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On her deathbed, Gertrude Stein asked her longtime companion Alice B. Toklas, "What is the answer?" Alice was silent. "In that case," Stein said, "what is the question?" Here are some questions people are or should be asking about Kentucky politics.
Will there be a Republican candidate for mayor of Louisville next year? First-term incumbent Greg Fisher recently announced having raised over $1 million toward re-election. In 2010, Republican Hal Heiner ran the best GOP race for the office since the city and county governments merged, but he barely lost to Fischer by 51 percent to 49 percent. Three short years later it looks like Fischer will win a second term by default.
Do any of the co-chairs of the pro-casino group Kentucky Wins! actually gamble in casinos? Jonathan Blue, Ed Glasscock, Joe Craft, Kelly Knight, Robert Evans, Terry McBrayer, and Junior Bridgeman are affluent and successful in business, but it is hard to imagine any of them sitting entranced for hours while pumping their hard-earned money into an addictive slot machine like those that dominate modern casinos. Can any of these truly public-spirited folks seriously dispute that casinos prey on the poor and poorly educated in ways worse than Kentucky's existing forms of legal gambling do?
Why did Governor Beshear declare in his 2013 State of the Commonwealth speech, "We must modernize our outdated tax code" and find solutions to the topic of tax reform "this year" (his emphasis), but then do nothing to follow through on his rhetoric? Beshear was apparently not serious when he said, "We have to stop putting off uncomfortable decisions for future generations." Six years into his administration he not offered a tax reform plan of his own and his task force's recommendations are growing mold.
Should Medicaid recipients be allowed to purchase alcohol, cigarettes, and lottery tickets? Since others are footing the bill for their health care shouldn't they forgo these luxuries (vices?) that make them poorer and unhealthier? This question is more appropriate than ever now that Beshear's Medicaid expansion under Obamacare has added over 45,000 to a program that the state already struggled to administer, pay for, and get enough providers to participate.
What explains Tennessee making the most rapid education advances of any state according to the benchmark National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)? The Volunteer State made major changes over considerable teachers' union opposition. The Tennessean reports that those reforms include "advancing a teacher evaluation system that factors in student test scores for performance, adopting a differentiated teacher pay plan that gives less importance to advanced degrees, overhauling teacher licensure, overseeing a new agency that has tapped charter school operators to take over the state's lowest-performing schools and continuing the statewide transition to Common Core standards." Kentucky has had its NAEP successes and compares favorably with Tennessee in some respects, but the state Department of Education says our "results have remained steady over the past few years, with minor gains and losses."
Would Kentucky's U. S. Representatives and Senators, and candidates for those offices, support American military action in response to a Chinese military attack on Japanese forces over the disputed East China Sea islands? By treaty the U. S. recognizes that such an attack "would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger." Any congressman or candidate advocating such a military response should explain how it promotes American national security. Meanwhile, nothing quite reassures like Obama sending the always careful and close-lipped Vice President Joe Biden into that volatile region!
Has there ever been a better or bolder observation about Kentucky's state press corps by one of its own than Sam Youngman's recent gem? Youngman, a native Kentuckian seasoned in Washington, has returned home to report on politics for the Lexington Herald-Leader. In a remarkably fine article for The Daily Beast titled "Alison Grimes Will Have to Step It Up to Beat Mitch McConnell," Youngman penned this priceless line: "McConnell ran into a wall, this time against a state press corps that gradually has grown to despise him over the years and now does little to hide its contempt for him." Spot on, Sam!
These questions now asked, it is a good idea to recall some more words of Gertrude Stein. "There ain't any answer, there ain't going to be any answer, there never has been any answer, that's the answer." Thus it is and ever will be with Kentucky politics.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and political commentator. His e-mail is email@example.com.