Monday, February 18, 2008

Week of 02/18/2008

When the Exception Becomes the Norm
– by David Matthews 2

The running joke about the demise of the Holy Roman Empire was that it was dissolved by Napoleon Bonaparte upon the pronouncement that it was neither “Holy”, nor “Roman”, nor an “Empire”. That sounds right, although the true demise of this area that covered the middle of Europe was caused by multiple problems, with Napoleon’s conquest of that area being really the nail in that government’s coffin.

The “Holy Roman Empire” was supposed to be the continuation of the “best” qualities of the old Roman republic mixed in with the “might” of the Catholic Church, with the first “emperor” being the great leader Charlemagne, although there would a gap of some 160 years before the first successive line of “emperors” would rule.

There were, however, some problems with this idea. The largest is that Rome was NEVER part of this Empire! Sure some parts of what would later become Italy were included, but ROME ITSELF was never a part of the mix! It’s a little hard to tell folks that you’re in the Holy ROMAN Empire and not include that city!

It’s like making orange juice without oranges. You can call it what you like, but if it doesn’t have oranges in it, then it’s not really orange juice!

Oh, but wait… Charlemagne DID get the blessings of the pope, who DID live in Rome, and since he was considered “the FIRST Emperor” of the Holy Roman Empire, then I suppose they can fudge the rules a bit, right? Never mind that whole 160-year gap.

The point, of course, is that government always seems to find a way to excuse their actions, even if that excuse defies logic, reason, or even the laws of time and space.

Case in point: how government solidifies their grip on society through the use of exceptions.

Let’s suppose that you have a small town that is going through a strong growth spurt. People are moving in because the taxes are low and the services are small and affordable. As is inevitable in these areas, growth also means an increase in basic services and resources. Water, electricity, sewage, education, police and fire services all need to be expanded to keep up. Roads need to be widened. Traffic lights need to be installed.

All of this can’t come about for free, so the town officials announce that they have to raise taxes.

“NO!” exclaim the elderly taxpayers. “We live on fixed incomes! We can’t afford a hike in taxes! You’ll be chasing us out of our homes!”

“Not a problem,” says the government, “we’ll just give you guys a tax break to compensate for the difference.”

So the retirees get a tax break. But that also deprives the government of that money, so now they have to raise the taxes even higher to make up the difference.

“NO!” exclaim the poor residents. “We’re struggling as is to make the ends meet! We’re on welfare and Medicaid and Social Security and we’re in the same situation as the retirees! You’ll be chasing US out of our homes as well!”

So the government says “Not a problem” to the poor and gives them their own tax break. Of course, that also means that there’s yet another shortfall, which means yet another tax increase.

You can probably guess what happens next, right?

“NO!” shout out the spouses of soldiers who are sent overseas. “We can’t afford these high taxes! Our spouses are overseas, we can’t keep making ends meet with the military pay we’re given, and you’ll be throwing us out to the street with this!”

Okay, so let’s give them some tax breaks. Oh, and that will also mean a higher tax increase to make up the difference.

“NO!” shout the middle class families. “We can’t afford to raise a family if you continue to raise taxes! We have children! You don’t want to put our children out in the streets, do you?”

You guessed it… more tax breaks to middle-class families. And of course a higher tax increase to make up the difference.

So now who’s left to pay these extra taxes? The elderly don’t have to pay them. The poor don’t have to pay them. The spouses of military men and women don’t have to pay them. Middle-class families don’t have to pay them. That just leaves the single taxpayers or childless couples. THEY get the “honor” of paying the bulk of the tax burden in this hypothetical small town. Unless, of course, they were to move away. Why do you think there are so many “family” communities out there?

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there! You see, because of the pile of exceptions on top of exceptions to the original tax increase, this hypothetical growing community will NEVER have enough tax money to pay for the things that they need, so they will ALWAYS need to raise taxes, and then give still MORE exceptions to help out those same groups over and over again. The local politicians then use that as a leverage to stay in office, reminding those same groups that THEY were the ones that championed those tax breaks, and that those groups will LOSE those tax breaks should someone else take over. It’s a nice little perpetual circle of dependency where the collection of needed revenue comes second to the continued “relationship” between politicians and their constituents.

Those in government LOVE to write rules and then give out exceptions. It keeps them in power and it provides the illusion that they “care” about the community.

Here’s another good example of this…

You know all of those asinine moralist laws out there? The ones that say it’s illegal to commit adultery or to cohabitate with someone you’re not married to? The ones that outlaw blasphemy and obscenity? Well you’ll find that one of the key reasons why those laws are still on the books is because they are used as tools to persecute those that the moralists don’t like.

Police officers will use those laws to arrest someone and then the prosecutors will turn around and make a deal with them. They’ll tell their victims that they can have the charges dropped of they plead guilty to some lesser charge and go through some phony rehab game, and then the whole record would be expunged. The alternative, of course, is public humiliation in a court hearing that they would guarantee would be a media circus.

What they don’t tell you is that if it DOES go to trial, then there is a good chance that those laws would be declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL! If not in the kangaroo court, then it certainly would get shot down on appeal. But it would be a costly battle anyway, so most folks simply surrender and take the deal.

And mind you, the government doesn’t apply these kinds of laws EQUALLY! If Joe Average gets caught fooling around on his wife, then he will CERTAINLY get charged with adultery and bullied by the government into compliance. But if Reverend Righteous or Senator Blowhard get caught fooling around, NO prosecutor would EVER DARE touch that! It’s the same law, the same offense, but there is a double-standard in application simply because of who committed the act.

