By Lowell L. Kalapa
In the last few weeks on the speaking circuit, the question has come up time and time again, who do you think we should vote for in the coming election. The response has been, If you want change, then you need to make change yourself.
The response is always perplexing to the audience. But it is true, if people want change in how their tax dollars are being spent and used by those who are in office, then they need to make change. However, that change can only be accomplished by voters who are willing to change their own habits of merely voting for the familiar, the incumbent, the “friend of a friend.” Instead, voters need to take a long hard look at the candidates and ask how they stand on the issues.
For example, if you think taxes are already too high, did the incumbent who represented you in the last legislature vote for higher taxes? That not only means whether or not they voted to raise the general excise tax as part of the scheme to revitalize the economy, but did your state or county official vote to give away special tax breaks only to certain taxpayers? The result of that kind of special tax break means the rest of us have to pick up the tab for the taxes that are forgone.
Or did your elected official use some sort of slight of hand to hide the fact that the size of government just grew a little bit larger? Did they substitute user fees and charges in place of raising the more obvious income tax or real property tax? Did that elected official decide to sweep programs off the table and hide them in special funds so you can’t see how much is being spent on that program?
As voters and taxpayers, you deserve more than a candidate that can turn out the most sign wavers at the neighborhood street corners or a candidate who hands out potholders at the last craft fair. And while we are told that we need elected officials who can work together with the majority to get legislation through the political process, we also need lawmakers who can call it like they see it and are willing to stand up for what they believe.
The cynical attitude people take toward government and elected officials is due in large part to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be very many elected officials who are willing to step outside the pack of sheep that voters perceive to be in charge of government. Not only have there been people who have come up and said that it’s great that we call it as we see it, but elected officials should be the first line of defense for taxpayers have also echoed that opinion. Is there something wrong with this picture that elected officials are too afraid to speak up for fear of being out of step with the majority?
Voters constantly decry the fact that “special interests” seem to control the legislative process be it at the state or county level. Well, voters and taxpayers are also a “special interest” group. However, unless you as taxpayers who are being asked to pay the bills get out and vote, then those other “special interests” will have their way again.
So, coming back to the question of who you should vote for in the upcoming election. If you dislike the idea of paying even higher taxes, be it property taxes, general excise taxes or the new tax called user fees, then vote for someone who is sincerely interested in containing the size of government and is willing to work for a more efficient and responsive government. If you are tired of hearing horror stories of how your tax dollars are being wasted because of some kind of huge mistake, then vote for someone who is willing to challenge the system as it exists today. Vote for someone who is not afraid to take on the status quo and is willing to do things differently. More importantly, when you listen to all that political rhetoric, ask yourself if this candidate is a critical thinker. Has the candidate gone through the process to evaluate the outcomes of his or her actions? Merely promising to reduce taxes while at the same time promising more playgrounds and programs is an indication that the candidate is merely pandering the elusive voter, trying to satisfy everyone with little understanding that you can’t have both, that in fact something has to give if taxes are to be lowered and programs are to be promulgated.
Stop and listen to what the candidates are saying! Examine the issues and the promises of the candidates and make sure they make sense. You can’t have more programs and lower taxes without someone paying for those programs. Regardless of who you support or what issues concern you, it is important you make your voice heard by getting out to vote!