Three-headed monster on the ballot

60, 61 and 101 - truly monstrous

I’d laugh when I hear all the screaming about “government spending.” Well, I would, if it were funny. Government spending, aside from filling the holes left in the landscape by a herd of greedy financiers, was not always bad per se. Look at the highway you drove on to get to your vacation or your job or the hospital. Government dollars built it, government dollars repair it. And if a mishap melts twenty square yards of asphalt tonight, government doesn’t have the choice to wait to fix same until it has more revenue.

Or consider prisons. Built with government dough. How would it be if there were no state prisons? Both the high-profile inmate escapes recently occurred at privatized incarceration facilities. I don’t know about you, but that’s one kind of proliferation I can do without.

How about public K-12 schools? Many on the north bank of things would have us believe these institutions can do no right. I guess that’s why they pay teachers one-tenth of one per cent as much as a typical American corporate CEO pulls down. Disregarding for the moment the apparent agenda of some vocal school critics, it would appear that, when certain “conservatives” say they want to assure school choice, they mean the rich should not have to send their children to public schools and so also should not have to help pay for them. Most school revenue comes through property taxes. Property taxes are one of only two taxes (the other being the automobile ownership tax) based on asset value. That may be the only thing more sacrosanct to the wealthy than protection of gains.

Colorado voters will face three “measures” this November (earlier, actually, with mail-in ballots). As a package they constitute a three-headed monster. Amendments 60 and 61, plus Proposition 101, are designed to take the state back to 1991, when Doug Bruce was planning to try to get TABOR on the ballot for the third time. Why stop with 1991? In terms of state and local government employment, we’ll see levels unheard of since 1955. Of course, that’s what “conservatives” have wanted since the last Ice Age. Rather than risk incarceration and tax court, these “patriots” prefer to use government for their own ends when it suits them ­like when they want to pay less in taxes legally. George W. Bush heard them, loud and clear. You might ask around and notice how many jobs were created as a result. No fair counting the armed services.

Proponents of this ballot triple play would claim that the roads will be fine. After all, the feds and gasoline taxes pay for those. The US helps (through matching funds) build US highways, but not state roads. The feds do not send money to maintain them. If 60-61-101 pass, so many government jobs will be lost that the state economy will roll over and make 2008-09 look like a birthday party at a nursing home.

How? First, each public-sector job carries a multiplier. That means that more than one private-sector job depends on it. Or did you think the government grows its own trees and makes its own paper? Or generates its own electricity? Or pumps its own crude oil? Vehicle Miles Traveled fell precipitously during the Great Recession and will again, if the anti-debt/anti-public forces have their way. Why else did crude oil fall back into the $30s per barrel? Next time even fewer miles will be driven. Result? Less gas tax. And just try raising it. Bruce will be there, legal motion in hand. He is trained as an attorney, after all. Read 60-61-101. Suits brought against any government unit to enforce these no-tax measures are a no-win for the public. And the plaintiff (Bruce) ALWAYS recovers costs. Not a bad retirement, if you ask me.

By the way, if a certain candidate for governor is elected and walks in on day one to fire people left and right, the same negative (actually fractional) multiplier situation will ensue. Not a pretty picture. If you live in a household drawing a government paycheck, I’d think about saving more. Now.

Current rhetoric from the barnyard tries to make it sound as if government at all levels is out to rape the wallets of our grandchildren. Maybe these people surmise that their grandchildren won’t have gainful employment, either. And they’re too embarrassed to ask father government to help! Is all that really the fault of government, or of corporatists holding hiring hostage for a no-tax, no-regulation list of demands?

As indicated above, government can’t choose which “project” to fund in most cases. What does a private business do to start a new venture, buy a new machine, build a new plant? Borrow! How is the debt repaid? Out of cash flow. But a business can choose not to proceed. Why should government not have the same privilege? I suppose those who would urge a return to candle-dipping days have never owed anyone a nickel. If you believe that, then sign here for a trip to see my land in Florida. Of course it’s for sale. Easy payments.

If we just “privatize” everything, all will be well. Take another look. I know of no private trash collection service that charges less than a municipal pickup, for starters. Why? The private concern wants to earn a profit; the government does not need to. If you favor a private police force, then I suggest you look into the antics of Blackwater in Iraq. Recent police abuses of power in Denver notwithstanding, I doubt any of us want the SS patrolling our roads. Yet, since we won’t be keeping them up under 60-61-101, maybe there is no problem here. I just hate the idea of detouring around all the fallen bridges and spending all day to get to Breckenridge. In the summer.

Not very long ago a major magazine wanted to vote Fort Collins into the top five in “best places to live.” The city had been number one in 2006, but ended up this year at number 6, because of underfunded schools. Even Dan Haley, Denver Post editor, who is not known as a flaming liberal, stated on July 4 (that’s significant!) his support for public education funding, as well as roads. Lionel Rivera, mayor of Colorado Springs (Doug Bruce lives there.), has proposed a three-year “timeout” on TABOR. That’s not exactly what 60-61-101 have in mind. These initiatives are slash-and-burn politics that, if enacted, will drive business away from the state and initiate an extended period of migration by households. Remember the “black taggers” who left Michigan in the early 1980s and showed up in Texas, etc., looking for work? Colorado plates will be noticeable from coast to coast.

In Germany numerous voices have had second thoughts about proposed austerity measures. Germany’s economy is better off than ours; their GDP grew more than two per cent in the second quarter. Figures for
the USA are not in yet, but most economists I’ve read will be very surprised if the number is greater than 1.5%. Without government stimulus, that number would have been not just negative, but a black hole.

I suspect many people are beat up and ticked off because they see that more government jobs survived the near-Depression of 2008-09, than did private-sector jobs. Construction jobs have been the big loser, and economists love them, if only because they have large multipliers and usually pay well. Or they did. It’s hard to beat business that can take in money in another state but buys its supplies locally. Big homebuilders come to mind.

Finally, if the Doug Bruce’s of the world think sales taxes can save us, it’s time for them to look at that place in Florida. After massive job losses occasioned by passage of their latest anti-public barrage, not so many will feel able or inclined to consume. Poor people don’t make very good commercial customers. The voters of this state ought to be careful what they wish for; they just might get it, in spades.

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