Paying for a partisan democracy
Republicans for years have fairly successfully portrayed the Democrats as the tax-and-spend party. There is some truth here, as Democratic values commonly are best accomplished through government programs. Often, the federal government is the only option.
For example, aid to people with disabilities, or aid to abused women. When it was left to the churches and nonprofits to care for them, you know how inadequate were the results. In spite of valiant efforts, they were simply overwhelmed and underfunded.
And forget the private sector; there is no profit to be made. Nor can it be left to the states. If one state cares for its citizens and a neighbor state doesn't, it isn't long before there is a migration to a more compassionate state.
Other values also require a national strategy. We can't afford to have young people anywhere go without a quality education. The same can be said of clean air and water or global warming.
On the other hand, many Republican values must be paid for with private dollars, or be funded indirectly. Programs promoting such values do not directly require tax payments, but they do add to the financial burden for all of us, or add indirect costs to government at all levels.
It is not my intent here to judge either Democratic or Republican programs (each has some justification). It is rather to point out that both parties add to the costs of living in a democracy.
The most recent example is school safety. Although many people (mostly Republican) are advocating having an armed guard in every school, I have yet to hear anyone suggest that we should raise taxes to pay for them. Presumably funding would come from already strapped school budgets. This could only result in another blow to the quality of education. I keep hearing about the evil of leaving our children with debt, but leaving them ignorant is surely worse.
Other examples are just as costly but don't require direct appropriations. When the Legislature decides to get tough on crime and passes minimum mandatory sentences, jail time for minor drug offenses, or even capital punishment, they add a great burden to the state budget. A recent Tribune story estimated that in capital punishment cases, the state pays an annual average of "$690,800 over and above the projected legal costs if they were prosecuted without the death penalty." It also estimated that "Experts may cost the county $50,000 to $100,000."
The state's commitment to reducing or ending abortions is also very expensive to taxpayers. No one knows the social costs of unexpected children, or how much more we would pay in welfare for single mothers if abortion were not an option.
The same is true of end-of-life issues. It is estimated that up to 80 percent of our health care is delivered in the last six months of life. Yet, when President Obama tried to address these questions in his Affordable Health Act, he was accused of promoting "death panels."
Unwillingness to address the effects of greenhouse gases may well be saving industry in the short run, but we are literally reaping the whirlwind with an unimaginable cost. Immigration, too, is not without cost. The Republican goal of deporting all undocumented workers would have dire consequences for several industries, which would affect my income. If I must pay more for vegetables, or hotels, how is that worse than paying taxes?
These programs and others may very well be justified, but let's be honest about the social and financial costs they involve. In the end, we all pay.
Rod Julander is a former vice chair of the Utah Democratic Party and is an emeritus professor at Weber State University.
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