Progressives Can Learn from the Tea Party

by francine Hardaway on May 17, 2010

I am a Progressive, and yet even I know that we’re going to need a change in the way we run our government, both federal and state, or places like California and Arizona will be Greece.

In America, no state wants to be Greece. In Arizona, we are about to vote on a 1% sales tax, which is already unpopular, but necessary to keep the jobs of teachers and first responders. We are also about to fight health care reform, and it has been suggested that we drop out of Medicaid in 2014.  The organizations fighting the sales tax will probably lose,  because we are in dire need of both short term and long term fixes for our budget deficit. But is it the right thing to do?

California is in the same position. What amuses me is that Arizona is “conservative” and California is “liberal” in the eye of the beholders. In other words,  as a state you’re short funds right now whether you were a tax-and-spend state or a not-another-nickel-for-children state. Only Montana seems to be okay. And that’s probably because it has such a small population.

It’s time to choose what we want government to do.  Both education and health care should be massively revamped, as they, prisons, and unfunded federal mandates are the bulk of every state’s budget. Good luck getting health care or education done, because of all the vested interests, including rioting students and sick seniors. But here are some suggestions, some gleaned from the Tea Party:

1) Invite outside experts to come in and evaluate some state programs to see if they are indeed useful. Many state programs, such as Arizona’s Drug and Violence Prevent program,  don’t do much good and although they are small, they are part of our death by a thousand cuts. Others might be poorly managed, especially education and health care.

2) Automate more processes in state government. Arizona has done a better job of this than many other states, with is Service Arizona Portal for the Motor Vehicle Division. Almost all information processes can be shifted online, where customers can serve themselves for routine needs.

3) Kill the state agencies that have already been so wounded that they can’t do what they were set up to do: the Arts Commission, the Historical Association, and the Tourism department. Since tourism is a business, let’s just privatize it. I laughed when Gov. Brewer, after signing S.B. 1070, convened a tourism task force and gave it scarce money to turn around Arizona’s image. I wanted her to buy school supplies instead.

4) Reform the tax structure. This has been proposed since I moved to Arizona. We have very low property taxes, because we’re controlled by the real estate industry. The real estate lobby sees our entire state as one big piece of real estate. But we should bring our property taxes in line with those of other states.

5)If we are going down that road, let’s take some of our empty real estate and convert it to education uses, rather than building more schools. Charter schools have proven that adaptive re-use of existing real estate works.

6) Legalize and tax medical marijuana. Voters actually passed an initiative to do this in 1996, and tacked on to it is the Parents Commission on Drug and Violence Control. The legalization of medical marijuana was never implemented, and yet the Parents Commission was formed and spends money every year. California is on the way to doing this. It would also help the border problem, since Americans use the drugs, and their illegality makes them cost more. We can’t tax a Mexican drug cartel, but we can tax a medical marijuana dispensary.

7) Release non-violent drug offenders from Arizona prisons. According to the Goldwater Institute and the legislature, this would save $100 million annually.

8) Consolidate the school districts. This is another idea that has been circulating for forty years.  We have massive overlap in our districts: there are hundreds of districts, some with only one or two schools. Each has a superintendent, and a board, and administrative costs. These little districts, and indeed our entire way of educating children, comes from the 19th century. We need some sort of “lean manufacturing” consultant to fix this for us.

9) Instead of dropping out of Medicaid, get on board and push for outcomes-based medicine and new methods of delivery (telemedicine) that will lower costs for all branches of government.

The problem with all these suggestions is that there’s so much “funny math” on both sides, that it’s hard to tell what might really be cost effective. Americans for Prosperity says Arizona spent over $9000 per student last year, but  the Arizona Tax Research Association says that number is $6000 and according to the education association, that puts us dead last among states. And never mind whether there’s a real correlation between that and achievement. That’s above my pay grade,

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Karoli May 17, 2010 at 9:47 am

Americans for Prosperity has a vested interest in killing school systems everywhere. The private school industry is lucrative, especially when paired with their textbook indoctrination plan.

This idea that privatization is the best pathway for traditional government services is typically conservative. Why provide public services by public agencies when profits can be made, after all?

Wes Hopper May 17, 2010 at 10:19 am

Francine, it's so nice to see a reasoned approach to our state's problems. All I seem to hear is ideological rants from one interest group or another. And up here in the White Mtns the progressives are an endangered species. Of your proposals I especially like 4, 6, 7 and 9. They'd have the most positive effects, and of course they're the most controversial.
What the state refuses to realize is that growth forever is not a viable plan. We've got plenty of land, but not water, and when California shuts the tap on the CAP supply the party will be over. Your comments on taxes point out that property taxes are low, but as I'm sure you know the state depends on sales taxes, and a big portion of sales taxes come from new construction. When the building stopped, the state went broke. So a more balanced tax structure developed around a stable population base is required. Will we get it? Not with the current bunch in office.

hardaway May 17, 2010 at 11:49 am

I think some services belong in the private sector, like the humanities,
arts, drug prevention programs, etc. Government can't do anything. Let's let
it do some things, like health, education, and welfare well. I agree with
you about schools, and I am well aware of the interest of Americans for
Prosperity, but I like to be as even-handed and open-minded as I can. The
idea of consolidating districts isn't theirs, and it is a huge waste of
money in our education budgets that doesn't even go to classrooms, just

thebearparty May 21, 2010 at 5:45 am

Do good – Don't be grouchy!

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