#4247: An inability to connect cause and effect.
The HotAir article links to an Austin American-Statesman article about the issue which discusses the efforts to prompt the Texas legislature to "reform the appraisal process" but the problem isn't coming from home appraisals. The problem stems from people voting themselves everything without realizing that it's accompanied by the money has to come from somewhere. If you want a light rail system in your town, it's not going to magically appear out of the ether just because a majority voted for it; land must be bought and contracts must be signed and about a million details have to be attended to, all of which takes money because very few people are willing to work for free. The same thing goes for everything else.
I am incredulous that there are people out there who vote for as much government spending as possible and are then shocked that their taxes rise, though I should not be; I've known many people who called themselves social liberals and fiscal conservatives. But the proper term for such people is idiot because you cannot have the big lavish government without equally confiscatory taxation. If you want to keep more of your hard-earned money--or not find yourself priced out of your home by rising property taxes--you first have to realize that you can't simply vote for every last expenditure your government wants you to authorize. It means asking hard questions, such as, "Do we really need another library?" "What do our schools do with the money they already have?" "What advantage will a light rail system bring to our city, particularly if it must be subsidized by government?"
That last is, by the way, a very good question to ask whenever a local government decides that a light rail system is just the ticket to revitalize the sagging downtown/uptown/wherever. Just as is the case with high-speed rail, if there were an economic need for it, it would already exist; if people are not going to a commercial center in a city there's a reason that usually does not have anything to do with transportation. People who need cheap transportation to a shopping center are not people who are going to spend much money at same. Most of the time, taxation and regulation are what kill shopping districts, with crime a close follower. Once the novelty of being able to ride a trolley downtown/uptown/wherever fades away, people stop going. Fares rarely amount to enough to maintain the system, much less improve it.
Government is not blameless here, either. The best example I know of was when I lived in Cedar Rapids and there was a big referendum coming up on school funding. The news reports were full of all the problems the schools had, things like leaking roofs and failing machinery and-and-and...and the first question that came to my mind was, "Did you people, or did you not, budget for maintenance?" And after a little while I learned that the answer to my question was no, they had instead spent the maintenance budget on something else--had been doing so for quite a while--because Our Schools Need More Money And Something Has To Give, and there was this and that expenditure which the district really needed, according to the administrators...but to any rational observer were obviously optional.
I've since learned that this is a favorite trick of government: mis-allocate the money in perfectly legal ways, then cry that they just don't have enough and need more because look at the state of our schools! But none of the reporters covering the stories are critical of the decision-making process, nor do they ever portray the decision to defer maintenance in anything other than the most flattering light.
Here in my hometown they spent $60 million on building a new high school...but didn't leave anything in the budget for equipment or furniture. And of course in the very next election there was a referendum asking for Yet Another Bond Issue so the high school could buy desks and equipment.
It was so vitally necessary to build the new high school--because the old building was old!--that they continue to use the old high school building for the district's sixth grade students. The district used to require two junior high schools; it now has one--so why do we need a combined sixth grade school and a big fancy $60 million high school?
This kind of thing is the problem. No one--no one ever, ever, ever asks why the government cannot make do with less money. The taxes never decrease.
"'Never'? You nazi prick, what about Reagan?" Ronald Reagan presided over the largest increase in government revenue in history. Sure, the tax rates went down, but government consumed more of GDP than ever before...and that number has not decreased materially since. And right after Reagan was out of office, Bush I presided over the single largest tax increase in history...or it was until Clinton signed the biggest a scant two years later. That record stood until Obamacare, which is now the king of the hill.
"Well, okay, but the Bush tax cuts--" Don't make me laugh. The Bush tax cuts expired, and were never really all that big to begin with. And regardless government spending rose rather than declined. It rises every year, and our elected "representatives" argue merely the rate of increase, not whether or not there will be one. Historically. Historically they have, as Congress has not passed a budget since Obama took office.
Do not expect that to change even if the GOP sweeps Congress in November.
