In gloating over the refusal of both the King and Pierce county councils to put tax hike measures on the ballot this fall, the Seattle Times editorial board congratulates council members for their political cowardice:
It is remarkable how the fear of losing an election concentrates the political mind.
I understand the Times’ knee-jerk, ideological opposition to tax hikes (unless, of course, we’re talking about driving tens of thousands of entrepreneurs out of business by forcing on them the expense of quarterly filing sales taxes in 45 states… that, they’re for), and they’re entitled to that, but their obvious pleasure over politicians bowing to fear, just comes off as unseemly.
Yes, we want our elected officials to listen to the people, but there’s a difference between representing the interests of voters and pandering to them. Editorialists can howl all they want about the budget crises facing nearly every single state and local government in the nation being crises of these governments’ own making (instead of, you know, being largely the result a nearly unprecedented economic downturn), but that doesn’t make the real life impact of the resulting budget cuts any less painful or the anti-stimulative effect of slashing government spending and jobs any less dangerous.
The bold and responsible move would be to temporarily raise taxes slightly to help soften the blow, so that we don’t have to, say, dramatically cut back our public health budget at a time we’re preparing for a potentially devastating swine flu pandemic. And with opinion leaders like the Times working hard to cultivate a climate of political fear, it’s no wonder such a proposal came from interim King County Executive Kurt Triplett, a non-politician free to act on what he believes is best for King County rather than what is best for himself at the polls, only to be quickly shot down by council members with opposite incentives.
Yeah, “fear of losing an election,” or of losing a majority, or of merely losing a reliable source of campaign money, that’s what tends to motivate politicians. But if that’s such a good thing, it’s hard to understand why the Times isn’t more satisfied with government we’ve got?