Opinion

No satisfying public’s expectancy of government funding

TORRENS TALK

It was not surprising to see people protesting paying taxes on April 15. Between the economy and the historic debt this country is facing, it would have been more unusual if there were no protests.

That said, where were these people the previous eight years when our surplus turned to the largest deficits ever? There were no signs by those self-same folks objecting when our government spent billions on a war without having the intellectual honesty to include those costs in the federal budget. There was no decrying how the government was wasting taxpayer money on no-bid defense contracts that resulted in billions of dollars unaccounted for and lost.

Clearly, as long as the money was being used for purposes they supported, then everything was OK. Now, with an administration they oppose, everything that is being done — the decisions, the choices, the regulations, the laws — is wrong. And, they don’t see why they should give any more of their earned income to the government to help restore our economy and way of life.

This attitude and approach just shows they do not “get it.” They do not “get it” the same way the signature gatherer for Eyman’s latest attack on government funding doesn’t get it: government does need money to do its job. When I said as much when he asked me to sign, his reply was “The government doesn’t need any money.”

Somewhere along the line, these folks have chosen to ignore why government exists and how it operates. Many smart people, quite a while ago, realized that when resources are pooled for the common good, much could be accomplished. This is how this state built its first roads, fire services were provided and police protection was established. Along the way, people recognized the need and desired public health services, public education, libraries, parks and the like.

It also was recognized that identifying a common funding source was paramount in ensuring these services would be provided. The main revenue streams that were selected to pay for these items were sales, business and property taxes.

Unfortunately, this choice has given us a stream that gushes when times are good and dries up when times are bad. So, programs get instituted when coffers are flush — the public’s appetite for wanting government to pick up the cost for virtually everything is insatiable. This then sets up government to be the bad guy when funding goes away and items must be cut.

This is when the will of the majority rules. And that means many of the small, special constituencies such as the mentally ill, the mentally challenged and others get short shrift. And then situations arise such as the slaying of an off- duty firefighter by someone who really needed to be under constant care and supervision, but the funds and the facility did not exist for such coverage.

That event causes outrage in the community, bills are pushed to change the status quo and the uproar dies down. Time goes on, budgets must be cut and that which had been is no more. Is another similar event just a matter of time? The up-tick in gun sales certainly seems to support that idea.

Regardless, this constant up/down, up/down would be minimized greatly by a better revenue system. But, tax reform in this state is a non-starter. Despite this state being close to being broke and broken, people are still unwilling to face that reality. One can only wonder how bad it will really have to be before people actually have the courage to change it.

Val Torrens appears in the CK Reporter the second and fourth Friday of every month.

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