GREAT BEND, Kan. - Governor Mark Parkinson is refreshingly honest, and sometimes his verbal sugarplums take your breath away for their candor. One such moment happened when Parkinson was in Hutchinson recently. As noted by the Hutchinson News in the editorial "Parkinson Tea," the Governor let loose this zinger last week in Hutchinson:
"What's happening in Kansas is that when times are very good, when we have lots of revenue, we cut taxes for wealthy people. When times are bad, we cut services for everyone else."
How true. And how refreshing to hear a politician "tell it like it is," as Howard Cosell would say. For a long time, perhaps due to his 6'5" frame, his rare intelligence, and his reputation for honesty, I have thought of Parkinson in Lincolnian terms. About 15 years ago I sent him a letter to his home in Olathe, and it was returned to Great Bend as "undeliverable". The postmark was "Springfield, Illinois," Lincoln's hometown. I have the undelivered letter boxed up somewhere.
Lincoln said something quite remarkable when he was a member of the Illinois legislature about politicians. In 1837, the young Lincoln described politicians as "a set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people, and who, to say the most of them, are, taken as a mass, at least one long step removed from honest men. I say this with the greater freedom because, being a politician myself, none can regard it as personal."
In ancient Greece, a man named Diogenes walked throughout Athens carring a lantern, serching for an honest man. He never found one. But I suspect Diogenes would find Parkinson suitable.
There was a film by Warren Beatty, released in 1998 called "Bulworth," about a politician who, in a fit of depression, plans his own assassination. Knowing he is not long for the world, Senator Bulworth goes around telling the truth. People think he's lost his mind.
There are a lot of good people in politics---Parkinson is not alone. But here he was last week, dropping a "truth bomb" right in the Republican Speaker of the House's home District. Parkinson is a kind man, and I am sure the location of his comments was not personal or planned.
Parkinson's tenure in office is short, but he has done a lot of heavy lifting, and guided Kansas through desperate financial straits. He could have passed the buck to the legislature on budget cuts, but he wielded the knife, and told Kansans the truth about why.
Yes, the bad economy is part of the reason for the budget crisis. But tax cuts for the rich and big corporations during the flush years helped cause this crisis as well. History will judge Parkinson kindly. And like Honest Abe, who had long intervals between his times of public service, Parkinson may well have a Lincolnian "second act" up his sleeve some day. I certainly hope so.