Last week’s “off-year” votes reveal the type of uphill battle I’ve discussed with restoring local sovereignty in the “County Rights” project. Gwinnett County (northeast of Atlanta) provides a saddening example of the exact problems I outlined: low voter turnout and vested interests pouring on the high-dollar propaganda.
The vote in question included a referendum on a “SPLOST”—a “Special Local Option Sales Tax.” Many states allow counties to piggy-back a cent or two extra sales tax on top of the state sales tax, and use the added revenue for local publicly-funded projects. In this case, the new tax is expected to generate half a billion dollars for the public trough.
A local Tea Party blog laments the sad fact that “90% of the registered voters didn’t even care enough to come out and vote.” This assumes they knew, of course, but the statistic is terrible either way.
The tax passed by a fairly slim margin, which is predictable when the turnout is so low.
But then a local newspaper editor quipped that this approval illustrates the demise of the Tea Party. In a way, he’s right: if so many of them stay at home during tax-and-spend votes, it is tacit approval of the big government, corporatism, and cronyism they claim to oppose. I mean, if you have an opportunity to squash such a measure, and you don’t take it, then the big government guys are not the problem; you sitting on your butt is the problem.
But the Tea Party writer strikes at another note which I believe reveals the larger systematic political problem. He answers the editor’s claim. First, the 800,000-population county has a huge segment of public employees and publicly-funded contractors salivating over the tax:
Gwinnett County has 4,800 employees. Gwinnett County Public Schools (which wants to amend the Georgia Constitution to allow it to use SPLOST funds) has another 21,000. The Gwinnett Chamber has 3,000 members. The Cities, which get a cash payout from SPLOST, probably have another 2,000 employees. Add in Partnership Gwinnett and the people who have been through Leadership Gwinnett and you are probably at 30,000 people. Then throw in all the companies these governments do business with and their family members and you have a huge number of people in Gwinnett that have a vested interest in seeing government grow and consume more tax dollars.
These people, you can rest assured, all know about the vote, and most of them will race to the poll and will encourage their likeminded friends to engage in favor as well. As voter turnout remains low, their chances are greater boosted.
But just to make sure their half-billion in booty comes about, they are willing to spend a few thousand on propaganda efforts:
But after TSPLOST, the County still wasn’t confident that enough people would vote ‘yes’ on SPLOST, so they turned to advertising. In less than two weeks $44,000 was raised to promote SPLOST. This money came in, thousands of dollars at a time, from companies that want to benefit from additional County spending. I would guess that companies like C.W. Matthews Contracting (not even based in Gwinnett, but receiving over $30 million to widen GA 20, a SPLOST project), E.R Snell Contractor, Gwinnett Prado (real estate), Moreland Altobelli Associates (who has managed right-of-way acquisition for the County for over 20 years) did not put $5,000 each into the campaign without expecting to get something in return. Money was used to buy signs, print and mail advertisements, and call our homes multiple times.
They also had help from the media. Elliott Brack, a local editor and author of the above quote, is now a big SPLOST supporter, and the Gwinnett Daily Post Editor, J.K. Murphy, is the Vice-President of Media Relations for the Gwinnett Chamber.
So you have a collaboration of forces passing for more taxes and government spending: not only the public employees (many of who are likely liberal), but also big corporate and big business forces (likely RINO), and the Chamber of Commerce.
For those of who labor under the delusion that Chambers of Commerce are conservative, here you see how they often actually act as fronts for corporate welfare. They foster the same big-government policies as liberals: raise more taxes and spend on public works. These guys just do it for a different purpose: to line their own business pockets. Their rhetoric is the same however: urban renewal, for the children, etc.
What we have here is a collusion between liberals and RINOs to keep taxes up and government control and regulation up, and to squash the small-government, fiscal agenda of the tea parties.
With the help of alleged conservatives, the liberal policy won out in Gwinnett County. Now the vultures are lining up to devour the $498 million in carrion.
The good news in this is that even though the big government forces spent so many thousands on propaganda, compared to the tea parties few hundred, the liberal forces were only able to gain 21,647 votes in a county of 800,000. The margin of victory was only a few percent.
This means that if Christians and conservatives actually cared enough to get involved, these kinds of policies would be squashed definitively. Until they do . . . Behold, the real enemies of Restoring America: the RINOs who advance liberal policy, and the hundreds of thousands of Christians who passively allow them to succeed. Direction and bravery would transform this country in a heart beat.