As in years past, this year's election season has brought many references to "values." On the Republican side, these are often referred to interchangeably as "Utah," "conservative" or "Republican" values.
As a fifth-generation native Utahn, I would expect that I should be able to ascertain what Republicans believe "Utah values" include. However, given the gap between what many Republican candidates and office-holders say compared to what they do it is sometimes difficult to pin those values down.
For example, many Republican candidates have declared that they are against government bailouts and deficit spending. And yet, the state's Republican legislators and governor have accepted hundreds of millions in federal "bailout" funds for Utah schools, highways and other uses. If government bailouts are so bad, then why did the state's Republican leaders accept those funds?
And, given the perils of the huge federal government deficit, shouldn't the state of Utah step up and pay the funds back?
Further, shouldn't our congressional representatives be pushing for all states to pay back the bail-out funds they received? This would not only heal the bailout problem, but would reduce the federal deficit at the same time. Zions Bank has paid back its bailout funds, so shouldn't the states be willing to do the same? (And would Utah's economy really have been better off if Zions Bank had been left at risk?)
Given that no payback steps have been proposed, are we to conclude that many Utah Republican candidates and office-holders are actually in favor of bailouts? If so, then is their expressed distaste for them nothing more than election-year sloganeering?
Another conservative position popular with many Republicans is that the government should not be "forcing" people to pay taxes in order to "redistribute wealth" through federal safety net programs. To do so, the argument goes, is "immoral."
If this is the case, then why is it that childless taxpayers can be "forced" to pay taxes for public schools while having no children putting demands on the system? Meanwhile, households with children in public schools pay even lower tax rates as much of their income is protected from taxation by dependent child exemptions. Isn't this a violation of the "take responsibility for your own family" test?
Why is it deemed "immoral" to "force" taxpayers to subsidize food and medical aid programs, but not "immoral" to subsidize families with school-age children? And why are people receiving food aid considered to be "on the dole" while schoolchildren are not? Is a little consistency in Republican political philosophy too much to ask for?
Conservatives and Republicans often invoke the argument that many government programs should be privatized as their functions can be done more efficiently when exposed to the competition of the marketplace. Privatization has been urged for many programs from Social Security to Medicare.
So why does the Republican-dominated Utah Legislature continue to hang on to a state-run liquor monopoly despite the management problems that have hampered its operation in recent years?
But perhaps the aspect that annoys this fifth-generation native Utahn the most is the continual lecturing the electorate receives on "Utah values" from supporters of Republican politicians such as Orrin Hatch (from Pennsylvania) and Mia Love (from New York/Connecticut).
They imply that if voters don't agree with them politically, then voters don't exhibit "Utah values." But given the gap between the statements and actions of many Utah Republican candidates and office-holders, it is often difficult to ascertain just what those "Utah values" might be.
Ray Diehl works in the private sector and is part of the 53 percent of Americans paying federal income tax at a rate comparable to Mitt Romney.