Opinion

And 2004 promises more of the same

As we begin another trip around the sun, it’s the season for predictions.

If any of these prophetic musings turn out to be wrong, forget where you read them. I don’t like to admit my mistakes — it would take too much time out of the day to do justice to them all.

Let’s start with the safest prediction: People who consider themselves to be Progressives will continue to oppose free enterprise and capitalism because of their distrust of human nature, but will support giving more power to governments controlled by human beings.

They believe human nature produces unacceptable results when individual liberty and property rights are respected, so they seek to attain what they call “social justice” by giving greater governmental power to human beings who behave in accordance with that same human nature.

Undaunted by the paradox at the core of their belief system, they cling to it with a dogmatic fervor that snake-handling Appalachian fundamentalists must secretly envy.

Our economy’s periods of slow growth or recession reinforce the belief of Progressives, but the greater troubles which have resulted from their purported solutions are generally ignored or quickly forgotten.

People are like that. We tend to notice and remember things consistent with our prejudices, but not those that require us to re-evaluate and possibly change our opinions.

It should also be safe to predict that somewhere in Washington a teachers’ union will wait until long after the middle of May, when its job security for the coming school year has been assured, and then insist on higher compensation.

Of course, they will claim during any unlawful walkout that they have no contract. But, if that were so, how have they managed in the past to appear in classrooms and pass themselves off as employees after they ended their walkouts?

Perhaps we just don’t have enough law en-forcement personnel to escort all those trespassers and interlopers off the school grounds.

During the coming session of the state Legislature, there apparently will be a proposal to amend the law and require mandatory arbitration to settle such demands for higher compensation.

Authorizing a handful of arbitrators to determine the size of the largest budget item in the school districts seems like a recipe for disaster; but it will undoubtedly receive serious consideration, since there is rarely a shortage of people who yearn for a strong leader to decide all such matters.

It may seem unfair to include another prediction related to public education, but the desire to avoid being plainly wrong is a strong motivator.

Advocates of higher spending on education never quit, so their behavior is easily foreseen.

During 2004, there will be another push to increase spending on higher education, despite the plain evidence that far too many people are already admitted to our colleges and universities who aren’t prepared to benefit from a post-secondary education.

Many freshmen will be required to attend remedial classes in an effort to overcome their academic shortcomings. How could there be a shortage of enrollment capacity if there are already many who aren’t qualified to be there?

Capacity could be increased by quite a bit, if the full-time students had a greater incentive to graduate in four years. Reducing or eliminating the taxpayers’ share of the costs of their tuition after four years would probably increase their academic achievement substantially.

And finally, there is transportation spending. More money will again be spent in Washington during 2004 to operate public transit systems than it will cost to build the new bridge over the Tacoma Narrows.

Think of that. Every year, enough revenue blows out the tailpipes of single occupant buses to build the bridge a lot of Kitsap residents will be paying tolls to cross for decades to come.

Yet, the several major road and bridge building projects on the list to be done generate proposals for higher taxes, not redirection of the taxes we already pay.

If it’s right for people who use the bridge to pay a toll, why is it wrong to expect the bus riders and ferry riders to pay the cost of their transportation?

And, if the transit systems are supposed to be relieving rush-hour congestion, why is so much of the money spent to drive in circles during the rest of the day when almost no one wants to ride?

It seems to be an article of faith that building more roads and highways isn’t the way to improve mobility, since eventually those new roads will be filled.

Public transit advocates seem to think we went wrong long ago, when the Oregon Trail and a few little dirt roads were replaced by a great number of paved streets, roads and highways.

Those nice new roads did finally become congested, since people kept coming here to live, work and have babies.

Some day there may not be population increases that require new roads and bridges, but that day won’t come in 2004 — if we are fortunate.

Robert Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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