Here’s another example of that double-standard in action…

The legislators in the State of Georgia came up with this idea that they NEEDED to compel people to tell the truth when they speak under the overhyped “Gold Dome”. Apparently they were concerned that when people come before the state to address the collection of elected grifters and shysters that they may not be telling THE TRUTH about certain things. They wanted people to be HONEST. So they came up with a bill that would make it a CRIMINAL OFFENSE to lie to the state legislature. And they wanted people to know that this would apply to EVERYONE! You, me, police officers, judges, even the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the state would be OBLIGATED to tell the truth when under the Gold Dome!

Everyone… except the legislators themselves.

Yes, you read correctly. The state legislators EXPECT “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing BUT the truth, so help them Jesus Christ and God Almighty Amen” from everyone they encounter, but THEY don’t think that THEY should be held to the same standard. After all, we all know that the truth is to politicians like garlic and crucifixes are to vampires.

It is hypocritical to the core? Absolutely!

But guess what? It’s par for the course when it comes to politicians!

Speaking of Georgia, the northern part of that state has been suffering from a prolonged drought which aggravated long-standing disputes over controls of the area’s water supply. With Georgia’s water supply disappearing, the state and local governments imposed serious restrictions on its use. No more outdoor watering. No more car washes. Even outdoor fountains had to be shut off to show just how dire the situation is. The governor DEMANDED that people reduce their water use by ten percent.

Unfortunately you can’t make those kinds of restrictions and not have an effect on local businesses. Landscaping companies immediately were affected by this since they REQUIRE outdoor watering. Some even went into bankruptcy over this. Car Wash businesses were worried that they might be shut down because of this ban. Even water-themed parks such as Six Flags and local pools were worried that they would have to shut down because of these restrictions. It’s a little hard to justify running a waterslide when you can’t even run so much as a lawn sprinkler.

So what did the state do to address this issue? Did they put pressure on the Governor to solve this problem quickly? Nope. Did they put pressure on federal government to intervene? Nope. Did they petition Congress to step in? Not a chance. They simply issued EXEMPTIONS! Landscapers threatened by these restrictions? Oh, no problem. They get an exemption. Local pools and water-themed parks worried about being shut down? Oh, no problem. They get exemptions. Car wash companies threatened? Exempt them too!

Now mind you it doesn’t RESOLVE anything with the water problem in this state. Local businesses are still FORCED by the governor to cut their use by ten percent by any means necessary. Apartment owners and condo managers are still forcing their tenants to cut water use by ten percent by any means necessary. But… the landscapers can still waste water like there’s no tomorrow, and the water-themed parks can still dump water down the drain like there’s no tomorrow, and the local pools can still open as if the problem was somehow resolved… even though it is still FAR from being resolved.

Oh and let’s not forget that even though the resources are drying up fast, developers are still going head-strong building NEW homes and NEW shopping areas to even further deplete the resources. They, of course, have long since enjoyed their own little exemptions from these water restrictions.

Let’s get brutally honest here… dishing out exceptions and exemptions does absolutely NOTHING to fix any kind of problem in government. In fact, all that it does is that it make the matter even WORSE because it takes away any incentive to actually DEAL with the problem itself.

Let’s go back to the whole issue of taxes. The way our state and federal governments generate revenue through taxes is deplorable and has resulted in long-term changes in our mentalities about how we look at money. We have been taught to actually DESPISE success in this country simply because of this asinine notion that the more successful you are, the exponentially more that you SHOULD BE FORCED to pay in taxes.

“The rich should pay more,” is their battle-cry.

But that battle-cry is becoming America’s death-knell as we slowly reach a point where government’s largesse will no long be sustainable by the taxes being brought in. Part of that reason is because government spends too damn much, but at the same time you also have all of these special interest groups that have demanded and gotten exemptions and deductions and tax breaks. We’re talking big businesses, major corporations, senior citizens, welfare groups, religious organizations, and they all make the same claim that was made earlier… namely that they can’t afford to pay these taxes.

And it’s not like there are no alternatives out there that can truly FIX the problem. There are SEVERAL alternatives that government can turn to that WILL fix the problem. Implementing the FairTax Plan is probably THE best solution to the federal government’s revenue problem, but there are others out there.

The problem is… nobody wants to implement any of them!

Nobody in government wants to change the system! They don’t want to find a new system of generating revenue. They just want to keep the current failing system in place and just dish out new exceptions, new deductions, and new tax breaks, and then try to find some way to eliminate some of the old ones.

Why? Because the current failing system gives them POWER!

Politicians can use the power of taxation both as a carrot and a stick to get what they want. They can encourage new businesses to come into the area by giving them tax breaks, and they can force businesses they don’t like to leave through higher taxes. They can appease special interest groups who demand more and more tax breaks, and then hurt the special interest groups that support the opponents by taking those tax breaks away.

The generation of revenue comes SECONDARY to the POWER those in government have. And because of that, the federal government’s current tax system is DOOMED to fail in a decade’s time according to the General Accounting Office, the government’s own accounting group.

And in creating all of these exceptions and exemptions, government actually DESTORYS the integrity of the very systems that they champion! WHY SHOULD people be honest about how much money they’re making if it just means that more of it will be taken away from them? WHY SHOULD they have any kind of respect for government if those in government systematically REFUSE to enforce the law equally?

As long as politicians continue to choose power over integrity when it comes to the law, then corruption and injustice will thrive. As long as they continue to choose power over integrity when it comes to taxation, then there will never be enough revenue to do what they want to have done, and thus they will continue to encourage tax cheating, withholding information, and an underground economy. As long as politicians continue to choose power over integrity, they will in fact necessitate the kind of citizens that they claim to abhor. Specifically, criminals.

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