Colorado’s Gov. Jared Polis might have gotten his start in the digital flower business, but he just as easily could have been a used car salesman.
Like so many politicians today, Polis has become increasingly slippery with the truth. As his chances at higher office inch closer into view, the multimillionaire has become a resident expert in dodging questions and obscuring unpleasantries with a hall of Magic Mirrors.
That Polis rarely opts for outright lies is part of the problem. Blatant falsehoods are easy to fact-check. The governor’s claims are not. His careful use of words often requires a scalpel as much as a pen to dissect what he is and isn’t saying, and only then can the requite question marks and asterisks be applied.
Lately, one claim by Polis really has me feeling squeamish. For years I’ve heard him and his team say he’s saving Coloradans money. As a Coloradan, I want to believe him. Who wouldn’t? Saving money is awesome. There’s just one problem: My bank account disagrees.
Since Polis has taken office, it’s an objective fact that I spend more, not less, to live in Colorado. Chances are you do, too. Housing is up. Car insurance is up. Utilities are up. Medical care, transportation, food, gas and goods are all up. We even pay more in timed entry fees to recreate at local spots than when he took office.
So if my expenses are higher, and your expenses are likely higher, how exactly is Polis saving us money? And why do so many of us let him get away with saying it?
Yes, inflation is largely to blame. Prices have gone up on just about everything nationwide. But prices have also been rising more in Colorado than they have been nationally, so the governor definitely isn’t off the hook.
Fact-checking whether or not Polis has actually saved us dough is tough. His turn of phrase, “saving Coloradans money,” is vague enough that it can mean almost anything and nothing at the same time. Nowhere does he elaborate if he’s saved us a lot or a little. He specifically doesn’t say if it’s a one-time saving or overall. He doesn’t even explain if he’s lowering one fee while upping another, which he often does, by the way. Nope. He simply strings a few good-sounding words together and lets you make assumptions, which means that ranking it as true or false entirely depends on how you define it.
If you challenge Polis on this claim, he has a long list of prepared items to defend himself. With how loosely he frames it, if even one item on that list saves more than one Coloradan at least one penny during his entire tenure, technically speaking the slogan is true.
But… is it really? I mean, does anyone actually believe that Polis uses this phrase with the intention that voters won’t hear he’s saving them money overall? What good would it be to say you’re saving people money if not to suggest overall?
This is where my bank account doesn’t lie. No matter how many lists Polis throws at me for how he’s supposedly responsible for saving me money — a stretch in and of itself — I know for a fact that overall my expenses are higher, not lower since he took office. There’s just no amount of savings in tax-free tampons or reduced state park passes that could even come close to racking up the savings necessary to offset the double-digit percentage increases I pay for almost every other essential living item.
So do I feel in my gut that Polis is knowingly lying about saving me and other Colordans money? Of course I do. Absolutely. Who wouldn’t with expenditures so high? After years of his leadership, overall expenses are worse, not better, for many of us, end of story. Combined with his failure to pass policies that would save more people money, such as stronger affordable housing or health care reform, it feels like he has done far worse for my pocketbook on the whole.
Nothing feels more smarmy and out of touch than a multimillionaire trying to convince voters we’re better off when the numbers at large suggest otherwise. So whatever the reason for Polis’ vagueness on this claim, we’ve got to start holding him more accountable, because the only way he’s saving us money overall would be if he personally paid us every time he said it.
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