Wednesday, November 4, 2009


"Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.'' — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Now that Election Day has passed, the campaign signs that have been on lawns and fences for the past two months will finally start to disappear and the mailbox will be empty of the seemingly endless flow of cards and fliers promoting and/or excoriating the candidates.

While most of the campaign signs have been a very patriotic red, white and blue, a couple of local candidates did theirs in green and purple and emblazoned them with the words "Tax Revolt." (For those comic book fans among you, the green and purple they chose are remarkably similar to the colors of the "battle suit" Lex Luthor had in the 70s and 80s. And about as ugly.) These candidates encouraged voters to join them and rebel against the incumbent leaders and the taxes we pay.

As I write this, those two races are too close to call, so we don't know whether we will have a "tax revolt" or not. Well, actually, we do know. Despite all the claims of all the candidates that have ever run for office that they are going to reduce ( or "slash" as many like to say)government spending and cut taxes, it never happens. Whoever gets into office recognizes that the only way the government can function is by collecting taxes. The more things people want or need, the more it costs.

But let's suppose there really was a major cut in spending on the local level so that property taxes could be reduced. What would people be willing to give up?
* Sorry, no more twice-a-week garbage collection; please bring your trash to the dump on the third Thursday of the month between 8:00 and 11:00.
* Oh, there's pothole in the road? Maybe you can get out a shovel and throw some dirt in it.
* We got a foot of snow on Friday night? Sorry, no overtime for the plow drivers, but they'll be out on Monday for eight hours. Maybe they can get to your street then.
Also, we didn't buy any salt or sand this year, so please be really careful if you go driving on the ice.
And maybe Spring will come early this year.
* We'll be closing the school buildings promptly at 3:00 every day. Perhaps you would be willing to host a meeting of the Honor Society or a Glee Club rehearsal in your basement?
Also, to save on energy costs, we'll only be heating the schools to 60 degrees. Please have your children dress warmly.
* The library will be open every Wednesday from 2:00 to 6:00. If you have any books, DVDs, or recent magazines you would like to share, please bring them in.
* "You've reached police headquarters. I'm out right now, so please leave a message. If this is an emergency, try yelling for help to attract the attention of your neighbors or passersby."
* Oh, and by the way, we've laid off a lot of people in order to make these cuts. Some of them will be your neighbors or people you know or perhaps a member of your own family. But look at the bright side; if there's no income coming in, there's no income tax! (They'll still have to pay property taxes, though. Unless, of course, they lose their house.)

And that is just on the local level.

Think we don't need someone to maintain the highways, bridges and tunnels?
How about having the armed forces to protect us?
And someone inspecting the food we buy?
Social Security and Medicare? (Would everyone who gets Medicare and is against universal health care either stop collecting or please shut up.) (And those people who complain that taxes are too high and also that Social Security benefits are not getting their annual increase in January, you too!)
Unemployment insurance?
Mail delivery?

Is there waste in the government? Of course there is.
There is also waste in every business, large and small, in this country.
And in every household.

Politicians can claim they will reduce the waste and make those tax cuts, but let's be real.
It's about as likely as the company you work for making sure that you are working every minute you are on the job. (By the way, if you're reading this on company time...)
Or you making sure to fix that leaky faucet as soon as you see the first drip, turning off the lights every time you leave a room, and getting every last drop of ketchup out of the bottle before you throw it away.

So let's stop pretending that anyone who is elected is actually going to lead a "tax revolt." Because no matter how much it saves, we can't afford it.

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