Monday, August 24, 2015

Week of 08/24/2015

Ours Versus Theirs
Mike Buffington, publisher of the local Barrow Journal newspaper, recently did an editorial about how easy it seems to be that local politicians are willing to waste money when that money isn’t “theirs”.  He cites several examples of this, including a recent one in the “city” of Nicholson (there are no towns in the South), where their mayor used SPLOST funds to pave a “road” that was later revealed to be his mother’s driveway.  It supposedly wasn’t his only questionable expense this year either.
DeKalb County’s officials are tripping over themselves and their egos over the preliminary report by former Attorney General Mike “Hypocrite Adulterer” Bowers, who was brought in to assess the county’s corruption problems.  Mister Bowers, who once championed the state’s blue laws in the U.S. Supreme Court, minced no words when he said that DeKalb County government was... and I quote... “rotten to the core”.
Reaction from the county officials?  Jaw-dropping delusional disbelief on the same level as the “Global Warming is a hoax” and “Where’s Obama’s Birth Certificate” crowd.  Interim CEO Lee May – who is still “interim” because the convicted criminal he’s sitting in for still has his job – said that he expected a full report and got nothing but a letter full of innuendo.
This comes after their CEO was convicted in court for extortion, and after a former county commissioner and her husband pled guilty in a lengthy scheme involving embezzlement and kickbacks which is still being sorted out as of this column.  The hornets are still coming out of that kicked nest.  Oh, and let’s not forget the former COO of DeKalb County Schools pleading guilty to theft by taking in a case that involved her sending millions of dollars to her ex-husband’s construction company.  And we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the head of that county’s Board of Ethics resigning after “reprimanding” another county commissioner for a conflict of interest.
Nothing but “innuendo” you say?
Anyway, Mister Buffington uses some of these as examples of the old adage how easy it is to spend other people’s money, especially when that money comes from “us”.
“It’s our money being abused,” he concludes.  “And we ought to be mad as hell about it.”
But here’s the problem... it’s not really “our” money at that point.  It’s “theirs”.
Let’s get brutally honest here... every time you write a check or pay a tax bill or fill out that tax form that allows a portion of your money to go to the government, it stops being “your” money!  It’s “their” money... as in the government’s money.  And you really don’t have a say as to how “your” money is being spent after it leaves your hands.  It’s not like you can say “Okay, I want my portion of the tax money to only pay for police and fire services, but not for the mayor to spend on conventions.”  Reality just does not work that way.  You forfeit any control over that money once you give it to them.
And, yes, they really do see it as “their” money.  Not only that, but they firmly believe that they are entitled to every single penny that you have and then they will decide how much of that money they will “allow” you to keep.
The only way you can really control the money is by controlling who gets elected into government.  But even this has limits.  You’re limited to only your vote, not that of your ignorant, apathetic, incompetent, delusional, and/or possibly corrupt neighbors; you can only vote for the politicians in your “area”; and you really have no control at all over those people that are not elected but are instead appointed by other elected officials.
Yes, you can “control” some of the funds through programs like the Special Local-Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, which imposes a temporary one-percent sales tax, and the proceeds of which must only be used for specific government programs that must be announced in advance before they can be voted on, never mind enacted.  But that didn’t stop the mayor of Nicholson from using those money to pave his momma’s driveway.  And it still relies on voters being knowledgeable enough about what they’re voting for instead of blindly voting for anything put before them.
I know some communities like those in New Hampshire have a more hands-on approach to local governing, in that the public actually votes on the annual budget, line-by-line, item-by-item, and each item must be addressed in a town hall meeting and defended by the local officials.  And, yes, the people in those communities can and have vetoed spending on segments of the local budget that otherwise would be unthinkable. And, really, this is the only way you can have the kind of control over the tax money that people like Mister Buffington think we should have.  But I don’t see that happening, because that takes the power out of the local elites.
And here’s the real catch: it’s not about political parties.  “D’s” and “R’s” are irrelevant here.  Cons and Libs have both been caught with their greedy hooves in the local cookie jar, and neither group can claim superiority in ethics.
The only politically ideological competition in this case is not “conservatives versus liberals”, but instead “libertarians versus autocrats”.  We don’t just need politically-active neighbors, but ones that understand that the only way we can stop government from abusing its power is to stop giving it to them long before we give them our money.

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