EDITORIAL: Death by a Thousand Cuts, Part Four

Read Part One

The Colorado Fiscal Institute is spearheading a postcard campaign to urge our congressional delegation — especially our Senators — to vote no on this harmful tax plan…

— Press release from the Colorado Fiscal Institute, November 15, 2017

Many of us make choices every day. Scrambled eggs… or oatmeal? MSNBC… or FOXNews?

Occasionally, we might have a chance to vote “Yes” or “No” on some larger community issue… like, for example, Ballot Measure 1A, the Archuleta County tax increase proposal on the recent November ballot.

A few folks are making regular choices that affect the entire community, or even the entire nation. Heck, maybe even the entire world.

The Daily Post received an email yesterday from the left-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute (CFI), warning us that the tax overhaul proposal making its way through the halls of government in Washington D.C. may also include a partial overhaul of the Affordable Care Act.  From that email:

On Tuesday afternoon, Senate Republicans decided to add the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate to their tax bill to help pay for their permanent corporate tax cuts. That means congressional Republicans are now proposing to increase the number of uninsured people by 13 million, increase individual market premiums by 10 percent, and increase individual market uncertainty and instability — all so they can add another $338 billion to a tax bill that primarily benefits wealthy households and corporations.

The email also included a plea to join a postcard campaign. The postcards, which you can order from CFI and snail-mail to your Congressional delegation with a personal message about, say, pending budget cuts to the social safety net, look like this:

From the CFI email:

We are asking you to join us in this effort by signing up to take a set number of postcards and have your staff, board, and/or members write personal notes to our delegation about the negative impacts of this plan!

If you would like us to order postcards for your organization, please email Ali Mickelson (mickelson@coloradofiscal.org) with the number of postcards you will need by COB November 17, 2017.

The Colorado Fiscal Institute (you can visit their website here) focuses on issues of poverty, health care access, education, immigration issues, and tax policy in Colorado. And economic prosperity.

This morning, I’d like to write a little bit about economic prosperity. Because I think we have to make a choice. That is to say, I think our community leadership, here in Archuleta County, has to make a choice. A really tough choice.

This choice:

I realize that the Colorado Fiscal Institute may have intended this postcard design as a way to draw a distinction between “Struggling American Families” and “Wealthy Bastards.” (Though maybe not in so many words.) If we view the image in those terms, we are embracing the idea of an ugly division between the One Percent and the 99 percent. “The Good Guys” on the left. “The Bad Guys” on the right.

But there’s another way to interpret the above image.

On the left, we have “Community.” Neighbors helping one another.

On the right, we have “The Worship of Economic Abundance.” A society focused on amassing material possessions.

That’s still a distinction — but a distinction between two societal concepts, rather than a drawing of a line between “The Good Guys” and “The Bad Guys.”

For as long as I’ve lived in Pagosa Springs, our local governments have struggled with this distinction. “Community Building” vs. “Attracting Wealth.” As a result of nationwide economic forces over which we had no control, Archuleta County underwent a transition from a ranching and logging town — a rural working class town — to a suburban retirement community. The transition took a couple of decades, and the “wealth” of the community increased. Some folks began to believe that this pattern could continue indefinitely.

We’re now in a different phase. Nationwide economic forces — over which we, here in Archuleta County, have zero control — no longer offer us a future of ever-increasing material wealth. But many of us who grew up during America’s ascension to a position of world domination — between 1950 and maybe 1990 — can’t easily wrap our heads around the idea that America will no longer dominate the world, and that endless material progress is not a viable future.

The young people I meet in Pagosa have a rather different view of the future. Many are seeking what we might call a “sustainable future” — a future where wealth is not necessarily the end goal of human existence, but where, in fact, the end goal is “continued human existence.”

I’m not sure if our elected government leaders are ready to embrace such a view of Pagosa’s future… a view of a sustainable community, where neighbors help neighbors and where brotherhood is valued as highly as material wealth. A future where we’ve cut up our credit cards, and put on our work gloves.

According to published budgets, our Town government has spent a sizable amount of tax revenues on recreation and tourism over the past ten years, partly in an effort to attract as many visitor dollars as possible to Pagosa Springs. If you add up the money spent between 2006 and 2016 by the Town Recreation Department, Parks Department, Tourism Board and the Community Center, you will get a figure that totals approximately $20.4 million.

According to my pocket calculator, the Town spent — between 2006 and 2016 — a total of about $39,500 on “affordable housing.”

There was a time, a few years back, when Pagosa Springs seemed to be surrounded by bags of money.  I think those days are over.  The cuts are happening, or are about to happen.

We’re now surrounded by our friends and neighbors.

Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson founded the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 in hopes of making a decent living writing about local politics. The hope remains.