What Flows Downhill
By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
Marco Rubio, the radical right’s Senatorial candidate in Florida, is a man with whom I could hardly disagree more. But he’s saying one thing that I totally agree with, although he means one thing when he says it, and I mean another when I agree.
Rubio is reminding us that this election will determine what kind of nation the next generation of Americans inherits. You better believe it will. But where Rubio (and the rest of the TEA Party folks) and I part company is at the very moment we get into what kind of nation we want the next generation to inherit.
With a week to go before they cast their votes, one likely voter in three is still undecided and open to persuasion, according to Time Magazine, reporting on an Associated Press-GfP poll. Open to persuasion about what kind of outcome will lead to what kind of America.
That’s why I’m forgetting that I’m basically shy, and talking to people about what’s at stake on the first Tuesday in November 2010. Every chance I get, looking over cans of tunafish at the bent can store, waiting for the dentist to call me, waiting on line at the supermarket checkout, I start a conversation with a remark about what a mess this election has become. Nobody disagrees with that. Then I keep my mouth shut, and the next thing I hear gives me a good idea whether I’m talking with one of the “persuadables,” a member of the 30% group.
Maybe it’s easier here in Massachusetts, although this is a place where people don’t usually wear their politics on their sleeves. This year, though, in addition to all the federal and state offices on the ballot, there are two taxation initiatives. One asks whether the state’s 6.25% sales tax on beer, wine, and liquor should be removed. Booze was exempt until last year. Those who want it repealed argue that liquor is already taxed when it comes into the state. Those who want to keep it argue that only necessities like food, clothing, and prescriptions should be exempt. Besides, they say, the state needs the money.
The second referendum asks whether the state sales tax, increased last year from 5% (where it had been since its inception in the late 1960s) to 6.25%, should be rolled back to 3%. The argument in favor says that the cut will create jobs, put money back in people’s pockets, and bring in shoppers from adjoining states that have higher sales taxes. The argument against is that cities and towns depend on state aid to help fund public safety, education, and emergency services. Municipalities’ main revenue source is the real estate property tax.
What makes it easier is that people are more likely to reply to my opener with a remark about the sales tax question. If they’ve made up their minds on that, I’m pretty sure where they’re going to come down on the national elections — they’ll favor the side that wants to shrink government so small you can drown it in a bathtub. If that’s the case, I disengage as soon as I can, wish them a good day, and move on. Life is too short.
But when I come across someone whose mind isn’t made up, I get to point out what kind of country this will be if federal taxes are cut so much that there are no more unemployment checks, no funding for hospitals and hospice, nothing for schools or police. Sometimes, I see eyes widen when I mention that we’re going to keep on having public schools no matter what, and if the fed can’t collect enough taxes to help out the state and the state doesn’t collect enough to help out the towns, then the only thing the towns can do to keep the school doors open is raise property taxes, and even renters will feel the pinch if that happens.
Stuff flows down hill, I say, and most people know what kind of stuff I’m talking about. They also know they live near the bottom of the hill.
Posted on October 27th, 2010 by Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
Filed under: Election 2010