Giving Conservatives What They Want

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Tiassa, Dec 3, 2010.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Although it starts with a local issue, David Goldstein's raises a point that might have broader implications:

    They won't necessarily come right out and say it, but a lot of Republicans look at this budget disaster as a good thing... an opportunity to "right-size" state and local government via fiscal crisis in a way they could never achieve at the ballot box... whatever the cost in human suffering. I mean, isn't this exactly what the Seattle Times is talking about when it lumps its focus on "resetting government to the world's new economic realities" under the brand "Reset 2010"...?

    Well, you know what? It's past time for Democrats in Olympia to get the message, and realize that in this current economic and political climate, we can no longer afford to fully support our welfare state. And since a disproportionate amount of welfare in our state goes to rock ribbed Republican counties, that's where a disproportionate amount of the cuts should come.

    And the first place to start? Eliminate school levy equalization.

    Granted, the bleeding-heart, tax-and-spend liberal in me fully understands that levy equalization is a worthwhile program, granting poorer, mostly rural school districts a somewhat more equal funding footing with wealthier urban and suburban districts. But, at a cost of $165 million a year, that's the sort of bleeding heart, I'm constantly told, that our state simply can no longer afford.

    Of course, without this redistribution of wealth from our children to theirs, many of these property-poor districts, particularly the smaller ones, simply will not be able to survive, forcing dozens our state's 295 districts to close and consolidate for the sake of efficiency, resulting in a loss of local control, and in some cases, considerably longer school bus commutes.

    But again, isn't that exactly what the Seattle Times is talking about when it argues for "resetting government to the world's new economic realities"...?

    The reality is, the economic divide in Washington state largely tracks the political one: rural vs. urban. And since it's rural Republicans who largely oppose all but the most minimal government services (at least rhetorically) and the taxes that support them, given the current budget crisis, it's time for urban Democrats to give the opposition what they claim they want.

    The merit of the suggestion seems short- and intermediate-term. The problem with it comes over the long term. This is part of why it might sound attractive to some.

    Goldy suggests that Washington state Democrats "can simply no longer afford—either fiscally or politically—to continue fighting to subsidize the inefficient and unsustainable local governments of the rural communities who most vehemently rail against subsidizing inefficient and unsustainable government".

    And it's tempting. Give them what they want, and leave them to flounder and drown in the results.

    But it's not just them. It's all of us, together. The elimination of school levy equalization might stick it to the conservatives, but in the end brings more complications than it solves. As education degrades in those communities, we will see an accentuation of the "lucky sperm club", such as it is. That is, there will be haves and have-nots, or winners and losers, and part of what determines that outcome would be who one's parents are and where they live. The children of conservative parents who argue against such redistribution of wealth will attend less-efficient schools, and receive lower quality educations. This, of course, will be partially offset—e.g., exacerbated—by nonstandard educational ideas. And when those kids whose parents teach them all sorts of nonsense about people and science don't get into the better colleges they hope for, they will have fewer economic opportunities. In addition to their individual suffering, as such, there will also be a collective price as these people move to cities in search of sustenance employment, and add weight to the problems of the poor and uneducated. Which, of course, will reduce the quality of life in the cities while bleeding whatever talent pool (and population) remains in rural areas.

    On a federal level, we might consider taxes paid per state, and benefits received. Again, many conservative states—which receive much benefit of wealth redistribution—would suffer for having gotten what they wanted. The economic, educational, and cultural gaps between regions will increase, sharpening the definition of the "two Americas".

    And, of course, those conservatives who got exactly what they wanted will eventually complain, and it will be everyone's fault but theirs.

    In the long run, giving over to such conservative demands will only increase our society's troubles. But it is hard to convince our conservative neighbors of that outcome. They won't believe it until they're living it.

    So, sure, it might feel good—for a while, at least—to stick it to the conservatives by giving them what they want. But should everyone else have to suffer in order to prove a point that conservatives won't accept, anyway? After all, they'll just blame the results on everyone else who was stupid enough to give them what they wanted in the first place.


    Goldstein, David ("Goldy"). "It's Time to Give Rural Republicans the Government They Demand". Slog. December 3, 2010. December 3, 2010.
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  3. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Welfare State: Wealth Redistribution Favors Conservative Communities

    Welfare State: Wealth Redistribution Favors Conservative Communities

    Political rhetoric in the United States often seems at least slightly confused. Case in point: the right wing's demon spectres of "socialism" and "wealth redistribution". Some might pause to chuckle at the sight of one cutting his own throat, but at some point, any serious consideration of such political issues needs to acknowledge the fundamental reality that those who complain the loudest (e.g., conservatives) are also the biggest beneficiaries of societal redistribution of wealth.

