A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Col Owens: Our nation is becoming two distinct countries — let’s call them red and blue

We are well on our way to becoming two countries. Label them how you will. Red and blue will do for the moment.

In blue states, taxation is viewed, as Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, as the price we pay for civilization. Taxation is set at levels that adequately support public services.

In blue states, the vaccination rate for COVID is reasonably high, as residents value health — theirs, that of their loved ones, their friends, their colleagues — over their liberty right to put all in jeopardy.

In blue states, reproductive rights of women are respected as protected by the Constitution.

Col Owens

In blue states, the right to vote is protected for everyone, regardless of color, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or zip code.

In blue states, unionization is largely viewed as a positive force, for the advance of workers’ quality of life and standard of living and for the economic health of the larger community.

In blue states, combined public investments in education, health care and economic development, coupled with reasonable graduated taxation, result in strong economies that produce more than they consume, where they export more goods and services, and tax proceeds, for the benefit of the rest of the country, than they import.

What of the rest of the country, the red states?

Red states want to control issues that have enjoyed federal protection for decades. Even if the result is essentially 50 countries with regard to important issues.

Red states prioritize personal liberty over public responsibility and public good. They label public investment as socialism and oppose it.

They want states to control reproductive rights, environmental protection, health care availability, education content, voting rights, pandemic policy, discrimination protection, and others.

Not coincidentally, red states have lower health measures, lower education levels, tighter voting restrictions, lower levels of unionization, lower income levels, lower levels of taxation, and lower levels of economic activity, all resulting in lower standards of living and quality of life than in blue states.

Kentucky has become a largely red state over the last decade. As the above analysis demonstrates, it pays a heavy price.

Our health measures are among the worst in the country. KERA initially lifted our education measures from the bottom in the nation, but our education disinvestment over the last decade is causing our progress to slow and in some areas to stop altogether.

We can do better. We have choices to make – as national citizens and as Kentuckians. Do we want to be producers or takers? Do we want to be leaders or those who trail in their wake?

We have leadership at the top, in the person of Gov. Andy Beshear, that is leading us forward into a better future. He has strengthened our economy with unprecedented new investment and job creation while managing multiple crises.

I believe that if we embrace the path he is blazing, we will continue to progress, and all be better off.

Facts tend to speak for themselves. I am hopeful the facts lead Kentuckians to the right decisions.

Col Owens is a retired legal aid attorney who teaches poverty law at Chase College of Law. He is the author of the book Bending the Arc Toward Justice (Cincinnati Book Publishing, 2020) available at colowensbooks.com.

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  1. Patricia Valentine says:

    The facts speak for them self… but people continue to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the principles of life they inherently were taught growing up as a Kentuckian and as a fellow American.

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