by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist
I have been trying to ignore the fact that the 2008 election season is under way. The election won’t happen until November ’08, but the calls, mailings and surveys from various state and national campaigns have already started to pour in. Of course, all they really want at this point is money. Most have already tested their messages with focus groups and pollsters and don’t really care what issues voters might think they should run on. Nevertheless, I try to be at the ready when candidates call or come knocking. Here are a few of the issues I’m asking candidates to consider in their ’08 campaigns.
No-call list for politicos: The no-call list idea has been a great success and has made the telephone a fairly useful device again. However, political campaigns are exempt from no-call list rules. It is time to apply the same rules to those running for office. The General Assembly held back on moving this issue forward in 2007 because its members didn’t want to make the attorney general look good. Any candidate who wants my vote in 2008 should pledge to follow the no-call list rules and promise to make it part of the law in 2009.
Truth in subsidizing: When I fill up my truck at the gas pump, usually a sticker on the pump informs me I am paying about 18 cents in federal taxes and 17 cents in Missouri taxes for every gallon of gas. I notice, however, that there is no sticker that tells me how much my government gave to fuel producers to subsidize the fuel available at the pump. I know ethanol is subsidized at a rate of 51 cents per gallon. I’m no math whiz, but even I can tell that the tax we pay on fuel is not nearly enough to cover the subsidies being paid to ethanol and gasoline producers.
The money for fuel subsidies comes from elsewhere in the government’s revenue stream. It comes at the expense of other items the government should be spending money on: roads, levees, making college affordable, etc. There should be a sticker on the pump that discloses how much tax money was used to subsidize the fuel I might want to purchase. Then I would be able to accurately pick the fuel that is truly cheaper.
Heck, why not have a sticker on every retail product that receives government support? Let consumers know how much of their tax money the government has invested in that Tyson chicken (industrial chicken producers receive about $1.25 billion a year in tax subsidies), airline ticket (billions go to support airports and airlines every year) or order of french fries (corporate potato farms receive hundreds of millions in irrigation subsidies annually).
Surely free-marketers everywhere would embrace such a program because consumers would know the true cost of products available in the “free market” and could choose appropriately.
After all, we require makers of food products to list their ingredients. Why not require those who receive government support to list the financial ingredients of their products?
Truth in campaigning: You might have noticed that not all candidates are particularly honest when a political campaign is on – especially toward the end. One of the tried-and-true patterns is for a candidate to launch an attack on an opponent within three days of Election Day; this gives the attack message just enough time to saturate the media but does not give the other candidate enough time to respond. It doesn’t matter whether this attack is a lie or not. If the attack works, it can affect the outcome of an election.
This type of trickery distorts the records of the candidates and undermines voters’ confidence in the election process and in government. So let’s make it a federal offense for a candidate or organization to knowingly lie during a campaign. If it’s not OK to lie on your tax return, then why should it be OK to lie to get into office?
So far I haven’t had much luck getting any candidates to endorse these proposals, but we still have 16 months to go.