Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Now cut that out...

One of the problems we face when we talk about eliminating property taxes is the insistence by our elected officials that the loss of revenue would result in the loss of government services. The first things they mention are police and fire protection. I guess that is the first lesson in Politics 101. Whenever taxpayers start to complain about excessive government spending, threaten them with the loss of police and fire protection. And if they complain about the cost of the new high school gymnasium, threaten to lay-off some teachers.

But when reasonable people face a shortfall in their funding, the first cuts in spending shouldn’t involve basic trips to the grocery or their chosen form of shelter. That’s not to say that the money we spend on necessities couldn’t be spent a little more wisely, or that some of the frills couldn’t be eliminated. But wouldn’t it make more sense to start with dropping the premium channels from your cable provider, or maybe canceling that gym membership, or your subscription to the “Cookie of the Month” service?

From the federal to the state to the local level, politicians have lost sight of what they should really be doing, which is providing basic, essential government services. Any talk of eliminating a tax, or lowering a tax, or actually cutting government spending, threatens the growth of government, which in turn threatens the power of the politicians.

They assume we will accept that any reduction in our taxes will result in a reduction in government services. They are fond of warning us to be careful what we ask for, because we might get it.

While that might be true, I would suggest that taxpayers be especially careful when asking for something from the government, because you never know what you are going to end up with.

You might reasonably ask your government to take the taxes you pay on gasoline and use them to build and repair our roads. What you end up with is nearly half of that money being spent on flower gardens, hiking trails, bicycle paths, studies on adolescent obesity and thousands of other pork-barrel projects.

You might ask your government to simply educate your children, and instead end up paying for a top-heavy bureaucracy that costs 3 to 4 times more per student than private schools.

You might ask your government for health insurance to protect your poorest senior citizens, and instead end up with a program that spends your tax money to furnish Viagra for the wealthiest segment of our population.

You might ask your government to raise an army to protect you from foreign invaders, and instead end up paying to have troops stationed in 140 countries around the world, providing security for nations quite capable of providing their own.

Sometimes getting what you ask for isn’t nearly as bad as getting what you didn’t ask for.

I think I’m ready to ask for a little less government. How about you?

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