The Journal Gazette had an editorial late last week that tickled me no end: "National anti-tax group imposes its view on city debate." Discovering one of the most parochial, insular pieces of opinion I've seen in a long time on an editorial page that prides itself on a progressive world view was a delightful surprise.
The subject was the proposed hike in the local income tax to help pay for riverfront development. The editorial didn't come right out and say that The Journal Gazette supported the tax increase, but that was made clear from the way it attacked opponents of the tax increase. The editorial didn't argue with their ideas so much as it expressed deep disapproval for them having the temerity to even speak out.
Republicans City Council members Jason Arp, Paul Ensley and Russell Jehl, who announced their opposition to the hike at a meeting on Wednesday, "could have held their piece until the public had its say," the editorial sniffs, before conceding that, well, yes, "it could be argued that the three were simply responding to a stance four of their colleagues had taken earlier." Four members had spoken in favor of the hike, so, OK, darn it, guess the opponents can have their turn, too. (I think they meant hold their "peace," btw, not "piece," but never mind that.)
But it is much harder to understand, the editors lecture, why Indiana Reps. Chris Judy and Bob Morris "felt compelled" to "insert their views" into the debate, "especially at this early stage":
Statewide policy has empowered and encouraged local governmental bodies to take on an increasing share of the decision-making on tax issues. Legislators ought to concern themselves with Indiana policy, not put their thumbs on the scales of local revenue decisions.
Yeah, dammit, we sent to to Indianapolis so you could take care of state business and leave us the hell alone. So just shut your mouth about our taxes, never mind that our ability to raise the tax rate is based on the state giving us permission to do so. You gave us this toy, now keep quiet and let us play with it.
But the editorial saves its greatest wrath for "the intrusion into the process" by Americans for Prosperity, that wicked, wicked out-of-town group that organized Wednesday's meeting.
A national advocacy organization backed by industrialists David and Charles Koch, AFP shows a knee-jerk aversion to any and all tax increases. So far this year, the group has waded into tax debates in Missouri, South Carolina, Louisiana and Texas.
And now, the Koch Brothers-inspired group has arrived in Fort Wayne to help the council make its decision.
To ensure that its anti-all-new-taxes message gets out, the organization will support a campaign that will include phone calls, door-to-door canvassing and social media advertising, AFP State Director Justin Stevens said.
The AFP has the right to deploy its views and strategies here, as it does elsewhere. But decisions about the future needs of our community need to be made by the people of Fort Wayne and the council and mayor they've elected.
Well, the AEP does have the right to "deploy its views and strategies" here. Whew. That's good to know and magnanimous of the JG editorial board to acknowledge it, even if that means gritting our teeth while those awful Koch brothers, through the AEP, "impose" their views on a helpless Fort Wayne citizenry. Not "offer" their views or "present them for consideration and evaluation." Impose them.
"Listen up, here's what we want you do do about that tax increase . . ."
"No, I don't really care to . . ."
"I said listen, punk! You know what we do to people who ignore us?"
"Really, I already have enough informa. . ."
"You want this to get ugly, you Hoosier nitwit?"
I'm reminded of an episode of the "Andy Griffith Show." Andy and Barney are worried about an inspection of the sheriff's office by an inspector from the state police, who is going to evaluate their methods, operations and adherence to standard police procedure. And it turns out they were right to worry: The inspector is ready to give them a very poor evaluation because of their "unprofessional," backwoods, lackadaisical ways. But Andy's laid-back, country approach saves the day (I believe it's in a standoff with a drunk with a bad attitude and a gun), and the inspector realizes that little towns can, indeed, thrive with their own rules.
So, stuff it, Koch brothers, Fort Wayne decisions about the needs of our community will be made raht cheer, er, right here, by "the people of Fort Wayne and the council and mayor they've elected.' And then we'll all go find Andy and Barney and walk to the gas station for a bottle of pop.
It occurs to me that much of the activity going on downtown already was preceded by a number of reports and recommendations by a bunch of experts from out of town, whom we not only invited to speak but paid very well for the privilege. I don't remember the JG railing against those out-of-towners — does anybody else? I wonder how they would react to a bunch of imported experts advising us on the need to strengthen the city's anti-discrimination code for the LGBT community, or the advisability of giving our police sensitivity training, or the urgency of making sure pregnant teenagers know their pro-choice rights, but I think I probably know. Suppose they're going to stop listening to all those political commentators from Washington and around the world who keep telling us how unfit for office Donald Trump is? Yeah, maybe they should go find out what Aunt Bee and Floyd the barber think.
There is a well-known logic fault among those who care about such things: the ad hominem argument, which is, basically, to argue against the person holding a view instead of trying to refute his view. Don't pay attention to anything Rush Limbaugh says, because he's just a right-wing kook. Nancy Pelosi is a certifiable moonbat, so you can't believe anything she says. Or, if you prefer, just ignore anything said by Leo Morris, that racist, sexist, homophobic, intolerant, half-literate nativist, lazy, boring jerk. Hmmn. Where have I heard that before? The "never listen to an out-of-towner" could be seen as a subset of the ad hominem fault.
Or it could be viewed as as a limiting corollary to the appeal to authority logic fault: Trust me on this, because I am citing an expert, who, thank goodness, lives right next door.
Contrary to what you might think by this point, I haven't yet decided if I'm for against the tax increase. I've had a longstanding aversion to higher taxes in general, and that has been reflected on the editorial page. But I wouldn't want to stand in the way of a good cause, which I think on balance riverfront development is, and if a small income tax increase seems like the best way to go, I will be supportive of it. Before I get there, though, I would like to consider all the information I can possibly get, pro and con, from whatever sources I can find.
Facts cannot be held responsible for who holds them. They all deserve to go into the hopper to be judged and sorted based solely on their merit. The Journal Gazette should trust me on this. After all, I work right across the hall.