Misinterpreting Obama’s Mandate
By: Michael R. Shannon
I have written before regarding Obama’s legitimate claim to a mandate for raising taxes on the “rich.” He made no secret of his plan to raise taxes during the campaign and voters — who for the most part know they won’t be paying the increased taxes — thought it was a fine idea and re–elected him.
This is a bad situation nationally, but potentially a good situation locally. That’s because locally–elected Democrats appear to be falling prey to what Alan Greenspan called “irrational exuberance.” They’re interpreting Obama’s mandate for national taxes as permission to increase local taxes, too.
Four of our local Prince William County, VA Board of Supervisors have presented budget proposals for the next fiscal year. And try as I might to avoid stereotyping these worthy public servants, dang if the Democrats don’t want to raise taxes, while the Republicans want to cut taxes.
All we need to be just like Washington is Warren Buffett, plutocrat with a guilty conscience, standing in front of the government center begging someone to raise his taxes.
Here’s where local Democrats are making their big mistake. PWC doesn’t face a “fiscal cliff” or any other kind of precipitous drop–off, because county budgets must balance every year. Spendacrats nationally — both Democrats & Republicans — have fought a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Consequently we have obese government that borrows almost 50 cents of every dollar it spends.
Voters get much more government than they pay for, hence Obama’s mandate.
Local balanced budgets serve to inhibit Democrat tax increase fever; since taxpayers must pay for all the government they receive, the same year they receive it.
Local Democrats who forget this will give Republicans and conservatives an opportunity to begin our political comeback.
I outlined Republican Chairman Corey Stewart’s budget a couple of weeks ago. In a nutshell Stewart would cut the average property tax bill by $132 next year. He saves $941,000.00 by eliminating supervisor’s ability to make charitable donations to private organizations with our tax dollars.
Stewart also ends the practice of subsidizing individual supervisor’s entertainment preferences by cutting all “arts” grants. He eliminates funding for Legal Services of Northern VA, ending the odd practice of the county funding the same group that often sues it. And he cuts money for programs Richmond orders, but doesn’t see fit to fund.
Total cuts amount to $9 million.
On the other hand, Democrat John Jenkins wants to boost county spending by $19 million and increase the average property tax bill by $408 (average assessed value is $310,000, so individual mileage will vary).
Evidently Democrat Frank Principi wants to do everything Jenkins does plus more. (It’s hard to be specific, Principi does not put particulars on his website and his office refused to answer an email query.) Principi would raise property tax bills an average of $447, so he can stimulate county spending by $44 million.
Jenkins wants to continue to play Santa Claus for charities with tax money, fund “arts” groups that can’t make it on their own, serve as free entertainment director for seniors, fund all the groups that Stewart cuts and keep neighborhood libraries open six days a week, to name but a few.
But “arts” spending is naturally not what Jenkins emphasizes. Local Democrats are not into disarmament as much as national Democrats, so he concentrates on the additional tax money that will be used to hire 25 new police officers and 25 to 30 new fire and rescue employees, because who could be against paying taxes for public safety?
I like cops and have had excellent experiences with the fire department. But that doesn’t stop me from asking if these additions are needed, which is one reason I’m no longer a Democrat. From 2010 to 2011 overall crime in the county decreased 6.7 percent and violent crime decreased 20.7 percent.
Now I certainly don’t want to penalize success, and the department is doing an excellent job, so let’s look at overall calls for service, which are often a leading indicator of future crime increases.
Well, nothing there either. Since between 2010 and 2011 the call for service total was essentially unchanged. Meanwhile, population increased by about 11,000 residents. Simply matching population growth could justify the addition of almost 12 officers.
The department added two in 2011, so one could support adding an additional 10 officers at a cost of approximately $1.2 million — not 25 at a cost of $3.1 million.
The situation with fire and rescue is similar. Calls for service increased 3 percent from 2011 to 2012, as did the population. But you don’t add fire and rescue the same way you do police officers, because for every paid fireman there are two volunteers. Since total fire and rescue is three times that of the police department, it makes more sense to add seven firemen at a cost of $770,000, instead of 25 at $2.75 million. The total for both comes to about $2 million in additional spending.
Jenkins could pay for all of these new government employees without raising taxes a penny if he simply embraced some of Stewart’s cuts. But local, like national, Democrats are not in the spending cut business. So it’s no wonder Jenkins was an integral part of the board that doubled PWC spending between 2000 and 2006.
Government grows because politicians aren’t spending their own money. The money Jenkins and Principi want to spend is free, because it’s yours. The only restraint on Democrats is the fact property taxes are paid by all property owners. There are no “one percenters” to gouge and Democrats are unable to embezzle from the future by borrowing, the way they do in Washington, DC.
And that’s the difference between the Obama mandate and local reality.
Still, it’s always so amusing when a local Democrat expresses concern about a taxpayer’s pocketbook.
During a recent board discussion of legislative priorities, Principi wanted the state to extend the Earned Income Tax Credit, because he wanted to “keep more money in the pockets of our citizens.”
Evidently because if the state took the money, Principi wouldn’t be able to get at it.
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at email@example.com.