Complaining about high prices and high taxes is a national pastime. The question is, “Too high compared to what?”

U.S. leaders allowed cheap imported goods manufactured in other nations to flood the American market, decimate its factories and wipe out the jobs they once offered. Many communities still haven’t recovered from the economic battering they took, but the rest of us have cheaper goods than we would otherwise.

It’s debatable whether that was a good tradeoff, but some tradeoffs are not debatable.

For example, Ketchum skimped on investing in fire equipment and very nearly found itself short at least one fire truck when its deal with the Ketchum Rural Fire District began to unravel.

Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw also tried to roll back firefighter benefits for a deal to consolidate its fire department with Sun Valley’s.

However, fire trucks and maintaining adequate numbers of well-trained firefighters are not optional. Without them, homes and businesses risk burning down and private insurance rates soar.

Idaho education is the latest victim of cheaping out. New U.S. Census figures show that Idaho is last in the nation for state revenues per pupil in public schools. In 2017, the national average revenue per pupils was $14,273 with Idaho at $8,857. Utah ranked just slightly higher while New York came in at the top with $23,091.

People in other states don’t like paying taxes either, but they still pay far more for education than do those in Idaho. Per $1,000 of personal income, Idahoans pay just $35.21 compared to the national average of $43.07.

Is education expensive? Compared to individual ignorance and a society that fails to thrive because its citizens have weak or nonexistent skills, education is an investment that yields priceless dividends.

Rich lives, safe communities and healthy societies have never been free or cheap, and they never will be. Americans long ago agreed that community safety and education were worth the cost.

The question for Idaho is whether it values low taxes more than its communities and kids.

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