Saturday, March 16, 2013


A voice breathlessly commenting on a dramatic emergency scene declares that “every second counts when it comes to saving lives” and that without Proposition A “your safety is at risk.” Los Angeles’ Police Chief appears on screen and grimly announces: “I’m Charlie Beck. Public safety is now in danger. Please support me by voting ‘yes’ on Proposition A.”

That’s the choice for voters: Support Proposition A or put public safety at risk. What exactly Prop. A is, isn’t stated, but obviously only sociopaths would oppose it. Such is the nature of today’s “my way or the apocalypse” political discourse.

For the benefit of the more than eighty percent of registered Angelinos who sat out this election, Prop. A called for a permanent half-cent increase in the city’s sales tax—a rise that the city council hoped would generate over $200 million in additional revenue.

Buoyed by the success of Proposition 30 last fall, which linked tax increases to the welfare of California’s school children, L.A.’s city council rushed through this local tax measure without public hearings and hoped for a ‘yes’ vote by tying it to emergency responders.

Fortunately, enough sentient citizens went to the polls to defeat this measure (55-45%). At a minimum this new pile of municipal cash would be an important bargaining chip that public employee unions would employ in upcoming contract negotiations.

The issue never addressed by proponents of this and other new taxes is why the most essential and popular government services are in jeopardy if new taxes aren’t approved. Why, in other words, is funding for emergency services, schools, and parks always at risk and not exorbitant pensions, proliferating bureaucrats, and dubious programs?

In his teaching days economist Thomas Sowell told students to “imagine a government agency with only two tasks: building statues of Benedict Arnold and providing life-saving medications to children.” Sowell then asked how the agency would respond to a budget cut. The bureaucrat-savvy answer is that medications for children would be reduced because that action would likely result in getting the budget cuts reversed.

The Obama White House is playing the same cynical game with the puny $85 billion cut to a federal budget projected to be over $3700 billion (3.7 trillion). Thus, school children planning a visit to the White House are turned away in order to make cuts as painful and obvious as possible.

The worst case scenario, as one Obama lackey opined, would be if “the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens”—a result that would confirm the obvious truth that most governments are awash in redundancy, regulatory overreach, and graft.

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