Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And all we found was Earl -OR- Who ya gonna call?

Slivers of my property tax dollars support/fund 15 separate taxing bodies representing 3 School districts, (elementary through College), County, Township and Local Governments, even a mosquito abatement effort.

In this funding mechanism, some of the entities are wholly reliant on this revenue source for all of its money. Others have any number of revenue generators working in conjunction with the property tax trough. Fines and fees, direct and indirect subsidies, special assessments, parking funds, water funds, motor fuel taxes,sales taxes, use taxes, utility taxes, grants, bonds, investments...

"You can gaze out the window, get mad and get madder
Throw your hands in the air and say what does it matter
It don't do no good to get angry, so help me I know."

For a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter.
You become your own prisoner as you watch yourself sit there
Wrapped up in a trap of your very own chain of sorrow.

John Prine- Bruised Orange/Chain of Sorrows

The overseers of these public trusts troughs won a contest.
A plurality of the meatsacks, who reside in the affected area and bother to vote,
bestowed upon them the powers to spend these pooled resources for the common good.
At least that's the way it's supposed to play out.

The common good, the common wealth, the common weal: The general good or advantage of a community and, by extension, the whole body of people constituting a nation or state. Your mileage WILL vary. Funny things have happened since implementation.

Taxes are born, then borne. There was once a time when they were actually abated. Once their specific stated intent was achieved, collection stopped. Swords beat into plowshares and all that. If new taxes were desired for new projects for the common good, the overseers had to sell the project on its merits. There was great debate. The pros and cons were weighed and measured. The terms discussed and hashed out making for grand theater and occasional folly. Mission Creep was kept to a minimum.

It was generally agreed that this system was imperfect. There were some channels of the public trough that required continuity and stability; A permanent tax was required to support continuing and ongoing costs. A tax base from which to operate. Recurringly returning to debate the merits of generally accepted needs was inefficient use of the overseers time and our money. This was true for sewers, schools, police protection and fire protection. Over time, roads, bridges, common water from municipal wells, lighting, and etceteras joined the public ledger. It's those etceteras wherein the overseers could dabble.

The sliver representing my local municipality has blossomed and spread. Departmentalized, compartmentalized, privatized and codified, its line items have spread out and dug in roots. I single it out because its reaches and impacts have come to mimic that of the larger entities serving the common weal.

In the 1980's when Saint Ronnie's disciples came up with the revenue enhancement that returned less of what the federal government collects back to the states, it triggered a chain of sorrows that has spread like cracked safety glass. Our congresscritters looked at that pool of funds and dreamed tremulous dreams of the wonders it could provide. The states, meanwhile, were faced with a situation they chose to address by distributing less of the money they collected along the food chain. State legislators looked at the resulting pool of funds and they too dreamed tremulous dreams. The tax fairy had arrived. Without increasing taxes, by keeping a larger portion for its own use, the larger entities could tout their tax bonafides without worry.

The further down the food chain you went, the basic services previously funded from upstream sources dried out. That's the way the mop flops. People found ways to do without or they agreed to provide more local funding. Asset management became key to the common weal. A wily manager could wring each nickle out deriving the optimum return OR the overseers who'd won a popularity contest could whine, piss and moan that their golden goose had stopped laying. We need a new goose. We need new ways.
We need to maintain and grow because we are providing vital services. We need a wily manager too.

The market for wily managers exploded. Wily manager curriculum was developed and schools began churning out wily managers trained in finding new nickles to wring.
The unsophisticated ways of old where the people of the common weal had input and made decisions based on need were over. Plans, schemes and scams replicated and rippled through the countryside. Turnkey revenue sources were developed and sold.
If your locality wasn't playing teh game, it was headed for extinction.

Ostensibly, that string has played out. Disbelief can no longer be suspended. The pockets that were being picked have gotten wise to the game. They can't fund it all anymore and a growing number are reluctant to fund any of it.

What's needed now is some of that old fashioned wile and guile. Considering the aggregate amounts involved, surely there are some savings to be had, some expenses that can be trimmed somewhere UP the food chain where comfort has exceeded (if not eliminated) need? So what's the problem?

In short, the problem is that such thinking is completely foreign to the process now. Anyone who talked or thought such things was driven from the field of play as
obsolete, over-the-hill chicken littles, counter-productive to the wonderous wonders being leveraged out of the pool.

Thankfully, unlike the assboil countries where we are "building democracies", our "obsolete" thinkers weren't liquidated, beaten, broken or re-educated. They remain, ready, if somewhat gun-shy, at thoughts of a return to public life. Can't say I blame them. Still, they're out there toiling in the wilderness into which they were cast.

Their return necessitates a purging of Reagan acolytes who remain cluelessly unable to realize cause and effect. They cling to their victim blaming, sideshow distractions and hyperbole with bizarre tenacity in light of the mounting evidence of addled thinking.

DFH: "We're on the wrong road.
Ronniacs: Yeah, but we're making great time!"

Fresh out of pavement people.

"Ronniacs: Who needs roads?!"

After 30 years of phony tax cuts and policies of Switch, Shift and Shaft.
we're back in the wilderness. Victims still stuck in an abusive relationship.
The solution isn't pleasant, but it's necessary and long overdue.

1 comment:

Dr. Zaius said...

"Switch, Shift and Shaft."

He's a bad mutha--

Watch your mouth!

Hey! I'm talkin' about Shaft!