteA recent column by Dave Helling in the Kansas City Star pondered reasons why “…the Johnson County moderate, a fixture of Kansas politics for decades, is an increasingly endangered species.” Larry Winn III, described as a charter member of the county’s moderate faction, suggested that conservatives are more “excitable” and do a better job of getting their base out to vote. Other suggestions included a variety of demographic shifts and the influence of social media, making voters less dependent on endorsements.
Another suggestion — which is very encouraging — is that “the old model … [of] voters quietly deferring to the judgment of business and community elites … appears broken.” Given the preponderance of partisan, unreliable information being passed off as “fact,” it is imperative that citizens gather their own information and make independent, informed decisions.
However, one reason for the declining power of moderates wasn’t considered, and it’s one that applies to all factions of all parties — the possibility that voters are rejecting their self-serving false choices.
Winn says moderates are “… more interested in practical problems than ideology.” That is a classic false choice; one can be interested in practical solutions and have an ideology. Note to Mr. Winn — whatever beliefs underlie your moderate philosophy constitute an ideology, which is nothing more than a set of ideas and beliefs.
Helling’s column gets to the core of the moderate ideology — preference for high-quality public education and infrastructure over a lower-tax, smaller-government approach. That’s another classic false choice; Kansans can have high quality public education and other services while also benefiting from a low-tax, smaller government. Indeed, the states that tax income spend 49 percent more per-resident providing the same basket of services as those without an income tax. And they don’t pass the costs on to local government; per-resident local tax collections are nine percent higher in the states that tax income.
Dick Bond, another Johnson County moderate leader, condescendingly suggested that moderates didn’t vote the “right” way because they just didn’t understand the issues. He can’t fathom that some former moderates may be tired of being told they must accept false choices … or how they should think.
Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, moderate leaders equate better outcomes with higher spending and claim that spending less will force quality to decline. That’s another false claim intended to keep citizens supportive of higher taxes.
Moderate leaders at the state and local level aren’t opposed to lower taxes per se, but to the cultural shift necessitated by a smaller, low-tax government. Providing the same or better quality service at a better price means there are far fewer spoils to divide among those who profit from government spending, and it’s the power to pick winners and losers that they crave most.
The “winners” include single companies that receive targeted subsidies or tax breaks, industry categories that profit from targeted policy (e.g., “expanding Medicaid is good for hospitals” and “renewable energy mandates and property tax exemptions are good for the wind industry”) and government entities that benefit from proposed spending increases. The “losers” are citizens who must pay higher taxes to fund the largess. The false choices perpetrated by moderate leaders favor institutions over individual citizens and students.
Citizens certainly want more jobs and high quality services but they are tired of being told that paying higher taxes is the only option. Citizens want real solutions — not false choices.