Stop the Tax! Newsletter


Guilt as a Political Weapon


Hugh McInnish

For people with a conscience guilt is a powerful emotion, and it can move a recalcitrant soul when nothing else can. The proponents of Amendment 1, the $1.2 billion tax increase to be voted on September 9, know this and are using guilt to manipulate voters and turn them their way.

They tell us that it is our Christian duty to vote for this, the largest tax increase in the history of our state. Although no one seems to have previously noticed them at the head of columns of onward marching Christian soldiers, these people are now marching as to war. And they speak with enough authority in their voices to challenge the thunder. So far I have not heard that damnation is our certain fate if we don't do as they say, but that could come any day now.

What these instant Christians are saying, of course, is pure baloney. (Here I substitute the name of the Italian sausage for the more colorful and accurate word which can be heard in any respectable sports bar.) It is true that we Christians are called to be charitable, to be generous and help the poor. But what is the story of the poor widow ? Because she was poor herself, the mite she gave was more than all the others. But note that she gave her mite. It was not wrested from her. If one of Caesar's tax collectors had taken it from her the poor widow would never have made it into the Bible.

What a stunning contrast! Our Christian brothers fighting for the tax increase are urging us, in the name of charity, to authorize Caesar's agents to thrust their hands deep into our pockets. They, in other words, advocate coerced charity. Now, what is the definition of coerced charity? Of course there is no definition, it being impossible for such a thing to exist. Need I say more?

But the use of guilt does not end with this phony appeal to Christianity. The manipulators also use the fact of our state's awful relative standing among the states of the union with regard to various measures. These measures are usually related to education, and we are told over and over that we must vote for the new tax because it is so embarrassing always to be on the bottom. Dead last is one of their favorite phrases.

But the truth is Alabama is not last in anything, much less dead last. Here are the facts:

Alabama spends $5,210 per year per student. That is more than Mississippi, Arizona, Utah, or North Dakota. Alabama is not last in money spent per student. The story gets better.

Our teacher-student ratio is very good. It stands at 15.1 students per teacher. This is better than 20 other states. Alabama is far from last on the scale of class size.

But the pivotal question is, How are our students doing? The SAT scores are just in, so it's easy to answer that question. Our state's average is in the 51st percentile, or one point above the national average. Being above the national average means that there is a load of states behind us. Alabama is nowhere near the bottom.

The ACT test is used by many colleges to judge a student's qualifications for admission. Our students' scores were equal to or better than 10 other states. Alabama is not last in the preparation of our students for college.

It is time to be redundant: Alabama is not last in anything. Yet the manipulators continue to cry shame, shame and assure us that we are last in practically every measure. I shall name a few names.

In February of last year we had a local election in which a tax measure was defeated. I was present one day at a meeting of the County Commission when the proposed measure was being discussed. Steve Shaw, at that time President of the Huntsville School Board, made a short speech advocating the new tax. Gravely he intoned, "Where do you think we are? Dead last."

On August 4 of this year The Huntsville Times, added its voice to the chorus of gloom. In an editorial under the aegis, if not the authorship of Editorial Page Editor John Ehinger, The Times said that our education system "consistently ranks at the bottom of most lists comparing states."

On August 7 David Azbell, Governor Riley's press secretary, was quoted in The Times. In referring to former GOP chairman Roger McConnell, he said that he is "doing all he can to keep Alabama ranked 50th among states."

On August 11 Rex Cheatham, the local AEA representative, said on Channel 31 Television, "We are 49th or 50th in everything." I heard him say it and I wrote it down.

And on August 12 Rich McAdams, a member of the Madison County School Board, sang out in unison. Speaking to The Times he said, "I am tired of being on the bottom of every national ranking."

Just look at the array of people who have come together to use false propaganda in a shameful campaign of guilt and manipulation: Two members of school boards, a representative of the AEA, an editor of the regions largest daily newspaper, and finally, speaking through his press secretary, the Governor himself.

I have two questions. First, can we trust the people who swear we are last in everything to speak accurately on other points related to the tax? And second, who is it in this contest that should feel guilty?

21 Sep 03