Photo by Dave Hoefler / Unsplash

Clouds and Silver Linings

Ken Wolf
Ken Wolf

Although it is Spring, we have had much ill wind and many cloudy days in recent weeks. Destructive storms, cold weather, and erratic temperature changes have occurred in both our weather and in our politics.

We are watching a Russian invasion of Ukraine with destruction of cities and death of citizens. And both tornados and right-wing Republican legislators seem intent on making life very difficult for ordinary (especially poor) people wherever they are in control.

While tornados destroy property, far-right legislators are banning books, trying to impede our right to vote, attacking public schools and teachers by funding less accountable charter schools with tax money, and telling teachers what they can teach and how they can teach it.

The property damaged by climate-change assisted storms can be rebuilt. But, it will be harder to restore the damage done to human beings by making government assistance to the poor harder to secure, as HB 7 will do in Kentucky.

It will be hard to restore faith in government after it is destroyed by restrictions on voting, and by lies spread by right-wing media outlets condemning almost everything that the Biden administration is doing to protect our national security and our health during these pandemic years.

And now Kentucky has joined the cloud makers who want to keep power and wealth in the hands of the few by reducing the income tax on those who have the greatest ability to pay, while moving the work of supporting the government to the poor and middle class who pay sales taxes.

The recently passed HB 8, called by one commentator the “Get Rid of the Income Tax and Blow a Hole in the Budget” bill, will reduce the state income tax rate from 5% to 4% and then “includes triggers to cut the tax rate by 0.5% each time revenue exceeds arbitrary dollar levels, until the income tax is completely eliminated,” according to Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

Why the Kentucky General Assembly would pass such a bill when the state of Kansas conducted a similar “experiment” from 2012 to 2017 that nearly bankrupted that state, and had to be reversed, is more than baffling!

Maybe any legislative concern about a potential budget deficit in coming years will be allayed by the one-billion-dollar surplus that the new state budget is setting aside to tide us over, while we wait for ten or fifteen major American corporations to move their operations to our “Right to Work” state because we have no income tax?

Yeah, right!

So where is the silver lining in this cloud-filled sky? That is a good but tough question.

Maybe we can find a glimmer of sunshine in the courage of the Ukrainian people, who are fighting and dying to prevent the wealthy Russian oligarchs from taking over their county and ending their freedoms and their right to free elections.

We might also be encouraged by the European support of Ukraine’s struggle, and even by the limited support of U.S. Republicans for President Biden’s attempt to help Ukraine without adding a nuclear cloud to all the other clouds we face on this planet.

Ultimately, perhaps we will learn something about democracy from the Ukrainians. That would be the best possible silver lining we could have.

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Ken Wolf

Ken Wolf spent 40 years teaching European and World History, punctuated by several administrative chores, at Murray State University, retiring in 2008. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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