INDIANAPOLIS — Sadly, America is already immersed in the 2020 national election. It would be better for our nation, our state, and our communities, if we could focus on the elections of November 2019.
         
We are neglecting the Indiana municipal elections upcoming in November 2019. Those elected this year, as mayors and council members, will be in office in 2021-22 when new election districts will be formed on the basis of the 2020 Census.
          
Want to stop gerrymandering? Want to end unwarranted one-party rule? Then pay attention to the 2019 election in your city/town/county. Insist candidates pledge to oppose the corrupt gerrymandering practices of the past.
          
With inordinate attention to the 2020 campaigns, vital local public services are ignored. Our education problems are local and cannot be resolved by “free” tuition at all levels. The quantity of education certificates and degrees will rise, but what will happen to the quality of K-12 education? We must insist that rigor replace the current rigor mortis.
          
Similarly, “free” health care, on the model of Medicare, will go a long way to increase the demand for health practitioners and support services. But without adequate funding for health care, the quality of service at the local level is endangered.  
         
“Free” is one of those four-letter f-words, like “fair,” which should be used with great caution. Normally, conservatives remind us resources are not “free.” Liberals focus on the benefits and the beneficiaries. Both parties make little reference to the costs and what we must forego to reap the rewards of their programs.
          
Both ideological groups talk glibly about the dollar costs of worthwhile objectives. They fail to spell out who must give up what to achieve their goals. How many fewer submarines, if the military budget is to be cut? How many trips to the nail parlor will be lost, if consumer obsessions with finger and toe adornments are to be taxed? Do we shut down the assembly lines for SUVs while diverting resources to fix the roads on which they drive?
          
Most people do not understand price tags in the billions of dollars; we think of things and activities. Vacations in Maine, cruises to the Caribbean, 80-inch TVs, another pair of shoes, or a large jar of peanut butter are things all of us can understand. Not every sacrifice need be a luxury.
          
What if fees were charged explicitly everywhere we park our cars? “Free” parking would disappear. More of us would walk, ride a bike, take a bus, and not go to as many places.

I used the “free” valet service at my doctor’s office last week. “Free?” I thought. “But the cost will be included in the taxes my neighbor pays for my Medicare and I will pay for his freebies.”

That is the way of an integrated economy. May Uber Lyft us all.        

Mr. Marcus is an economist. Reach him at mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com. Follow his views and those of John Guy on “Who gets what?” wherever podcasts are available or at mortonjohn.libsyn.com.