    David Goldstein puts it this way:

    When our state's rural Republicans toss around pejoratives like "socialism," "redistribution of wealth," and "welfare state," they're usually hurling them at the People's Republic of Seattle and the Democratic legislators we send to Olympia. As a commenter on the Spokane Spokesman-Review's website recently carped: "Eastern Washington... has always been shorted/slighted where state expenditures are concerned! Nearly to the point that we don't exist!"

    That's not an uncommon complaint. Republican lawmakers make a similar accusation, albeit more veiled, that the state is serving as an engine of wealth redistribution. However, the money is not exactly moving in the direction most Eastern Washingtonians suspect.

    Indeed, if Washington is a welfare state, it is residents in these mostly rural, mostly Eastern, mostly Republican counties who are the biggest beneficiaries, while taxpayers here in the blue parts of the state are left footing the bill. And while your typical liberal Seattleite might be neither surprised nor disturbed at this revelation, the degree of the gap between who benefits from state government and who pays for it may come as a bit of a shock.

    ("Welfare State")

    According to the state Office of Financial Management, in 2008, King County—nearly thirty percent of the state's population—offered up forty-two percent (42%) of state revenues, but received only 26% of state benefit outlays.

    That's a return of only 62 cents on the dollar for our state's Democratic stronghold.

    Compare that to the generous $3.16 return on each dollar enjoyed by taxpayers in hard Republican Ferry County in deep northeastern Washington. All in all, only six counties qualified as "net donors" to the rest of the state—San Juan, King, Skagit, Kittitas, Whatcom, and Snohomish—while the remaining 33 counties enjoyed an average return on investment of over $1.40 on every tax dollar sent to Olympia.


    Part of the reason for this, Goldy notes, is that the state is facing $4.6 billion worth of budget cuts. Questions of how those cuts will play out are still up in the air, but one does wonder about the impacts on the various counties. "It is hard," he suggests ("Disproportionate"), "to imagine how the kind of deep cuts Republicans say they want cannot help but disproportionately fall on their own districts, when it is these Republican districts that currently consume a disproportionate share of the state budget."

    It is a curious outcome:

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    Tax Exporters and Importers: The heart of Washington state's "liberalism" is funding the rest of the state.

    One way to view the disparity is to look at educational funding. Considering the costs of "basic education" funding in the state is a suggestive exercise, to be certain. King County (e.g., Seattle & environs) is third from last in basic education costs per full time enrollment. And while, certainly, there are lessons to consider regarding economies of scale, it might also occur to one to wonder about the sudden need for subtlety in conservative rhetoric. After all, there are reasons why Lincoln County, Washington (Davenport & environs, pop. <11,000) requires $10,356 per FTE. (Goldstein, "Size Matters")

    But therein lies the question: Is it simply organizational? Yes, it costs four times the sum to educate nine students in an Adams County school district than it would to do the same in Seattle. But what do conservatives really want?

    Just hack away at the trough? Republican Rep. Glenn Anderson introduced some fairly striking legislation last month:

    As the Legislature continues into its third week, Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, has introduced House Joint Resolution 4214, which proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to dissolve and reorganize counties that receive twice as much in state transfer payments as they generate in state tax revenues. The proposal has bipartisan support.

    “Washington is facing an extraordinary budget crisis just like California. We must take direct action to restore fiscal sanity,” Anderson said. “Of the thirty-nine counties, six contribute 75 percent of the state’s total tax revenues. King County alone contributes 40 percent to the state’s total tax revenues, but only receives only 25 percent in state program expenditures. That means King County residents, Republicans and Democrats alike, are paying double for state programs, subsidizing much of the rest of the state. This must change” ....

    .... “The state needs the constitutional authority to dissolve and reorganize counties that are no longer capable of financially sustaining themselves,” Anderson said. “It is a fundamental conservative business principal that if your subsidiary operations are financially failing then you should stop the bleeding and shut them down.”

    The counties directly impacted by Anderson’s proposal are Adams, Asotin, Ferry, Stevens, Lincoln, Garfield, Yakima and Wahkiakum. All but Wahkiakum are represented by Republican legislators.

    Anderson explained that Republicans need to embrace this awkward reality if they are to be taken seriously as budget discussions progress during the legislative session.


    Meanwhile, in the case of the schools, Goldy notes ("Smaller Government") that the solutions are transferring the financial burdens of education to students. This, too, will hurt these less affluent counties.

    Yes, Wahkiakum can go to Cowlitz or Pacific. But look at that swath in the east half. Ferry, Stevens, Lincoln, and Adams. That's a huge area. And there isn't really much suggesting that combining Asotin and Garfield Counties into Columbia, or all three into Walla Walla, or some such, will make anything better. How much of Benge School District's over 46k per FTE is invested in county-level administration?

