My question for the week is this: If I buy a gallon of gas at a price similar to someone in Europe, why can't I enjoy the same social support system, culture and inexpensive health care?
My second question goes out to Ohio Do-Nothing Gov. Bob Taft as he crisscrosses the state to promote his tax reforms while proposing large cuts to local governments, libraries, colleges and the arts: If everyday life continues to become more and more expensive — and individuals continue to put more money into state coffers — why does Ohio's quality of life continue to plummet?
Shouldn't my sales tax, income tax, gas tax and all the other monies that leave my pocket and go to the state guarantee something as basic as a neighborhood library?
Sometimes the only satisfaction one can find with politics, especially when your priorities fail to match your political leaders', is the realization that soon someone else will be in charge.
Blue state natives who voted Democratic in last fall's presidential election or those of us who tried our hardest to turn our red states blue enjoy a laugh every time we click onto the President George W. Bush Countdown Clock (bushclock.lose.com), a simple timer counting the days until Bush exits the White House. The clock offers little solace to those who grimace at the mention of Social Security reform or the daily news reports from Iraq, but it does remind us of the big political picture and how a chance at new leadership will be here before you know it.
No Web site designer has yet to create a countdown clock for lame-duck Taft, but somebody should. Only First Lady Hope Taft wants to see her husband remain Ohio's leader — and if she's serious about helping Ohio children and families better their lives, she probably wants her husband out of Columbus like most of us.
The future way of life under Taft became clearer March 14 when the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County trustees announced cost-saving measures to cope with reductions in the state budget and hinted at more cuts if Taft's proposed 2006-07 budget passes. I've been hearing about the economic challenges facing Cincinnati's library system for weeks (my wife works at the library), but nothing hits home more than the news that the branch near my home in Walnut Hills likely will close.
The same thing could happen in many other inner-city Cincinnati neighborhoods like the West End, Price Hill, Avondale and Bond Hill. When it comes to access to learning and reading materials, if not just a positive community space for young and old, the have-nots will have even less.
In his state address last month, Taft spoke about the "can do" people of Ohio. But no one would ever use that phrase in describing the do-nothing governor.
Taft described Ohioans as caring and compassionate. He promoted the volunteer tutors who participate in Ohio Reads but fails to consider where children with limited resources will gain access to books. He mentions Ohio's world class museums without considering that private support can't fill the funding gap when the state walks away from financial responsibility to make the arts and culture readily available.
Taft once said, "A dynamic economy begins with a good education." But he must have been referring to children in private schools, because his budget supports K-12 schools below the current rate of inflation.
Still, Taft travels the state to promote his budget and the tax reform plan that accompanies it, a plan that emphasizes gross sales over a business' net worth, a plan estimated in a recent Toledo Blade article to generate $800 million less over the next two years than the current tax law.
You know something's wrong when the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce — as Republican red as any organization in town — offers only "provisional support" for Taft's tax reform plan.
As Taft enters his closing months in office, his supporters are shrinking fast — although not fast enough for people who care about schools, libraries, museums, arts groups, parks and everything else life-affirming. There might not be an official Taft countdown clock, but don't think there aren't millions of people across Ohio counting the days to his exit.