Ga. Republicans snip the link between cause and effect

Cause and effect. It’s all about cause and effect, or more accurately, ignoring cause and effect.

Facing re-election this fall, Gov. Nathan Deal wants Georgia voters to give him credit for the fact that, according to the Tax Foundation, the state ranks dead last — 50th out of 50 — in state taxes collected per capita. Presumably, this fact demonstrates excellent stewardship on the governor’s part, and said stewardship will “improve” even more once Deal signs the various special-interest tax breaks passed this session by the Legislature.

However, Deal doesn’t want voters to blame him for the fact that Georgia schools can’t afford to keep their doors open for a full academic calendar, that Georgia’s highways and bridges are crumbling, that tuition in public colleges is soaring, that rural hospitals are being forced to shut down, that children under the state’s protection are dying, that we have the nation’s second-highest dropout rate and that trips to get a driver’s license have once again become a nightmare. These things, we are asked to believe, are outside his realm of responsibility and tell us nothing about his stewardship of the state.

In other words, we are supposed to believe that having the lowest tax collections in the country — some 33 percent below the national average — has nothing to do with the state’s inability to perform some of its most basic functions. There is no cause-and-effect relationship between these things. We are supposed to focus solely on our tax rating while ignoring the long-term economic and human damage that is being done to sustain it.

Likewise, the governor would like the voters of Georgia to be angry and outraged that the Obama administration has not yet agreed to help the state economy by paying hundreds of millions of dollars to deepen the port of Savannah. We are also supposed to be even more angry and outraged that the federal government DID offer to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to provide health insurance to some half a million Georgians, most of them working people who simply can’t afford insurance otherwise.

For those of you having trouble keeping track: Port deepening good; health care bad. Investing to maintain inanimate infrastructure good; investing to maintain human infrastructure bad. And any notion that the federal government’s reluctance to help Georgia in its port expansion might be affected by state officials who treat Washington as a foreign invader in every other context — wipe that thought from your mind, because cause and effect have no place here.

Once the Legislature ends this week and the election season begins in earnest, I suspect that we’ll also be reminded by the governor’s campaign commercials that according to one rather obscure business publication, Site Selection magazine, Georgia has made itself into the best state in the country in which to do business. In fact, Site Selection has been giving us love for more than a decade now, ranking Georgia in its Top Ten every year since 2002 and in its Top Five for eight of those years.

Now don’t get me wrong: That’s a good thing, at least potentially. But like our status as 50th out of 50 in state tax collections, our high standing with Site Selection means something only if it produces what it is supposed to produce, which is a lot of good-paying jobs. I mean, what’s the point of having an underfunded state government that can’t do its basic job unless it translates into economic growth, prosperity and a good quality of life, just as God and Arthur Laffer promised?

But it hasn’t. The cause hasn’t produced the promised effect. We still have the ninth-highest unemployment rate in the country, and our median household income is dropping faster than in most other states. In fact, one reason our tax collections per capita are lowest in the nation is not because of tax-cutting politicians or good stewardship, but because the economic recovery in Georgia — remember, the best state in the country to do business — has been slower than in most other states.

Cause and effect.