A4 Monday, May 15,1995 VIEWPOINTS The Salina Journal: the Salina Journal Serving Kansas since 1871 W''l^^ HARRIS RAYL, Publisher GEORGE B. PYLE, Editorial Page Editor SCOTT SEIRER, Executive Editor JIM HAAG, Assistant Editor BEN WEARING, Deputy Editor TIM FITZGERALD, Sports Editor BRET WALLACE, Associate Editor MARY JO PROCHAZKA, Associate Editor BRAD CATT, Associate Editor Editorial Opinion Primary concerns There are better uses for $1.4 million W e should get one thing straight about the presidential preference primary election in Kansas: The issue is not who will win, but who will pay. The election must happen next April, money or no money from Topeka. It's law. The only question for the recent legislative session was whether the state would reimburse counties for the $1.4 million expense. The Legislature, very late in the 1995 session, decided to allocate the money. Gov. Bill Graves was not enthusiastic when he signed the bill containing these funds. But the law requiring the election, passed in 1990, is on the books. It orders the primary and provides that counties send their expenses to Topeka for reimbursement through the Secretary of State's office. If there is no money at the Capitol, the counties are stuck with the expense of an election that is virtually meaningless. Put less delicately, this is an un- funded mandate. Graves hates them. On the political front, this Kansas election belongs to Bob Dole, if election is the word for this exercise. Citizens vote but the party machinery, in a hoary process that nobody understands, still decides which Kansas delegates will attend the nominating convention. The 1996 Legislature may still rescind the Kansas primary, which will fall long after other primaries have decided the parties' nominees for president. The governor believes there are better ways to spend $1.4 million. Don't most of us? Dole Suck-up Watch 4 Change of church raises suspicions C ontinuing our radar track of the rightward trajectory of Bob Dole's presidential campaign, we note a bit of telemetry that defies easy description. Bob and Elizabeth Dole, once pillars of the Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., have taken to filling pews elsewhere because, we are told, Foundry's new minister is too liberal for them. By "too liberal," it is said, the minister is the kind who includes compassion for homosexuals in his sermons and has criticized the GOP Contract With America in the church newsletter. Where one goes to church, if one goes to church, is a personal matter. If this is a simple matter of Dole being happier in another sanctuary, it is his business. But, given his other efforts to make himself the candidate of the Church Police, it does not require an overly suspicious mind to assume that Dole's change of worshipping habits — and the fact that it has been leaked to the press — has been done entirely for political effect. The news that Dole has been seeking spiritual sustenance elsewhere just happens to follow criticism of the Foundry — frequently host to Bill Clinton — from right- wing columnist Cal Thomas. Thomas is a huge fan of religious politicians, unless the religion they follow is different from his. The brand of faith followed at the Foundry, apparently, offers the love of God to just too many people to suit Thomas or, now, Dole. No one except Dole himself can know for sure in this case if he is following his heart or his polls. The fear is that even Dole might not be able to tell anymore. 'Heartland' is no paradise C ontrary to what you may have concluded from television coverage of Oklahoma City, violence has always been perfectly at home in the American "heartland." There has been a lot of malarkey about the innocence of this "heartland," proving perhaps that a tyrannical two- coast mentality has affected the media brain. Or perhaps showing that our formal news media have been infected by tabloid journalism and talk radio with their exhilarating contempt for fact. My own hunch is less cosmic in scope. I suspect a lot of the news people were simply seduced out of their wits by the word "heartland," which they have worked half to death since the bombing. I can understand television's doing that. TV news people nowadays have to be faster on the draw than a Hollywood Wyatt Earp. For a reporter without a millisecond to think a word like "heartland" is a godsend. It instantly suggests goodness. Say it to the camera and the audience is bathed in warm imagery. "Heartland." It makes you think of cocoa at bedtime and of quilting bees, and never mind that you don't like cocoa and don't know what a quilting bee is and that, given your druthers, you would probably pass up the quilting bee and stay home to watch "Homicide." TV fellow says "heartland," you think of a calm, dreamy place where folks talk about things like their druthers. Once you say "heartland" the idea of innocence follows with leaden-footed inevitability, and suddenly, in its desperate need to get the story out in a millisecond, television has trapped itself in romantic fiction. With its repeated suggestions that we should be shocked because this dreadful bombing has violated an innocent "heartland," television adds to the onslaught of ignorance. 