Name it and reclaim the conversation


Without a doubt, it is an effective message.

“No new taxes”. Those three little words have captured the public’s imagination.

It is an advertisers dream-come-true; a message that is short, digestible and emotionally compelling.

By broadcasting it broadly and relentlessly, it is virtually impossible to find an adult who has not heard it.

Can you remember a time in recent years when this line has not dominated any conversation about government or the economy?

Linking a ‘no new taxes’ approach to ‘a responsible approach to government spending’ increased its impact.

But ‘no new taxes’ became a true show stopper when Republicans elected to public office determined that they could control every aspect of our lives simply by refusing to engage in any conversation about raising taxes.
And they created a perfect cover for taking this hardline position by asserting that it is against their principles to “raise taxes.”

Under this pledge, Republican leaders have become the self-proclaimed “fiscally responsible” leaders.

Apart from eliminating one’s opponent completely, could there be a more effective strategy for controlling a discussion?

The Republicans have found a way to control the conversation about virtually every aspect of community life while preserving their legitimacy as elected officials. 

Considering the pervasive influence of this strategy, it might be appropriate or at the very least gracious to acknowledge the Republicans for this achievement.

I believe that it is important to recognize a clever strategy. However, I also believe that it is equally important to name the damage it has done.

And the damage is considerable.

Every time the Republicans refuse to have a conversation by invoking the ‘no new taxes’ pledge, vital information and knowledge is excluded from the decision-making process.

Valuable testimony from experts who work in every area from education and transportation to public works and conservation becomes irrelevant when the decision-making process is narrowed to a ‘no new taxes’ agenda.

How can we make decisions relevant to our economy, to our communities and to our future together when the process itself is being hijacked?

Often the argument is made that our leaders need to learn to compromise. If only (our) leaders would compromise-and be civil- then the work of government would proceed.

Undoubtedly, compromise can be useful and at times even necessary. However, an unwillingness to compromise is not the problem that plagues our state or our nation.
How can leaders compromise when there has been no genuine conversation?

A relentless commitment to a ‘no new tax’ ideology is the true culprit.

This clever and effective strategy empowers one group of leaders to determine what may be discussed and ultimately defines the outcome of every decision about policies and investments.

Whether in Washington or in St. Paul, the ‘no new taxes’ pledge robs our communities of the vital conversations that determine how we live together.

It is time to name this strategy for what it is and reclaim the right to authentic dialogue. If we do not, the chaos will continue and we all lose.