The 1992 Presidential race between then President George H.W. Bush (41) and Governor Bill Clinton can be remembered by a simple slogan, "It's the economy stupid!" The notion was that President Bush was too stupid to understand the problem that the nation wanted solved was a slumping economy. President Bush didn't get the message and Governor Clinton went onto be President Clinton (42).
Back home in Klamath County we could use a similar expression: "It's the Costs Stupid." While almost every government agency characterizes their financial problems as a "funding shortfall" this characterization is only a partial truth. A much better description is that the county government is facing a deficit problem. That may sound like a distinction without a difference, but that's not true. There is a big difference. By characterizing Klamath County government's financial problem as a funding shortfall, the natural reaction is to try and replace that revenue. Yet that only looks at half of the ledger.
To understand the real problem — the complete problem — we need to begin describing government's financial problem as a deficit problem. Deficits are caused by one of three things:
The statement that raising taxes often lowers tax revenues seem to be anti-logical. If the government raises tax rates shouldn't it follow that tax revenues also should rise?
Well not necessarily. This logic often falls flat because it makes a large assumption: tax payers will behave identically after a tax increase as they did before. The beauty of capitalism is the ability for capital to move from one person to the next, from one business to the next or from one location to the next. This free flow of capital is what makes for a robust economy. If Bob's baseball card deal is the same as Billy's but Billy's is less expensive, then Billy gets the sale. No one forced us to buy from Bob who had more expensive deal, so we went with Billy. The same goes for businesses and taxes. When a businesses' tax burden becomes too great, businesses will look for a more tax-friendly location.
People behave the same way — just look at California. California has the highest taxes in the nation. You would think they were doing well then. Well not really. Tax receipts were down 22% this past February compared to February 2011. What happened? Both people and businesses continue to leave the Golden state for more friendly havens. According to Spectrum Locations Consultants,
It seems "sustainability" is all the rage these days. There is great emphasis on sustainable forms of power, sustainable business practices, and sustainable design. But while we are being told to be good to the environment and our fellow citizen, there seems to be a real lack of sustainability in one area: government.
Government seems to be able to create laws and regulations that tell us how we must behave in a more sustainable fashion, but government never seems to be accountable to the same proclamations. Specifically, government's own model for spending tax dollars are not economically sustainable. Take for instance union labor. Every year over 400 union labors at Klamath County get a raise, no matter what. It's just part of the gig. They get a raise. It doesn't matter if revenues are down. It doesn't matter if funding for schools, parks or public safety may be at jeopard, union labor get's their raise. This means each year for the same set of services, government is more expensive to operate. Now how sustainable is that?
This model for government is only sustainable if one of two following occur:
After six months of Public Safety Committee meetings and another month of Commissioner contemplation, the answer the Wizards of Smart gave us to a Public Safety funding shortfall was to raise your taxes. You see the money had to come from somewhere and of course the government couldn't look to itself to reorganize or drop funding to any other program. Nope, you were the solution to their problem Mr. & Mrs. taxpayer, so it was time to cough up some more dough.
But wait. According to Wednesday's Herald and News the Governor is to soon pass a bill stating that Klamath County (and six others) can use their Road funds to fund patrols. This means the money allocated for patrols can pay for Jail Pod B and therefore the county doesn't need your money (for now).
Huh? You mean the county had the money all along, it was just locked up in a special road fund that even the commissioners couldn't use?
Watch our good friend Fred (left), help his friend Bill (right) understand why our officials are wrong to ask us for more money.
The reason we have this fiscal crisis is because government revenues are down. Why have revenues decreased? They are down because our local economy has tanked. So the solution — according to the wizards of smart — is to take MORE money out of the private sector. What?!? They claim they want more jobs and economic growth and in the same breath say they need to take more money from the private sector. Just think about that for a second and the response is, Really? Really.
Someone once said that rhetoric can be defined as "non-rational persuasion." Or maybe a simpler way of stating it, rhetoric is "emotional persuasion." In politics rhetoric is used all the time to justify programs, causes and candidates. Most recently rhetoric was used when re-playing a horrific 9-1-1 call in front of the commissioners. The result was the commissioners voted 2-1 to increase the public safety levy from $1.5 million to $1.8 million. Their reasoning was that this group that replayed the 9-1-1 call needed to be funded by government. The thinking is that with proper funding these types of calls would not happen.
