Former Gov. Mark Sanford is back in the news because of his engagement to the woman with whom he was having an affair, a tryst that upended his burgeoning political career.
I was thinking about him for different reasons, especially after another attempt by leaders of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to deny that the one-cent sales tax they advocated to promote tourism is a government subsidy.
They are desperate for Myrtle Beach residents to believe it is just an investment so they can continue to claim they believe in the unfettered free market – even though it is using millions of taxpayer dollars on behalf of private businesses in this area.
Sanford had his faults and had to make compromises like any other politician. But his attempts to rein in the size of government – even when it hurt – was real. He would not have called the one-cent sales tax an investment to hide what it really was. The leaders of the chamber, on the other hand, seem to want government help while denying they’ve received any.
Sanford told you what he meant and why he meant it and did not play specious word games. He believed he had a responsibility to tell people what he thought and why to win naysayers over to his side.
In one of our first meetings, while he was still a U.S. Congressman, he told me that if he couldn’t convince people to do what he thought was best, he had to do what the majority wanted. And when he was governor, he did not pretend the way many others did, that if we just cut taxes and spending everything would be rosy.
He knew cutting government spending would hurt and possibly make things worse in the short term, but he believed it was best for the long term. He said it plainly and fought for that ideal, even against many in his own party. He did not call black white to make his case.
There are times when labels don’t much matter. But in this case, it does, especially when an organization uses government for its own ends while saying it wants government out of the private market. The chamber can try to spin it as much as possible in as many ways as possible, but the fact remains the same: The chamber convinced the government to help area private businesses.
In a sane world, that wouldn’t be controversial, given that a healthy partnership between the public and private sectors has helped make this country strong. That type of partnership helped turn low-income housing along the Grand Strand into desirable places to live and money-makers to boot because the Aynor-based Douglas Co. used tax credits to revamp and resell the concept.
Chamber leaders would be more honest if they simply called the one-cent sales tax what it is – a government subsidy – while making the case why it is a good use of the government and why other subsidies might not be.
That’s where this debate, locally and on the state and national level, needs to go.
But that’s going to be impossible if the people who receive government help deny that they are getting it.
Contact ISSAC J. BAILEY at 626-0357, email@example.com or via Twitter.com at @TSN_IssacBailey.