Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
The Gainesville Sun made some "slight" revisions to my letter to the editor. Here is the letter I sent in:
I came before the County Commission about 2 years ago and asked if there was any doubt that they would increase the bed tax. I was told that no decision would be made unless it could be proven beyond any doubt that any project would be fully justified. Rigorous rules and STRICT business criteria would be followed.
When millions of dollars can be extracted from people who don't live here, you can justify any expenditure. Heck, pay me $50,000 as head of the ACTDA, and I'll whip up a PowerPoint presentation complete with spreadsheets, expert testimony and back-up data to show that the ant farm in my bedroom is an eco-tourist attraction.
No doubt hundreds of hours of staff time at taxpayer expense and many hours of volunteer time, have been expended for each of the requests deemed worthy in an attempt to justify a claim on the booty. Virtually all the participants agree that the tax should be imposed.
What would be funny if it were not so unseemly is to watch commissioners bragging about holding other commissioners' projects "hostage" unless their own pet project is funded. They have already spent the money even before the final vote. To liken this to a pack of laughing hyenas chasing after a hapless water buffalo is an insult to hyenas.
Would there even be any discussion if it were not for the bed tax? No, because without someone else picking up the tab, none of these projects would be viable.
Somehow the notion is abroad that WE won't be paying it. It's like free money just dropped from the sky. Really? I venture to guess that a rather sizable percentage of the nightly and weekly and certainly the monthly stays are, in fact, Gainesville residents.
More to the point, why does the tax apply to a stay of up to six months? Are there non-resident, ball-playing, museum-going, eco-tourists who would stay in a motel for 6 months and thus pay for and reap the rewards of a 5% bed tax?
And finally, here is the vital question that should concern us locally. What happens when whatever projects you decide to "invest" in fail? For example, what if gas prices rise to $6 a gallon and no one drives? Are they going to do what the city did with Ironwood and simply roll it back into the general budget?
Friends, this is an immoral, beggar-thy-neighbor money grab, pure and simple. The folks who will pay this tax are not here to argue against it. It's taxation without representation.
Here is what they printed:
It's like free money
I came before the County Commission about two years ago and asked if there was any doubt that they would increase the bed tax. I was told that no decision would be made unless it could be proven beyond any doubt that any project would be fully justified.
When millions of dollars can be extracted from people who don't live here, you can justify any expenditure.
Somehow the notion is abroad that “we” won't be paying it. It's like free money just dropped from the sky. Really?
This is an immoral, beggar-thy-neighbor money grab, pure and simple. The folks who will pay this tax are not here to argue against it. It's taxation without representation.
Monday, January 25, 2010
I am not sure why, but it appears that most of the dissension about the recent Supreme Court decision concerning campaign finance comes from the liberal side. Mark Shields was quite literally apoplectic on the News Hour last Thursday saying that now the country is truly doomed. As far as I am concerned, the Court did not go far enough. It should have been a 9-0 decision to toss out all laws governing election advertising.
It's true that the rcent Supreme Court ruling may result in various corporations, unions and large special interest groups spending HUGE amounts on electioneering. Big Oil alone spent some $45 million in one year lobbying Congress. But that amount pales against the amount congressional leaders spend on influencing the votes of its own members. Sure, we know about the $300 million awarded to Louisianna and the virtually unlimited dollars promised to acquire Ben Nelson's vote. We have NO idea how many other deals were cut behind closed doors, but you can bet it was WAY more than the total that was spent by the various special interests to try to influence the outcome of the last election.
Generally speaking corporations may now spend corporate money to try to get their guy elected for the benefit of their shareholders. Rationally they will spend only a fraction of their profits to achieve this goal. They cannot spend too much or the shareholders will bail. At least they have that option. And don't forget that various corporations and large special interests often have conflicting agendas which tend to expose both sides of the argument.
When government uses your and my tax money to buy votes, we're totally screwed. We don't have the option to bail. Oh, sure, we can vote them out, but when? Two years, four years from now? By then the damage is done.
The simple fact is that governments at all levels have tried for decades to "fix" the campaign problem, and they have only succeeded in messing things up. It's that danged troublesome 1st amandment -- always in the way.
What I find interesting is how folks trust the government to come up with "fair" campaign rules. Why on this planet would you think that the folks making the laws about campaign finance would make laws that would hinder their own chances for re-election?
The first amendment was specifically crafted to prohibit any restrictions on political speech. The Supreme Court over the years has differentiated commercial and private speech, but of all the types of speech you may define, the one that is (or should be) sacrosanct is that around elections. Is the electorate so stupid that it cannot wade through all the competing claims to come to a rational decision? I dare say that all 140 million or so voters would tell you that they personally can weed out the lies and misinformation in political ads. What worries them are the other 139,999,999 voters who are not so bright and need to be protected.
The systemic, underlying problem is simply that there is too much money in Washington. There is not and never will be a campaign law that will be successful in limiting the dollars spent on trying to influence election outcomes. As long as you can get all the drugs you want in a maximum security prison, so shall money influence elections.
"An election is nothing more than the advanced auction of stolen goods." - Ambrose Bierce