Sometimes standing out isn't good
Great Falls Tribune, Montana, May 29, 2003
The Montana Legislature and its Republican leaders have been adamant that it's bad to "stand out from the crowd" when it comes to recruiting business and industry.
For that reason, lawmakers reduced income taxes last session -- a move that we endorsed, at least in principle.
Thanks to the legislators' action, Montana melted back into the crowd, so that prospective businesses and nationwide publications can no longer be frightened off by the nominally highest tax rate of 11 percent.
Never mind that virtually no one pays that rate. And never mind that, by making the action part of an overall tax-cut package, the 58th Legislature put the state on another, very short list: states that responded to worsening deficits by cutting taxes. (They made up for the cuts by raising cigarette and tourism taxes.)
Furthermore, thanks to another legislative action, prospective businesses and nationwide publications still can be frightened away by driving on Montana's public roads, where motorists have a 65 percent better chance of being killed by a drunken driver than elsewhere in the nation.
The lawmakers had a chance to chip away at that third-highest alcohol-related death rate by joining most of the rest of the nation in banning open booze containers in vehicles, but they chose not to do so.
And by that action, they made the state a laughingstock, yet again.
The Washington Post last week, for instance, reported on the legislators' refusal to pass an open-container ban. The article referred to the allegedly Montana phenomenon of gauging a trip's distance by the number of six-packs consumed along the way.
The article quoted Rep. Jim Shockley's libertarian pronouncements on the container ban, cited the alcohol-related death rate, and concluded with this quote from Bill Muhs of the Montana chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving:
"When it comes to individual rights and freedoms, I think some people misinterpret what freedom is all about. You can't have freedom if you're dead."
And, apparently, it's OK to stand out from the crowd in stupidity.