Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw | AspenTimes.com
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Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Andy Stone
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Let’s start with something simple: I hate paying taxes.

I mean, I really, really hate paying taxes. Period.

I also hate paying my credit card bills. I really, really hate paying those bills.

And what credit card bills and taxes have in common is this: I pay the money and I don’t feel as if I’m getting anything for it.

Every month, I write a painful check to the credit card company and it’s all for groceries I’ve already eaten, gas I’ve already burned, trips I’ve already taken.

All I’m really getting is the ability to buy more stuff next month. Last month’s stuff, the stuff I’m paying for now, is already gone; they can’t take it back.

But eventually I will need next month’s stuff ” the groceries, the gas, all of it ” so I grumble and pay the bill. And life goes on.

And it’s pretty much the same with taxes. You’re paying for stuff you’ve already gotten, like roads and schools and fire protection. Or ” and here’s where taxes are different from credit card bills ” you’re paying for stuff you haven’t gotten yet, but you’re going to need, like repaired roads and improved schools and next year’s fire protection.

In any case, paying those bills or paying those taxes is very different from the old-fashioned cash transaction where I put money in your hand, you put something I want in my hand and we both walk away happy.

So it’s natural for everyone to hate paying taxes.

But, at the same time, it’s kind of despicable that people pretend we can eliminate taxes and still get the things we want ” and, more important, the things we need.

Some politicians have built their careers on the simple slogan: Vote for me and I’ll cut taxes.

How can anyone resist that?

Well, just in case anyone could resist ” an adult, for example, who thinks maybe we need to maintain our society and pay our bills ” the “no more taxes” people came up with a fancy twist a few years back.

They called it the Laffer Curve and said it showed that cutting taxes would actually result in more government revenue. Hey kids, try this at home: Quit your job and your income will go up. Guaranteed. (And if it doesn’t work out, it was your fault.

Guarantee void where offered.)

It was, in effect, the ultimate promise of a free lunch. And, like all free lunches, it was a

lie.

Remember, the biggest deficits in our nation’s history were brought on by the

administrations of our two most dogmatic, “Laffer Curve” presidents: R. Reagan and

G.W. Bush.

It’s really all just pretending.

They’re pretending they can cut taxes and everything will work out all right. But the truth is, they just don’t want to pay the taxes and they don’t really give a damn what happens later on down the line.

Not to get too political (me? political?), but Bush cut taxes, increased domestic spending (with Congress completely under the control of his party) and then went to war.

The result is trillions of dollars in deficits. And those bills (exactly like my credit card bills) are going to have to be paid. Sooner or later.

The point is that these people are looking to take the easy way out. They may paint it all kinds of pretty colors and rant on about their principles and rock-ribbed

independence. But they’re really just taking the easy way, getting that “free lunch” by

running out on the bill and sticking someone else with the tab. (Often as not it’s the waitress.)

If we peel this all the way back to its core, what we are really talking about is selfish people who are willing to lie.

We see it everywhere.

On the national level: Voting for taxes is evil, but refusing to vote for endless funds to “support our troops” is darn near treason. So we run up the bill and then run out on the check. (Who gets stuck with it? Your kids and grandkids.)

On the local level too. The debate over paying for RFTA isn’t entirely a tax issue, but in the end it comes down to taking the easy way out. “I wanna drive my car/pick-up/dump truck into town on a four-lane highway without a traffic jam. And I don’t give a damn whether it’s good or bad for the town or anything else!”

Oh sure, there may well be a cost: air pollution or downtown congestion or parking … or who knows what? And who cares? Someone else can pay the tab ” as long as I get what I want, right now.

In fact, if you look over the local ballot issues, almost all of them are tax questions.

Now, some would say that’s because governments are greedy ” which certainly may be true. I won’t debate that issue.

But others will say ” and I will agree with them ” that it is because a fervent anti-tax guy got Colorado voters to pass an amendment to the state constitution that requires voter approval for any tax increase.

In some ways, that’s not necessarily bad. But it does mean that we’re swamped with all these requests at every election. And it means there are that many more chances for the “Gimme my free lunch” guys to try to skip out on the check.

So, when you look at the ballot, try not to think about what you want to pay for. Think about what you need … no, think about what we need. Think about housing and schools. Think about preserving our rivers and streams. Think about repairing our roads. Taxes suck. So do potholes.

And ” despite the near-criminal stupidity of the officials who shut down the highway for their self-congratulatory “ribbon cutting” on the new bridge ” think about RFTA and mass transit.

And remember, if we need it, we have to pay for it. As a famous conservative writer once pointed out, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.


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