I have startling news for the Republican Party and fiscal conservatives in general. Things cost money.
I generally vote Democratic and when I mention it to non-Democrats I get this horrified look like “So you are in favor of higher taxes, big government and wasteful spending?” Huh? What? When did I say this? I don’t want to pay one dollar more in taxes than I need to contribute. The difference is that I don’t want society to look like a slum. I’ve made the connection, which apparently a lot of people haven’t, that you get the society you pay for.
There are lots of examples of trying to have your cake and eating it too but I will pick today President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative. Even I can’t complain about the idea. Why should some poor inner city kid get an inferior education compared to someone here in Fairfax County, Virginia? The law that was passed is more accurately named “Leave no child behind, and make the states pay for it.” In other words, it’s an unfunded mandate. Last I checked almost every state government, including here in Virginia, is running deficits.
The states are starting to cry foul (I wonder what took them so long). Instead of a race to the top, it’s a recipe for failure. Why? Because for the most part states can’t or won’t summon the political will to raise taxes, and with the money remaining most are not going to throw more money automatically into education.
In fact when it comes to education we are a bunch of damned hypocrites. We say we want better teachers and smaller classrooms. When was the last time someone really decided to pay for it? Okay, there is the progressive state of Maryland, largely controlled by the Democrats. They “got” it. They’ve figured out it will cost serious money to leave no child behind and are paying for it. There are no income tax cuts in Maryland. Taxes may even have to be raised.
Pretty much every year, even here in Fairfax County which is renown for its schools, the class sizes increase, the number of trailers increases out in the play ground, teacher’s salaries are kept at or below the cost of living and everyone runs around trying to meet standards of learning benchmarks, teaching to a test instead of imparting valuable skills like critical thinking. This is politically correct “education”.
Here in Fairfax County our air is increasingly bad, our roads are forever more crowded but just recently we rejected an initiative to raise our taxes half a cent to solve some of these problems. It’s not like we’re exactly poor. We have the second highest per capita income in the country.
There is no way I’d become a public school teacher. Would you want to live in Fairfax County, where houses cost $300K on up on maybe $40,000 a year, teach in overcrowded classrooms, spend most of your off the job time doing lesson plans and grading homework, then be held accountable for bratty kids and their ability to score on some politically inspired standardized test? I’m not sure you can rent an apartment for $40,000 a year in this county any more. And yet we must be doing something better than most, which suggests that other school districts are spending far, far less. When it comes to education in general we talk a good talk but fund the schools as if we were Ebenezer Scrooge.
You want low taxes? Move to Angola. I’m serious. There are NO taxes in Angola; there is only anarchy. You may find that there are additional expenses, like hiring your own personal armies to do your shopping (owning a tank might get expensive), and you might have to build your own roads to get where you want to go. But it must be paradise right? No taxes at all! But what is that? You want low or no taxes AND great roads AND great schools AND minimal crime AND clean air AND you want to drive around in smog producing SUVs? This isn’t rocket science, folks. At best you can get two out of three. You won’t get all of them.
So Republicans and fiscal conservatives, stop being such damned hypocrites. Things cost money. If you want these things, pony up the dough. Pay your share. If you don’t, quit your bitching. Home school your brats. Put a fortress around your McMansions and lead your little xenophobic life detached from the real world. But if you value civilization then pay for it. Taxes are not evil. Taxes are the price of living in a civilized society. And apparently they aren’t nearly high enough.