This week, as state and national leaders try to figure out how to keep our financial ship from sinking and we prepare for fall election campaigns that are sure to illustrate the rising tide of political pusillanimity, we the people remain as confused as ever.
As the last U.S. combat troops leave Iraq after fighting a war started over weapons of mass destruction that were never found, nobody is quite sure whether to declare victory or even what emotion to portray.
We do know the war on terror is costing us billions of dollars every month, which is money we don’t have but the Chinese are happy to lend us.
Washingtonians seem to have little appetite for increased taxes, but even less tolerance for reduced monitoring of potentially dangerous criminals, unsafe roads, traffic congestion and the blight of homeless people littering our sidewalks.
It seems as if Americans – faced with the overwhelming responsibility of saving the planet, policing the world and protecting ourselves – are bewildered about what to do. It’s as if all our choices contradict each other.
We need to trim hundreds of millions out of the state budget, but our legislative representatives protect the last special interest group that knocked on their door. We all think they should cut funding for “the other guy.”
We don’t want to pay taxes, but we expect services. We want more high-paying jobs, but we don’t want to make it easier to do business.
We have Initiative 1107 and Referendum 52 on the same ballot this year. One would eliminate the tax on bottled water, while the other would continue it to increase energy efficiency in public school buildings.
We also have Initiative 1053 requiring a two-thirds vote for the Legislature to raise taxes (again) and Initiative 1098 that assesses an income tax on people making more than $200,000 per year.
A recent book, “Wealth and Democracy” by Kevin Phillips says that America not only has the most unequal distribution of wealth in the Western world, but that we’re fast approaching our own most lopsided inequality of pre-1913, the year we adopted the federal income tax.
In 1913, over half of America’s wealth was owned by the top 1 percent of wealthy people. Today, that same group owns 40 percent of our total wealth.
Living in a free-market economy requires tolerance for income disparities and social privilege. But it also requires regulation and oversight so the greedy among us don’t take advantage of the majority of Americans, who are mostly generous people.
Can’t we find a way of rewarding initiative while simultaneously caring for the least fortunate among us?
Why can’t we generate enthusiasm for universal health care, funding schools, finding clean energy and maintaining an adequate infrastructure of roads and human services?
What we really need is a sane economic policy that addresses social concerns and lessens the connection between wealth and political power and access.
Gov. Chris Gregoire is correct when she says we need to transform government, but what does that look like and how do we get there from here?
Meanwhile, the spirit of community continues on in Thurston County. ... Dr. Suneet Bath, DMD, is hosting the first annual “Dentistry From The Heart” event on Sept. 11 at his Impressions Dentistry office in Olympia. He and four to five other area dentists, and more than 15 staff members, will be providing a full day of free dentistry for anyone who needs it. Alarmed by the growing number of Americans who lack dental insurance, these local dentists hope to treat 100 or more patients and give away about $15,000 in free dental care. You can find out more at www. dentistryfromtheheart.org. ... Also on Sept. 11, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office and the Olympia Auto Mall are holding a Bee Safe Safety Fair where experts will provide safety services such as child car seat checks and bike helmet fittings.
George Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.