An election year will bring another cycle of bloat, the tortured
patterns of illusion, bluff and fiction, and with fragments
of truth scattered here and there. In Kansas, our hangover from
the Brownback binge will throb on with more caterwauling
about the evils of taxes, why they must be cut, how the government
is swollen, why all the fat must be trimmed.
We should have learned from that madness: Public service
cannot exist on nothing. We nearly went broke trying to go
The anti-tax soap box will squeak under the weight of
people who seek public office or want to keep one. In Kansas,
incumbents and challengers who seek a tax-paid, benefit-guaranteed
government job often ridicule or oppugn it; they hope
that voters will agree and send them off as their soldier in the
war against taxes, against the very government on which they
depend for, say, clean water, safe streets, good schools.
Of course we must guard against unfair or inequitable taxation.
But over time our system of taxation in Kansas has been
reasonable and just at all levels. Interruptions – Brownback,
most recently – have at times stalled but not stopped the services
of government that strive to improve our lives and our
communities; these include public safety and health, social
welfare, education, transportation. They also include the
salaries for government officials who devise and oversee these
State legislators, for example, are supposedly part-time
workers, but with full-time accountability. They are paid $88
per day plus $142 in per diem (non-taxable) compensation:
$230 for each day they are summoned from private life for
public business. This includes the allowed 90-day session
plus weeks of interim work during off-session months – special
committees, study panels, commissions and so forth.
Leadership positions and the chairs of committees receive
extra pay because of their elevated responsibilities.
State-subsidized health insurance is also a benefit. Many
legislators, in Topeka and Washington, believe that government
should not subsidize health insurance for others, including
the poor (expanding Medicaid), but gladly accept it for
A majority of state legislators, especially Republicans,
embrace the codes and policies for crafting or adjusting laws.
They generally favor the process of state governing. But on
return home for the obligatory legislative coffee and forum,
they often hold the government up for ridicule, the sly wink,
the snide quip. It speaks to a cheap paradox that the way to get
into government, or to keep a government job, is to speak of
its folly, its wastefulness, its corruption.
This gets a nod or a laugh from the home crowd. It does
nothing to advance the constituents’ understanding of government,
or respect for the process, or its profound importance
in our lives. It does nothing to explain how our government
is funded and why it is central to helping our neighborhoods,
townships, cities and counties maintain a mission to improve
It’s much the same with the Congress. The more inept it
becomes, the more unproductive and ruinous its outcome, the
more we elect those who rail on about the misfeasance they
Thus it remains fashionable to decry taxes and taxation, the
Internal Revenue Service, the state Department of Revenue,
local commissions and councils and government generally as
agencies of excess.
Such talk is a destructive, a slander against patriotism.
The true patriot does not rail against taxes as some kind of
evil to be eradicated, but advocates a system that is equitable,
adequate and works to keep it that way. A patriot pays his or
her taxes. A patriot does not seek ways to avoid taxes or disparage
them or cheat on them.
The true patriot does not seduce people’s passions with false
slogans and phrases that can easily lead them into disastrous
adventures. Kansans have learned this the hard way. It is nottaxes that are foul, but the unpatriotic who lie about them.
Health insurance, its moth-eaten ‘freedoms’
Six years ago Kansas and 25 other states signed up to challenge
the constitutionality of a new federal health care law.
The mission was to overturn the premise that all citizens have
access to affordable health care.
As the term “affordable” is stripped and the premise weakened,
the fate of this issue remains with those who have no
real stake in it. The public officials blathering on about state’s
rights in health care are already insured by gold-plated, government-
subsidized policies; the state attorneys general, the
legislators who goad them on, the judges who rule, even the
U.S. House and Senate members who yap on about “freedom,”
have little if any notion of the cost or complexity of this issue
beyond the line item benefit in their government paycheck.
In the matter of health insurance the only “freedom” is their
freedom – to prattle on, to carry water for the insurance industry,
to file their esoteric legal briefs, to slash public assistance
with no worries themselves, a “freedom” known only to career
lawmakers who have taxpayers to finance their insurance
Meantime in the real world, people who have even a meager
policy, one with many services no longer insured, wonder
where they will find the money to pay for it. They confront
bleak options as government assistance is withdrawn: ever
higher premiums for threadbare insurance, or the “affordable”
option, which is to go cheap and hope no one is hurt or gets
sick. The people without insurance wonder how long they or
their children can stay healthy, or only a little sick. (Crises
drive them to the emergency room, where the cost is absorbed,
increasing hospital debt.)
Employers providing what passes for health insurance wonder how long they can afford it, or
whether to ask employees to pay even more for policies that,
every year, contain old tricks and new lies. They wonder how
long they can survive by paying more for less. In Kansas,
another “affordable” option is for catastrophic coverage so
long as the malady is in-state; get hurt or sick out of state and
you’re on your own.
Our leaders in government say they are working for us, protecting
our “rights.” Maybe they are. But the next time they
spout on about freedom in health insurance, ask them why this
liberty has turned wicked, and at such a high price.
The job market and health insurance
How many people in this country are stuck in a dead-end
job, an oppressive workplace, a lifeless office, have a tyrant
for a boss, a fanny-squeezer or a sex fiend for a supervisor –
but can’t leave? Most of us can think of at least a few people
who continue to toil at work they hate or in a place they
despise because they need the health insurance.
If the great brains in Washington crafted meaningful and
effective health insurance reform, including affordable and
portable insurance for individuals and families, the possibilities
for employee exodus would soar. For some executives and
shareholders, the notion of affordable and portable health
insurance is too frightening to contemplate.
‒ JOHN MARSHALL