Ask any Kentuckian about the number of NCAA championships UK basketball has won and they can tell you without hesitation. Ask the same residents the seriousness of a $35 billion dollar pension liability to the state and their eyes glaze over.
This week on Kentucky Tonight on KET, guest host Renee Shaw and her guests State Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, chair of the House State Government Committee; State Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, chair of the Senate Budget Review Subcommittee on General Government, Finance, and Public Protection; State Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, chair of the House Judiciary Committee; and State Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, vice chair of the House Licensing and Occupations Committee discussed Kentucky’s pension crisis.
I’m not going to harp on the fact that we have the worst pension funding of any of the states or that the “fix” touted by Gov. Beshear last year is a farce. More disappointing than the facts about our pension system and the billions of dollars of debt being swept under the rug were the guys on the show talking about it. All they provided were excuses and talking points.
We hear GOP leaders talk about flipping the house and use social media hashtags such as #FlipTheHouse. But after this show I question whether some in the GOP really want to be in the majority.
During the discussion I heard the Democrats saying “It was the downturn in the economy” or “it was the markets”. The Republicans sat on their hands and nodded and at no time pointed out that the Democratic leadership presided over this debacle. Not once did they point out that other states who are part of the same markets and economy have recovered, and it is time for change.
Occasionally during the conversation it was mentioned how bills that would have addressed some of these issues were introduced but not brought to the floor for discussion or vote. Neither Republican called out the Democratic leadership for killing these bills. Instead they gave their colleagues a pass.
We have hardworking Kentuckians who put in a full day at work then labor after hours to flip their counties from blue to red. They knock on doors, they make phone calls, they go to events and pass out voter registration cards, and they write checks. To many of the lawyers in Frankfort these $5, $10, $25, or $50 donations may not seem like much, but to those living on fixed incomes, farming, or making a factory worker wage it is a commitment to fiscal responsibility and smaller government.
The least we expect from our elected officials is to show a little fire in their belly. Are we happy being named the worst managed state? Are we satisfied being the ninth most corrupt state? Are our elected officials proud to preside over the worst pension system and budget in the nation? Do we want to continue bleeding jobs to pro-growth states?
One of my friends who watched the show pointed out that we need to paint our argument in bold colors, not dabble in soft pastels. Many times things that happen in politics are over analyzed. Such is the case with the defeat of Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, by David Brat, an almost unknown and underfunded economics professor. Whether it was Cantor’s stance on amnesty or some issue has been discussed ad nauseam by media pundits. The underlying truth is that Brat painted a bold vision that contrasted with Cantor’s pastel status quo.
If Kentucky is going to move forward it is going to take some changes in leadership. Perhaps the same is true of the state GOP. Let’s not forget the old adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results.
Bernard Jordan is an eighty-nine-year-old veteran of WWII. During the recent celebration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, nursing home staff in Sussex where Jordan resides told him he couldn’t go to the celebrations. Jordan put on his medals under his raincoat and set off to participate anyway. After the nursing home reported him missing they received a call from a younger vet who told them he had met Jordan on a ferry on the way to France and that Jordan was safe in a hotel. Is there any doubt why this was called the greatest generation?
It is this kind of grit and determination that we need in order to take the battle for the future of Kentucky head on. Lead or get out of the way because we are ready to storm the beaches.