    Altogether there are three districts with total revenues exceeding $40,000 per student, 16 exceeding $30,000 and 22 exceeding $25,000... and all of them have enrollments under 100 students. Not surprisingly, for almost all of these districts, the vast majority of their funding came from state and federal sources; for example the Evergreen district in Stevens County raised $44,594 per student to educate its seven enrolled children, but only $574 each through local taxes. And while it is far from a straight line, in general, the smaller a district is, the higher its per student cost to the state.

    ("Size Matters")

    It is a complicated political situation, to say the least, but one thing seems clear: Conservatives are well-advised to put aside the whole demonization of wealth redistribution. It is their own complaining constituencies that benefit the most from the practice, all while gnawing after the public hand that feeds them. This spectacle needs to be set aside; it is a distraction.

    Because, paranoid fantasies notwithstanding, we liberals do actually care about the wellbeing of our conservative neighbors. Certes, there is some self-interest in that, insofar as my society is generally safer and more prosperous because of this sort of wealth redistribution, but there is also the fact that yes, conservatives are human beings, too. And though so many love to think that people hate them just for being conservative—when the truth is that people are repulsed not by the identity politic, but the principles and behaviors it asserts—the reality is that we aren't going to let someone bleed to death in the gutter, even of a self-inflicted wound, simply because that person chooses to identify with conservatives, the Tea Party, or the GOP.

    Or, as Goldy appeals:

    Now, I'm not posting this data to make an argument for school district consolidation (though when it comes to some small and mid-sized districts, I'm guessing there's a helluva strong argument to make). And I'm certainly not making either a moral or policy argument against our state's wealthier households shouldering a disproportionate share of the cost of providing state services. Furthermore, I value what rural Washingtonians produce, and truly want them to be able to sustain their communities and educate their children, while maintaining a comfortable standard of living.

    But the fact is, many of these communities and the basic government services they require are simply not sustainable without substantive state and federal subsidies... subsidies that we cannot continue to maintain at adequate levels without support from our rural neighbors to raise the taxes necessary to pay for them.


    Goldstein, David. "It's Time to Give Rural Republicans the Government They Demand". Slog. December 3, 2010. February 9, 2011.

    —————. "Since Red Counties Enjoy a Disproportionate Share of the State Budget, They Should Expect a Disproportionate Share of the Cuts". Slog. January 25, 2011. February 9, 2011.

    —————. "Size Matters: The High Cost of Maintaining Small Rural School Districts". Slog. January 27, 2011. February 9, 2011.

    —————. "Now This Is What 'Smaller Government' Looks Like". Slog. February 3, 2011. February 9, 2011.

    —————. "Welfare State". The Stranger. February 9, 2011. February 9, 2011.

    Cussins, Bobbi. "Rep. Glenn Anderson introduces constitutional amendment to dissolve financially-insolvent counties in rural Washington". Washington House Republicans. January 26, 2011. February 9, 2011.
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  5. quinnsong Valued Senior Member

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  7. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    That's only confusing if you start from the (erroneous) assumption that conservatives actually want what they (ostensibly) say they want.

    They don't. We know this perfectly well - we've seen it every time that they get elected, and then immediately turn around and do the exact opposite of what they said they wanted. What conservatives want is power, and what they say about themselves and their desires and plans is simply a means to attaining power.

    Likewise, there's not a single conservative policy prescription that is not a lie to begin with. Taken literally, there seems to be a considerable variance between what they say they want, and what they actually want. But if you fill in the appropriate code-words and dog-whistles, it's usually pretty clear. I.e., conservatives don't oppose redistribution of wealth at all - they oppose the redistribution of their wealth to minorities, the poor, etc. Transfers of other peoples' wealth into their own pockets is all fine and dandy. There's a reason that they spend so much time and money test-marketting slogans and railing against political correctness: PC means that they can no longer just come out and say "the niggers are coming for your money and women!"
  8. quinnsong Valued Senior Member

    Then the question is why oh why do so many Americans fall for this crap and what to do?
  9. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Nothing mysterious about the craven urge for power, or greed. Is there?

    Well, can't hurt to point it out where you see it, at least.
  10. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    An argument totally built on a logical fallacy.

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    A county that is "Blue" is not TOTALLY Democrat you know, even large parts of King County went Republican on the 8th district vote.

    Then when considering redistribution of taxes one has to consider that roads and infrastructure (like dams) are likely to be far more costly in rural counties, on a per person basis, than the dense cities so one would expect that in any state as large as Washington with such huge population dispartities, that state expenditures would tend to flow out of the cities to the more rural areas, but of course, a lot of the wealth that the residents who live in the cities make (and pay taxes on) probably comes from their holdings/operations in the rest of the state.

    Which makes me wonder, when talking about "wealth redistribution" as an issue in a state with an 80,000 million budget, why are you picking on something that is such a TINY piece of that pie, the $125 million levy on schools? Seems one would look at BIGGER pieces of that pie then one that represents only 2/10ths of 1 percent of the budget?

    Last edited: Feb 11, 2011

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