'Newspapers I read and movies I saw when young always painted the American heartland as the home office of violence. John Dillinger was one of its more famous citizens. Pretty Boy Floyd was another. So were Bonnie and Clyde. They were American gangsterdom's THE OBSERVER Russell Baker THE NEW YORK TIMES big news makers in the 1930s. You visualized them armed to the teeth speeding along primitive two-lane highways, pausing in some failing town long enough to knock over a bank and kill indiscriminately, then disappearing back into an endlessly flat, bleak landscape. One of American literature's crime masterpieces, Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," is a true story of a Kansas family murdered by two drifters. Its horror rises partly from Capote's power to evoke a menacing loneliness in the prairie landscape and partly from the same elements present in the bombing story: the indiscriminate murder of innocents, including children. Is it worth noting that Oklahoma is next-door neighbor to Texas, which would surely take offense if its reputation for violence were besmirched by TV poets praising its innocence? All this territory was once popular with the Comanche Indians, famous in film and bad history for treating the white man cruelly. Ian Frazier's indispensable book, "The Great Plains," says Comanches, in fact, killed relatively few whites, except for Texans — easily identifiable then as now, says Frazier — whom they seemed to despise with a special passion. Oklahoma itself of course was born in sorrow, its so-called "Indian territory" being where the government herded Indians who obstructed the white man's will. When it was found that a lot of these Indians were sitting on underground lakes of oil, they had to be undone again, though with more subtle violence. Something awful was done in Oklahoma City. No doubt of that. It's a violent place, that heartland. Always has been. Don't let the television dumb us down on that point. State balances budget on the backs of cities "If the state is going to involve itself in local affairs to the point of restricting what the cities and counties can do, then it should give more opportunities in the financial package." T hat assessment of the Legislature's tax policy came from Hutchinson City Manager George W. Pyle. That it was issued 20 years ago should give us some notion about how far we have come in bringing government finance out of the backwaters. The clearest evidence that we're still mired in the past can be found in the breathless fawning over the Legislature's recent act to cut property taxes on automobiles. The new law is said to cut car taxes by $160 million statewide — not at once but over five years, in little bits. Whether this will ever really happen can be said only in 2001, if anyone remembers to check. (Remember the Margin of Excellence in 1987, the three-year plan to increase aid to the universities? Gone after one year.) More than half ($87 million) of the car tax reductions will come from the state's school finance fund. The rest will come from aid to cities and counties. Problem No. 1: Unless they plan dramatic cuts in school finance over the next five years, lawmakers have no plan to cover the revenue losses to education. This might be fine if the Legislature were serious about cutting the education budget. But this year the Legislature increased education spending by $40 million. No. 2: The remaining losses to cities and counties apply mostly to programs forced or squeezed onto them by state IN KANSAS John Marshall HARRIS NEWS SERVICE Efforts to curb government growth will not begin in Topeka. mandate. Tougher crime laws, for example, mean bigger jails and higher police, court and legal expenses. Mental health and welfare reforms mean higher local expense and so forth. No. 3: While cutting revenues to local government through the car tax bill, the state reinforced local tax lids. This leaves cities and counties little option but to abandon efforts to pare local budgets. Put another way, the legislative plan now (as it was 20 years ago) is to balance the state budget not at Topeka but at city hall, the courthouse and the schools. The Legislature, for example, granted state employees a 3.5 percent ($53 million) pay increase. What is rarely reported is that state employees also received a 4 percent increase last year. Compounded, that's more than 7 percent in a year. Taxes on business were cut more than $30 million. Total state spending was increased, not decreased, by more than $120 million. Rep. Phill Kline, R-Shawnee, who helped write the car tax cut, said efforts to curb government growth must begin somewhere. But they will not begin in Topeka. This is the same short-sightedness that has afflicted Topeka's vision of our state for decades. It has crippled Kansas for years. It has created wounds that are not easily healed. The single major defect in the Legislature's mindless aversion to tax reform is the plight of local government. Unless- some turnabout is made in legislation controlling local units, selfish acts such ' as the car tax cut will react harshly on ' most cities and many counties. It can't be said often enough that the problem in most cities and counties was not created by the cities. Local government did not create inflation or the deficit; it did not incubate an entire in- • dustry of