If you abhor political tranquility you should be quite happy today. Here in Alabama there is little of that to vex your mind.
With one week left in the special session to pass the Hubbert Tax Plan the politics have grown intense-- and complex. The political lines are blurred, crossed, confused, and incongruous. Furthermore they are unstable, ambiguous, twisted, confounded, and virtually indescribable.
But that's not all. Irony is the most compelling description of all. What could be more ironic than a Republican governor in conservative Alabama joining forces with the ultra-liberal Democrat leader of the state's largest labor union, to propose the largest tax increase in the state's history? And what could be more ironic than the leaders of the Governor's own Party-- they who so recently worked mightily to elect him-- publicly expressing opposition to his proposal?
In Mobile four former chairmen of the Mobile County Party came together to jointly announce their opposition to the Governor. Included in the four was Roger McConnell, immediate past chairman of the State Party. In Blount County the Party has passed a resolution stating its opposition to the plan. And there are rumblings of dissent in Madison County.
In an effort to staunch the loss of Republican support Riley held a two-hour meeting with some 13 top Party leaders last Tuesday afternoon. According to a report of one present, the Governor did most of the talking and the others just listened. It was not evident from the conversation how many of those present supported the plan. Practically no enthusiasm for it was shown.
The confusion was clearly demonstrated in the House, when on Friday a vote was taken on a bill to change the income tax law. Twenty-two Republicans voted yes, and 20 voted no, almost an even split. But 18 Democrats also voted no, suggesting, on the face of it, that these 18 are more conservative than the 22 Republicans who voted yes.
As hazy as the present scene is, however, one thing is easy to see: There stands Paul Hubbert master of all he surveys. On Thursday he decided that he would like to have guaranteed to his union members a certain part of any new revenue raised from a change to the tax code, and he communicated this wish to the members of the committee charged with writing the pertinent bill. Without controversy they immediately granted Hubbert his wish with a simple voice vote. Riley has protested this move and at this writing the issue is unresolved.
This example, together with all that has preceded it, is very telling. For even the most skeptical it should leave no doubt as to who in Montgomery is in charge. It is appalling that we have allowed this one individual, un-elected and un-appointed, to wield such power, and to wield it in such a destructive way. We Republicans, who profess to be the opponents of the big-government, high-tax liberalism espoused by Hubbert, must take a large share of the blame for the sorry state in which we find ourselves. We have not done our job. We have been good men and women who have done nothing, and in consequence the triumph of evil may be near.
Need we expend more words pleading for a move to curb Czar Hubbert and his too-powerful union? I hope that we Republicans have seen the light and will move aggressively against our enemy when the time is ripe. One thing that we should do, and do it now, is to resolve to stop taking Hubbert's tainted money.
Meanwhile we have an immediate dilemma to deal with: With our Republican governor supporting the Hubbert Tax Plan what do we do? Support it or not? Unfortunately either choice has distinctly undesirable ramifications. If we stand against the plan it will be an embarrassment to the Governor and to the Party. And if the plan fails because of our opposition it would put a rift between the Party and the Governor.
On the other hand our supporting the plan would require us to abandon our core beliefs. In church many Christians recite the Apostles Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty…" Only slightly less religiously we Republicans endlessly recite our secular creed: "I believe in smaller government and lower taxes …" In fact, much as a cross might appear on a church's web page, our State Party's web page carries an icon reading "Just say no to taxes. Vote Republican." You will see this icon within this paragraph.
This icon is small, but symbolic greatly beyond its measure. If we support the $1.2 billion tax plan what are we to do with it? Let it stand and endure the embarrassment of abject hypocrisy? Or purge it, together with our long-held beliefs, and change our creed to "I believe in higher taxes and larger government"?
If we opt for the latter we will have handed Mr. Hubbert a resounding victory. And in doing so we will have merged our ideology with that of the Democrats, and effectively reverted to a one-party state under the leadership of Paul Hubbert. The choice, as I see it then, is between pain now and pain later. If we go against the plan the pain will come now, but will be of finite duration. If we go for the plan the pain will be of indefinite duration. At that point maybe our creed should be, "I believe in Paul Hubbert, the Almighty Alabama politician…"
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