Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why I'm contemplating a Democratic Party Line Vote

Just to set this up by stating the obvious :-), all but one of the elections on the ballot are state elections (or below). The one exception is the seat for US Congress. State issues parallel national ones in many ways, but also there are some important differences between the two. Unless you're Sarah Palin, foreign policy views are pretty much irrelevant (ok, for Arizona, border issues with Mexico matters - but certainly not the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq).

This website gives a break down on how Arizona spends its money - largely on education and health care (as opposed to the federal government which breaks down mostly among defense, health care and social security).

So, education and healthcare are two of the big issues state politicians must tackle.

But consider Arizona is one of the lowest states in the country on per pupil education spending and that Arizona ranks 41st in the country in overall tax state and local tax burden felt by an individual.

Over the last decade or so Arizona politics has mirrored federal. We have relied on accounting gimmicks and an unsustainable housing bubble to fuel a growth in spending demands even as we cut state and local taxes. Anecdotally, we have a race to the bottom political mentality. One example is seen whenever a big business wants to move into the valley and each city offers sweetheart tax loopholes in an effort to get the business within their city limits.

The housing boom is over and will probably not return. Arizona can still be a growth state but we need to transform our politics to something sustainable. Furthermore, education is our future, we can't endure much more in the way of cuts if we really want Arizona to remain an attractive destination for families with kids. Additionally, if we ever want to to to create a Silicon Valley clone, or something like it, we need to improve our universities.

This all takes money (I'm all for education reform but until someone can show me how great schools can be created with no resources you can't tell we don't need money), so tax hikes have got to be a part of the equation in the balanced budget debates.

But the Republican party has demogogued themselves out of tax hikes largely. They talk about how we must learn to live in a more resource constrained environment.

Jane Brewer did get a 1% sales tax proposition on the ballot which passed overwhelmingly, but if it wasn't for 1070B, she probably would have lost in the primaries at least partially because of that tax increase. So, there are definitely reasonable, smart leaders in the Republican party, but they exist in a pretty toxic political environment right now.

More examples: I probably would vote for Ken Bennett for Secretary of State (he seems like a talented, pragmatic and experienced person) if these were different times. Tom Horne probably would make a good Attorney General. Jan Brewer (assuming she's healthy) has been a decent governor (at least in the second half of her term - she had a rough/slow start). I'm torn between Duce and Cherney for treasurer.

But, ideologically, the Republican party has been stifled by an ideology dominated by tax cutting dogma that usually makes no sense (I'm not against low taxes - but what are going to live without and is it worth it).

They want to turn every issue into a debate between the markets and socialism (including schools). The results have been and will continue to be a race to the bottom for most except the truly well off who will always get access to what they desire. There is a reason why we have a growing income gap in this country.

I definitely don't want socialism. I just want greater access to schools and health care for more people. Keep most everything else private. But education is our future. We need to invest in it.

So, yes, despite some of the tough choices, I'm probably going to go Democratic in this election. The stakes are too high and right now, I don't trust the Republicans.

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