political action committees who finance corporate welfare through the campaign donation. The problem stems from elsewhere, starting with the duplicity of legislators • who pronounce state tax reform at the expense of local agencies with no way out. Some legislators over the years have tried to counter the fraud, but the ma- ' jority have always weaseled around the ; problem with compromises that left the basic problem untouched. Local government has been abandoned to the ultimate corrosion, the local option tax. ! What George Pyle said 20 years ago '. may be said again today. This is not prudent policy. It is being wasteful of our future, if we have a future. • Editor's note: The George W. Pyle referred to in this column, now retired as city manager of Hutchinson, is the father of Journal Editorial Page Editor George B. Pyle. Americans bid farewell to Technicolor fantasy F or eight years, 1981 to 1989, Americans lived in a rosy Technicolor fantasy. The plot line was uplifting: government could spend more and more, and tax less and less, and we would all live happily ever after. The warm afterglow of that fantasy finally ended this week. Sen. Pete Domenici's draft of a Budget Resolution, whatever happens to it and appropriations in the months ahead, insures that Congress and the executive will at last have to face the choices posed by the budget deficit. And more important, the public will. Domenici, the new Republican chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said his proposal reflected the "simple notion that government cannot simply go on spending our children's money." People may disagree with the scale and nature of the massive spending cuts he suggested — I do. But we have to get over the delusion that Government can borrow endlessly, in good times and bad. There is a certain irony in a Congress dominated by Reagan Republicans coming on as deficit hawks, for it was Ronald Reagan who ran up the national debt more than all his predecessors put together. Neither party has been heroic about the budget, but it was the Reagan years that got the country into extreme fiscal trouble. In looking at the process of cutting and choosing that lies ahead, the first thing to understand after Domenici's "simple notion" is another simple fact. Everything about the budget is political. Democrats railed at Domenici and his ABROAD AT HOME Anthony Lewis THE NEW YORK TIMES House counterparts for projecting huge reductions in spending on Medicare. The elderly, will suffer, the Democrats said. But they know — anyone with a grain of sense knows — that the rising cost of Medicare has to be cut back. The same was equally true of Social Security, a subject so holy that neither party dares mention it. But unless the already disproportionate share of public funds going to older Americans is to cripple the working population, there will have to be limits: on cost of living adjustments, for example. As federal spending is debated now, the subject is going to be political in an especially profound sense. It will test the public's whole attitude toward government: its role, its very legitimacy. Last fall Newt Gingrich, whose congressional district gets more federal money than any other in the country, ran a superb anti-government campaign. We'll get the government off your backs, he said: a line that invites voters to applaud without thinking about the consequences. Now the consequences are before us. Americans will have to think about questions such as these: • Should the United States be the only major country without a passenger rail . system? (The Republican proposals would cut funds so hard that Amtrak would probably go out of business.) • Do we want to be without an over- • seas broadcasting service (the Voice of ; America) and without national assistance for the arts of the kind that every European government provides far more generously than ours does now? • Should we reduce taxes on the rich . (as the House has already voted to do) while drastically cutting benefits for the • poor (as the budget proposals would)? Americans who are less well off would be the big losers under the Republican budgets. Most broadly, and surprisingly, . the proposals envisage cutting back hard on the earned-income tax credit, a generally praised device to get people off the welfare roles and into low-paid work. There are numerous cuts in targeted programs for the poor. The proposals would end or minimize the Legal Services Corporation, which enables the poor to sue lawless landlords and the like. Food stamps and Head Start and welfare would be cut. Some of the programs marked for death by the House or Senate budgets are so small that they plainly are on the target list for purely political, not fiscal, reasons. A notable example is President Clinton's national service program, Americorps. Republicans just want to get at the president. But then, to repeat, everything is political. In this process we shall be deciding not only what kind of government but what kind of country we want. Doonesbury By G.B. Trudeau H&, HONZY, TAKING TO FWHBRHOOP... \ //£$ DOING SURPRISINGLY .He$ REALLY COMEAftOUWOHIT... HE NOW SAYS HE M4N75 TO TEACH UTTie EARL. ALLTHB ANPIF m HA510RE- IMN M MOVE AH THE HANP? • OOTHIN&.
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