Losing the will to rule
Jon Pritchett’s Public Policy column in your January 24th edition was standard GOP fare, pointing to taxes and regulations as partial reasons for our state’s decline in population. While he correctly cites opportunity as a major factor, couldn’t he have made a better case that the failure of the state to fulfill its historical responsibilities in schools and roads is more the root cause that makes Mississippi less attractive to prospective business owners? They need a capable workforce and a delivery system for their products or services. Instead, we do not hold accountable school districts where actual education is subsumed to providing a payroll for some of its citizens and fielding ball teams for community entertainment. And it seems all of us are angry enough about the deplorable condition of our roads and bridges to demand more than the simple lip service our legislators pay it until the next quadrennial election year.
Of course these things require money (as well as a moral commitment to public education) and there’s the rub. Candidates declare for office in obeisance to Grover Norquist’s “no tax pledge.” A leading proponent of this inflexibility is our lieutenant (and would-be) governor, who also follows the proven false doctrine of Arthur Laffer and David Stockman that we can cut taxes and somehow generate more revenue as a result. (I call that the “make it up on volume” theory; in Texas, they call it an Aggie joke.) Implementing this kind of policy has nearly bankrupted Kansas and Louisiana (and given them Democratic governors) and would break the federal government if it couldn’t run a deficit budget. But the idea that we can get something for nothing politically is as addictive to voters as crack cocaine and, therefore, persists.
What we have lost in the nearly 40 years of this addiction is what used to be called “the will to rule.” That was the ability of our leaders to sit down and decide what the government must provide and how we would pay for it. Our response now is limited to taking over the old Mob businesses………casinos, sports betting and (soon) selling numbers, a.k.a. a lottery.
Mississippi, nor any other state, can tax cut its way to prosperity. When I once flippantly asked a waitress if a free piece of pie came with the plate lunch, her immediate rejoinder was, “Ain’t nothing free but salvation, honey.” Those are words to live by.