Font size: +

Cutting taxes as a way to the poorhouse: A commentary

 

Cutting taxes as a way to the poorhouse.  A commentary for my fellow Americans

No question, government agencies can blow through money. The recent farce at the GSA gives new meaning to the term government waste. And I am surely not the only American who wonders what Secret Service agents’ cavorting with prostitutes has cost taxpayers.

Then there are the super-expensive items, those ashtrays, hammers, and toilet seats—mostly purchased by the military—with obscene price tags. Generally they have been defended as meeting special requirements, such as the toilet seat not disintegrating when suffering a direct hit from a bomb. It always seemed to me that the toilet seat disintegrating would be the least of any sailor using the head at such a moment. However, who am I to judge?

And, of course, there are the many instances of inter-departmental duplication. While there may be a reason that salmon are considered by the ocean fisheries agency, the fresh water fisheries agency, and the streams and rivers agency, etc., it does seem to me that one salmon ombudsman might contribute to all the agencies rather than having staff talking lox in so many places. With every intention of sarcasm, I am sure the bagel department could provide a staffer for the job.

Having made my anti-waste sentiments quite clear, I feel sufficiently cleansed to point out how easily cutting government spending can cost a great deal more in the long run. I first understood this when we bought our first house on Long Island (New York). Soon after moving in, the septic system overflowed. We spent both time and money first bailing out the lower level of our home and then having the tank pumped. Having grown up, at least partly, in rural Maine, I knew something about septic systems, but it had never occurred to me that each of the relatively expensive, recently built houses of our subdivision had its own tank. I had assumed that, as would have been in my other home, metropolitan Boston, they were all connected to a public sewer system. But no, the money-saving politicians of Nassau County had not wanted to pay for communal sewer service.

Soon after the bailing and pumping, new sewers were installed. Of course since the roads had already been paved, some sidewalks built, lawns and plantings established, etc., the cost of adding this vital service was at least tripled. So much for saving taxpayer dollars, to say nothing of the cost to homeowners. When we moved to another home, we were faced with another round of the same expenses, but at least that house was old enough to predate modern civic sewer systems, it dated back to the early nineteenth century. I guess back then not having planned for city sewers made perfect sense.

Now I live in Arizona, another bastion of the keep taxes low mentality. Not surprisingly, Arizona has many state roads. There are long distances between communities, communities that need to be connected. Obviously the state has a vested interest in maintaining those roads, which is why there is budgeting for resurfacing and other maintenance. Having interviewed one of our state legislators, I know that the current plan is to service each piece of roadway approximately every sixty-eight years, well in excess of the normal life of any road, even one that is seldom used. In effect, the current plan is to have the road system fail, which will mean rebuilding, a process that is much more expensive than maintenance. Of course that plan is not stated as such, it is simply the rate at which funding is available.

Just to make sure that the road system fails, there is now a movement to fix the budget forever, in effect to stop any increases in spending from ever taking place. Thus, when those failed roads need replacement, there will be no possibility of spending the money necessary. Sorry folks in the smaller towns and cities, you have created a government designed to leave you stranded.

Nor is it only at the local and state level that foolishness prevails; we see it at the national level as well. Under President Reagan it was decided that anyone in need of healthcare could go to an emergency room and that they would, regardless of insurance or finances, be treated. It was also decided that the hospitals could then charge back the cost of such service to the rest of us, that hospital bills could in effect be padded. That of course meant that insurance bills went up for everyone who had private insurance. Also, the government ended up paying much more for hospital services to those on government plans, be they federal employees, Medicare recipients, etc. Increased cost to government means higher taxes, so we all pay.

This costly plan of emergency room care was the alternative preferred to spending money, money that would clearly come from taxes, to provide freestanding clinics. Since government was the problem, it was “clearly better” to rely on the privately run hospital system. And not government budget item had to be passed, no agency created. So no clinics.

By the way, those clinics would have been able to provide screening and prevention services that would have saved billions in later costs to say nothing of the toll of human suffering.

To me the conclusion is obvious: Sometimes saving taxpayer expenditures can lead to much higher costs for us all. Penny-wise can truly be pound-foolish, perhaps even ton ridiculous. This is especially true for those of us who cannot escape cholera by fleeing to our country estates, who cannot travel from place to place in our private helicopters, and who cannot ignore the cost of medical insurance and hospital care by hiring our very own private physicians.

If government has a positivist role, an obligation to do things that are necessary for the communal good and prosperity, then the saving of tax dollars should not be the overarching goal. Rather we should make every effort to make government a responsible consumer.  Waste of our resources is not acceptable, but equally unacceptable is saving those resources in such a way as to cost us far more dearly in the long run.

 

×
Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

The Writer's Life 4/20
THE TRUE HEART OF ITALY by Salvatore Buttaci

Related Posts

 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Monday, 20 May 2024
Cron Job Starts