Virtually every day, I get calls and e-mails from folks who remind me we're all a bunch of crazy extremists. If you believe our critics, all we do is yammer on about the size of government and babble incoherently about high taxes and government regulations. We probably also attend Star Trek conventions and live in our parents' basements.
We're so kooky, we're under the impression that this legislative session ought to be more about preserving freedom and free markets and less about preserving the status quo of state government. And how dare we talk about cutting taxes when what people really want are government health care and the preservation of existing services.
Turns out, we're not so crazy after all, and if we are, we're in the majority here in Idaho. Last month, the Idaho Freedom Foundation commissioned a poll asking about taxes and health insurance mandates. After telling 400 Idahoans that the Legislature is getting ready to cut spending this year, we asked, "Should the Legislature cut taxes as well in an effort to spur economic development, increase personal income and create jobs?"
It seems counterintuitive to even pose the question. When asked, you would instantly think about your own household expenditures, cutting those expenses in order to match your income and then cutting your income some more. Yet almost two-thirds of Idahoans said yes, the state should cut taxes. In fact, in eastern Idaho, 7 in 10 people support lower taxes, according to our survey.
In southwestern Idaho, about 61 percent of those surveyed said they want lower taxes. The Lewiston-Moscow region was more skeptical, but still a majority — 53 percent — said they too want lower taxes.
What's more, Idahoans overwhelmingly want Idaho lawmakers to be proactive when it comes to Congress' attempts to impose health insurance mandates on the rest of us. Asked "Should lawmakers pass legislation that protects Idahoans from being forced to buy health insurance and protects Idahoans from having to enroll in a government insurance program," almost 66 percent said "yes." Support for such legislation ranged from about 60 percent in the northern part of the state to the low 80s from Twin Falls to Pocatello.
These numbers say a great deal about the mood of Idahoans as the Legislature gets to business in Boise. Folks in Idaho are not supportive of socialized medicine. They're not OK with the decision to make Idahoans pay for the health care costs of folks living in Nebraska. They're not happy being told that they have to buy health insurance because the government says so. And they'd like some tax relief.
It's easy for the Legislature to pass something that correctly portrays the collective anger Idahoans feel about the health legislation pending in Washington, D.C. It might be a strongly-worded letter (called a joint memorial) to Congress, a resolution authorizing the attorney general to take some action, a constitutional amendment or statutory change. Only a third of Idahoans would object.
A tax cut doesn't send a message to Washington, D.C., but it does send a strong message about the current state of the economy and the statist policy decisions of the last many months that put government spending, government programs and government employees ahead of the private sector.
Cutting taxes is good for the economy, good for Idaho and will provide needed relief to Idaho families and businesses. That money will in turn be invested in retail sales, capital expansion, new employees, higher pay and so on. That's why a tax cut is the most important policy decision lawmakers could make.
Folks like us are told we're crazy, but I'm fairly certain I just heard the sounds of two-thirds of readers of this column nod their heads in agreement.