I added the scare quotes because I no longer feel as if I have any representation in D.C. No matter how I vote, the result is the same, and the people we send to D.C. aren't there to represent anyone but themselves. This has become entrenched enough that the GOP is fighting--tooth and nail--a movement meant to drag them back to their conservative roots, because if the GOP has to be the party of limited government again it's going to mean an end to all the parties and the money.
A lack of an explicit budget--using continuing resolutions instead, extending the 2009 budget ad infinitum with spending increases built in--means no one must take responsibility for the outrageous growth of government spending and it helps to hide how much of current GDP is nothing but. The various organs of the bureaucracy keep track of the budget deficit, but I no longer believe any number our government feeds to us because so many of the statistics are self-serving lies meant to keep the sitting politicians from dancing Danny Deever from the streetlights. They say the current deficit is around $600 billion, but there is so much room for fiddleating and adjustering that number that it's essentially meaningless. We're spending $600 billion more than what? Tax receipts? Tax receipts plus SS taxes? How much borrowing is going on under the table such that it doesn't figure as "borrowing" and makes the deficit seem smaller?
It's impossible to argue that the government is not cooking the books, when we've already got evidence that they're cooking the employment numbers and a host of other vital statistics. Hell, they're even altering the temperature records to make them more advantageous to government ends.
...and this is what we vote for, every time.
The D.C. crowd relies on that. "My representative is okay; it's those other guys that are the problem!" No it's not. It is YOUR representative. I don't care how much you like him; when he goes to D.C. he doesn't sit in committee and say, "My constituents really don't like having their taxes increased, so I'm voting 'no'." He goes to that committee and says, "I am willing to agree to a lower rate of increase as long as we can remain revenue-neutral and I don't have to vote 'yes' to a tax increase." And even if he does vote "no" on those tax increases, when push comes to shove he has his party bosses leaning on him and trying to make him vote with the party and agree to a teeny-tiny tax increase because without that increase the other guys aren't going to play ball and give us our spending cuts, and The Party Has A Strategy, and it'll just be this one time....
Only the spending cuts never come, and now that this guy's got some experience with lying to his constituency and covering his ass for the tax increase vote he finds it easier just to vote "yes" next time. Because after all, who wants to be left out of all the big parties? And the Party Has A Strategy!
Unfortunately the "strategy" in question has nothing to do with letting citizens keep more of their money, or returning to a government that is run by constitutional principles. So what can we do?
Revolution is a bad idea. The American Revolution was led by principled men; most are not, and the revolutionary regime always ends up being as bad, or worse, than the one it replaces. This is even true in the case of America, though it took some time (which is really a good argument for the success of the system the Founders constructed) and didn't happen immediately. Even if there was a successful revolution that replaced our sitting government with one like that of the early 19th century, the cost in bloodshed would be staggering (and you cannot rule out the use of nuclear weapons, to boot). And if you think our freedoms have been curtailed now, you just see what they're like if someone starts a revolution.
Secession? The Civil War was fought over that issue. The best thing for the union would have been for the Confederacy to have been allowed to quietly secede from the rest of the country. If government truly drew its power from the consent of the governed--if Lincoln had been an adherent of that principle rather than merely mouthing platitudes to it (see "Gettysburg Address")--by now the two countries would probably have rejoined and we'd all be a hell of a lot more free. Lincoln got away with a lot of shit to prevent the south's secession, and it's unlikely that there would be much difference today.
(Lincoln is a whole 'nother blog post. "Government of the people, by the people, for the people" was in no danger of vanishing from the Earth, and the Civil War happened because Lincoln didn't want certain people to have the power of self-determination. "Slavery"? Lincoln freed the slaves in the Confederacy, not the Union. This fact is not often mentioned.)
Voting? When our choices are "Democrat" and "Democrat Lite"? This is the best tactic; but it seems as if this only delays the inevitable. Like moderate Republicans in the 1960s trying to keep the US out of the sphere of communism for as long as possible, it's a path of slow surrender. It's also the best way to solve the problem, though: you vote for people who are less likely to raise taxes and rein in freedom, and hope that eventually someone like Ronald Reagan will come along who can kick the statists' testicles right into their brain cavities, thus doubling their IQs.
Of course, voting is what got us into this mess in the first place. *sigh*