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My Way

Conservative to the world, but liberal locally

March 14, 2012 - "(Government) has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste; with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." – American journalist H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

I've been giving some thought lately to a strange breed of political animal that I've observed during my 13 years of covering local politics. I don't exactly know what to call them. Hypocrites seems to fit best.

The folks I'm referring to profess to be conservative when it comes to issues involving state and national government, but regarding local matters, they take a decidedly liberal tone in their support of increased taxes and spending.

When you talk about Obama and Congress, they'll give you an earful about the evils of government-run health care, earmark spending and crippling taxation. They'll even show you their Tea Party card.

When you talk about Gov. Rick Snyder, they'll praise his reform of Michigan government and his willingness to help the business community get back on its feet. They'll tell you how glad they are that Granholm is gone and how she and the other Democrats ruined the state.

But when it comes to local issues, these same folks routinely support more millages, more bond debt, more spending, more grandiose taxpayer-financed projects and government's insatiable tendency to gobble up more and more land for its own purposes.

It's as though their self-professed conservatism is only applicable to governments that exist beyond the borders of their community.

Granted, conservatives have always expressed a general preference for local government because we like the fact that it's smaller in size and scope, and closer to the people it's supposed to serve.

But just because it's local doesn't mean it's inherently good and should be supported in all of its endeavors.

From what I've seen, local government's tendency to waste money, overtax and push for lavish public projects is just as bad – and just as natural – as that of the federal and state governments.

To me, real conservatives – and libertarians, for that matter – don't discriminate, government is government.

Whether it's located in the town hall or on Capitol Hill, it's all equally loathsome and contemptible.

It's all based on the arrogant premise that public officeholders and career bureaucrats know how to better spend our money and exercise our power than we do.

Just because I know the people who sit on my local boards and can see them around town on a daily basis doesn't make me like them or the things they do.

Quite the opposite. I actually detest some of them more than anyone in Washington D.C. or Lansing because I've witnessed their true nature and selfish acts firsthand – from their endless lies to their covering up of criminal activity to their overweening desire to feed their egos, pad their resumes and add their names to more bronze plaques.

Local government is as much a part of the problem as its big brothers. True conservatives should criticize, monitor and oppose it just as vehemently, not check their principles as they enter their town's limits.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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