Most of these columns in recent months have addressed issues of national concern: the state of our national security, our increasing prosperity unfairly shared by just a few, our historic New World commitment to welcome refugees from the Old. But not all issues are national issues.
A favorite bit of homespun wisdom gives one definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. By that measure, our state politics is a case study in insanity. We keep electing the same people year after year, and yet we expect them this year to solve problems they failed to solve last year, the year before, and the year before that.
- South Carolina ranks 46th in hourly wages and 47th in per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But our elected officials oppose any raise in the minimum wage, not having done so since the 1980s. If we wanted to, we could fix that within our state.
- South Carolina now has the most expensive public higher education costs for in-state students from low-income families. But our South Carolina politicians have voted to cut Pell Grants. State support for higher education lags even where it was ten years ago.
- The children of our poorest families are unprepared even before they start First Grade. But our politicians have cut funding for Head Start and for nutrition funding.
- Nearly 200 South Carolinians are expected to die every year because our elected politicians have refused to expand Medicaid – which, given the offer by South Carolina hospitals to offset whatever minimal state cost may arise, would have zero impact on our state budget. We’ll “repeal and replace” our current system someday, they say, but apparently we don’t want meanwhile to improve what we have.
- South Carolina has been rated as the deadliest state in the nation for domestic abuse of women. But all of our congressional delegation except James Clyburn voted against reauthorizing the national Violence Against Women Act.
- Our roads and bridges are in poor shape, with no agreement on any long-term solution. Asking where should we be in five, ten, or fifteen years draws “Yes, but …” responses about how we can’t afford to address the problem in a way that would fix it.
Too many of our voters who wish to see different outcomes this time around will be frustrated to see that the incumbents, those state politicians who voted and acted to create these deplorable conditions, are running unopposed or have endorsed successors who are running unopposed for office. But some few do, in fact, face opposition.
If you keep voting the same way you’ve been voting, you can expect to keep getting the same lack of solutions you’ve gotten in the past. If you think that’s not good enough, if you want change within our state, then you should consider not voting the same way you’ve been voting. Otherwise, you are helping to define that homespun version of insanity.