My Turn: The New Hampshire voter’s dilemma

For the Monitor
Published: 9/14/2020 6:20:03 AM

To vote for our hopes and best intentions or to vote for a lesser vision which a majority is ready to support, or more narrowly, to just vote for what is in our short-term self-interest: These debates were in my mind and in my discussions with friends about the choice of Democratic candidates for governor this past Tuesday.

Both Dan Feltes and Andru Volinsky have records that show they have worked for better health, education, housing, environment, and equality. The outstanding difference is that Volinsky proposes that we choose to find a way to share the cost of providing those possibilities for everyone who lives in New Hampshire. He worked to compel us to live up to our state constitution by sharing the cost of providing equally adequate public education for everyone.

The majority of us said no, we want good education for our own children; other towns can work out their own plan. Similar sentiments won out in housing and the battle continues in health care equality.

Talking with friends, I said I thought an income tax would be the fairest way to share the cost of services. The counter argument was that in other states, when broad-based taxes were introduced, the overall tax per resident went up.

If the number of uninsured people went down and the support for education in poor towns went up, are we willing to pay higher taxes? As my friends and I are retiring, collecting Social Security and pulling money from savings and investments, are we less willing to support a capital gains tax, which we used to think of as a tax on rich people, not us? I realize that it is an easy time for me to accept an income tax, now that I have very little taxable income, but I also voted for Mark Fernald in 2002 when he dared not to take “The Pledge.” His defeat suggests that a vote for Feltes makes sense unless you think New Hampshire has changed. This is how I hear “Live Free or Die” used, though it can have other meanings.

When thinking about our own spending on ourselves, we don’t say, a better vehicle and replacing the roof before it leaks will raise our annual spending so we will do without. We consider what we can afford to spend and what we can afford to postpone. When considering whether to help less fortunate people, a majority of us decide to pay for things we want and need before paying to help others who are struggling. This is how I hear the phrase “Live Free or Die” used, though it can have other meanings.

Many other nations and some states have chosen to do more to ensure that everyone has basic food, shelter, health care, and education. There can be fewer people in prison, health outcomes can be better with less overall cost, more people can have training to do useful work, and there can be fewer hungry people.

I think we can develop sensible ways to improve the lives of everyone and we will be included. I hope for the time when a majority will try that path.

(David Erikson lives in Weare.)




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