You have to wonder what's in the water fountains at the Catoosa County Republican Party offices.
In a fit of madness — or certainly seeming madness — the Catoosa County GOP has outlined its vision for the future: No benefits for county commissioners, no special tax incentives for businesses, no gay marriage and no government-funded education.
Apparently these folks want to move their county back in time to the 1800s, when life expectancy was between 38 and 58; when business was farming, undertaking and blacksmithing; when gay people were just quiet about it, and when a majority of children had just a handful of years of schooling and many grew to adulthood without learning to read.
That's not Jeff Holcomb's view, however.
"We want to see responsible future Republicans stick to [those positions] well beyond our lifetime," said Holcomb, who was elected chairman of the Catoosa GOP during a convention last month. "Government spending is out of control, everywhere. That's the main idea behind this: getting government spending out of the way."
Out of the way of what? Sanity?
Holcomb said he doesn't expect any of those concepts to come to fruition soon — some may not happen in his lifetime, he told Times Free Press reporter Tyler Jett. But Holcomb hopes the ideas approved by about 45 Republicans during the convention will serve as a guiding light.
Really? Something like 45 Republicans in Catoosa County approved this?
Holcomb said local party committee members last month argued that local government should not bend over backwards (spend taxpayer money to prepare sites where companies can build) for potential new businesses.
So go away, Costco. Go away Cabela's.
Pull up stakes from Catoosa County and come into the light across the Tennessee-Georgia line to Hamilton County where our government sees the value of investing nearly a billion dollars, with a b, in tax breaks and incentives over 30 years for Volkswagen to create roughly 10,000 jobs either at VW or in supplier companies. Those 10,000 jobs, in turn, will conservatively increase annual income here by $511.1 million, and if you multiply that by 30 years it means we will have spent nearly $1 billion to create a 30-year earning increase of about $15.3 billion. Those extra earnings, in turn, will over 30 years boost state and local tax revenue by nearly $1.7 billion. In other words, the investment will pay for itself in 30 years and along the way build life incomes for 10,000 families.
But the real shocker in Catoosa GOP platform was the stance on eliminating public education because it is government-funded education.
The platform is steeped in Christianity, with a quote from Solomon: "Much study wearies the body."
The authors made a point of noting that they aren't saying education is not important. "In fact, Jesus Himself learned," they note.
Jesus also healed the sick and fed the poor and told his disciples they should do and preach the same. But maybe the Catoosa GOP platform committee itself is behind in schooling and couldn't read that far into the New Testament.
Holcomb said he thinks local, state and federal government should be smaller, meaning nobody pays too much tax. As it stands, the county government "picks winners and losers," his party platform reads.
Other county officials — including more rational Republicans — aren't interested in Holcomb's ostrich-like stance.
Commissioner Jim Cutler said this is an unrealistic stance. "When a business is looking at Catoosa County, they're also looking at Whitfield and Hamilton County and Bradley County. The whole area. You have to offer some type of reason to do business in Catoosa County. Certainly, we watch that. We don't just go wild."
The Catoosa GOP's party's platform, written by a committee, has no legal weight. It is merely a statement from its members, telling elected officials who want to run for office as Republicans what positions they should hold.
Commissioner Bobby Winters, who runs with the GOP, also is a bit more enlightened than Holcomb and crowd.
"I didn't take this job to let some people like this tell me what I'm going to do and what I'm not going to do," Winters said. "If they don't like it, they can vote me out. I work hard for the people. I work hard. And I love to work for the people."
The bottom line is that Holcomb's town crier chant of "smaller government" makes a good rallying call. But it doesn't necessarily may make a thoughtful — let alone visionary — plan for the people a government represents.
Catoosa representatives — all government representatives — need to do the thinking, and do the numbers to find that path that best fits our families in today's world. Today's world — not the years when we had one-room schoolhouses and walked uphill in the snow barefoot both ways.