There’s a scene in the movie Fargo where our intrepid car salesman, Jerry Lundegaard, sits behind his desk while a customer berates him. It seems that they had worked out an agreement on the price of a vehicle, but when the customer came in to pay for the vehicle, Jerry informed him that it would cost more than originally stated. This scene ends with the customer angrily calling Jerry a liar before shouting: “Where’s my [expletive] checkbook? Let’s get this over with.”
I’ve come to realize that our government is Jerry Lundegaard. It’s always promising us a lot while delivering nothing. And we…well, we’re the customer demanding our checkbook so we can get this over with.
Taxes are a fact of life, more certain than death. And if we do not wish to live in anarchy, they are essential to the functioning of government. This is why Christ commanded His followers to “render unto Caesar.” Yet what happens when, after you render unto Caesar, nothing gets accomplished? What if you pay for services and they never materialize? In that case, you have the unjust theft of your money.
I live in Colorado Springs. Despite being a fairly conservative town, the Springs has recently gone through a budget shortfall. Not surprisingly, all the social services paid for with taxes are taking a hit. For example: snow plows are limited to “The Main Roads” this year (it took me a couple of snowfalls to realize that “The Main Roads” is apparently the proper name of a road somewhere and not the set of roads used most often in the city), potholes are going unfilled, streetlights are being turned off at night (and burned out bulbs are not being replaced), and the transit service cut over 70 jobs and reduced hours of operation, including cutting both evening and weekend service entirely.
So Colorado Springs tried to pass a tax increase late last year (it was defeated). Somehow, immediately after the bill failed, the city accountants “discovered” an accounting error—they had an extra $4 million they didn’t realize they had. I should point out that this was before winter set in, before the transit service was gutted, before the snowplows were sent off the road. The city had $4 million in funds that they had not expected. Obviously this would be a good time to pay for road repairs, or subsidize the transit service for another year, or any number of these social programs that government so touts before they take your money.
But of course this is the real world. The money was spent on a dog shelter, to restore trash pickup service in the America the Beautiful Park, and on the mayor’s “youth initiative” (which, apparently, initiates youths or something). Meanwhile, the snows came down and roads were not plowed. Large potholes formed. People hit these potholes and tore out the suspensions on their cars. But now they couldn’t ride the bus to work because service was cut, and thus firings commenced. But at least the unemployed can take heart knowing they can get a dog and trot around America the Beautiful Park with all the youths who are picking up trash. That is, if they risk hypothermia by walking there.
I suppose that the government misspending $4 million isn’t that big of a deal anymore. But the real kicker came last week when I turned on the radio and heard that the city was graciously allowing people to “adopt a streetlight.” That’s right, if you paid a measly $100 in a residential area ($210 for businesses), you could adopt your streetlight and the city would maintain that light for you.
I don’t know about you, but I feel honored to be allowed to pay for a service that I already paid for with my tax money. It warms the heart.
This, however, shouldn’t come as a surprise. It is the natural outcome of socialism. The problem with socialism, as Margaret Thatcher once pointed out, is that eventually you run out of other people’s money. And when you run out of their money, you have to cut your social services—the very justification you used to take that money in the first place. The only way to keep these services going is to resort to the free market: those who can pay for the services can have them.
Congress just passed the health care abortion of a bill. If you want to know what will happen to the health care system, just look at the streets of Colorado Springs. Services will be cut, but those who are wealthy enough to pay for their health care twice (once in taxes, and once on the open market) will be the only people who will still have those services. Everyone else will just have to deal with the darkened lights, potholes, and snow drifts.