But is that true? Will more funding designated for a particular group guarantee horrific 9-1-1 calls are never heard again in Klamath County? That seems to be the rationale for the increase in the levy. But again, is it true? Here is where reason comes in. Up until that particular question, rhetoric was at play. Our emotions were engaged, not our minds. "This 9-1-1 call is awful", we think. "We can't have these kinds of evil things going on in our community. Someone needs to do something! Increase the levy, fund Group A whose mission it is to help stop these sorts of bad things and we'll all be safer." But the reasoned approach dares to ask the tough questions such as will extra funding really stop these sort of acts of evil?
When we take the emotion out of the air then we get down to what government can do, what government can afford to do and what government's proper role is. Also we begin to ask the question, when is the citizen responsible? The 9-1-1 call was of a woman screaming because her boyfriend was beating her, again. When is it the responsibility of the woman to leave the boyfriend? When is it her responsibility to seek help and protection from friends, family, neighbors, churches or synagogs before this beating happens again? Or is the woman completely innocent and therefore has no responsibility. Instead she expects that it is all of our responsibility to fund a government program to protect her from a poor choice in boyfriends?
It pains me to watch the political process in Klamath Falls and Klamath County. I am constantly amazed how government always seems to be short on funding. It doesn't matter what the issue is, the solution is inevitably that government just needs a little more money. Add a fee here or support a levy there. If it is a bold measure then government officials will dare to call it a tax. Whether one is talking about Public Safety, Public Health, Education, Tourism or Economic Development — the solutions are always the same: government needs more money from those they serve.
The reason this mantra is repeated is not because it is the only solution a particular problem, but because it is the easiest solution. It is easy to say, "We need just a little more more money to fund programs X, Y or Z." On the other hand, it is far more difficult to say, "We will cut back on programs A, B or C in order to fund X, Y or Z." To sell the idea of raising fees, levies or taxes for the city or county is second nature to the masterminds and central planners. To them this thinking comes as natural as breathing.
Why does government get a free pass? Why doesn't government first need to show beyond a reasonable doubt that they are spending the public's money in an effective and efficient manner? For example,
Today (Friday, Feb. 17th, 2012) the Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve the drafting of a $1.8 million public safety levy. The commissioners were set to vote on Tuesday for a $1.5 million levy when a group came in and played an awful 9-1-1 call. The basic claim of this group was if just a little more money was spent on public safety, they could help prevent such tragedies in our community. Two of the three commissioners obviously agreed and added $300,000 to the levy.
Here's the problem. Our wants will always outstrip our resources. Some may want more policemen. Some may like there to be more libraries. Some may want for lower rates (funded by someone else) for their mortgage. Some may think they shouldn't have to pay full price at the gas pump. Some may think food should be free. Others might want discounts on all clothing. The wants of our society are endless. It's almost like the thinking of the little boy who once asked his dad, "Why do we have to have money? Why can't we just share everything?"
While a nice sentiment, the adult answer is obvious: there are always far more wants than resources. Always. Therefore there has to be some sort of rationing put in place. Liberals believe government is the best arbiter of such things. Government is "fair and noble" they claim. Governments can mandate pricing and then force taxes on group A to subsidize pricing for group B. Conservatives believe free market pricing is the most efficient and fair arbiter. Look no further than the controlled districts of New Your and San Francisco. The most expensive rent in the country and all brought on by liberal thinking of price controls on rent — supposedly to help the poor!
Klamath County Commissioner Candidate Tom Mallams released a bold statement yesterday. Tom Mallams has pledged, "I will not raise taxes during my term.” You can read his full statement on his website.
This is a very interesting move, especially as the current commissioners are deciding how much to increase taxes for a jail levy. Moreover, Klamath City School's Board just voted to place another levy on the ballot this May. It seems that those who are publicly funded and whose budgets are now smaller think the answer to their finacial challenge is to use the power of government to grab more money for themselves.
But wait, where does that money come from? The citizenry of course. And where do the citizens of Klamath County get extra money to pay for the extra taxes? They don't. They are forced to sacrifice more of their private wealth for the for the decisions made by very few.
Why are there eight people running for County Commissioner and seven for County Sheriff?
It's like looking through a new deck of playing cards. Of course I'm talking about the seemingly record number of people running for public office. If you didn't know better, you'd think our community was filled with really public servant minded people. What a lovely community.
But, we know better.
There are many reasons people run for public office and far be it for me to assume I know exactly all the reasons why any of these people is running for public office. That said, there is one factor that can't be overlooked: our sad economy. If I told you there were three jobs available, two starting at either $68,000 and the other at $74,000, plus great medical and retirement benefits, plus a near guarantee of four years before your first review, prestige from many in the local community and offices in Klamath Falls, you'd probably say, "Sign me up now."