October 29, 2005

Measure “Q” – More Taxes For Poorer People

Somewhere There Has To Be An End To The Burgeoning Bureaucracies
By Fred H. Arm
Recently I have again become besieged with pleas by Richmond government officials to vote for allowance of the sales tax to rise to the highest allowable rate in the state. The pleas are always the same – raise the taxes so that we can provide the public services we promised to provide you in the first place. To continue to pay more for what they have already agreed to provide, is only to reinforce the continued inefficiency, corruption, and lack of business acumen that bureaucracies are known for all over the world.

When I was in High School, some decades ago, our teachers told us that the private sector through taxation, worked hard to pay for governmental services we had no time or inclination to perform. One teacher explained to us that bureaucracies by their very nature grow exponentially over time. As you increase the size of the bureaucracy, you naturally have to increase the amount of money extricated from the people. By the very nature of the beast, it was self-perpetuating and growing by monstrous proportions. If we could have then seen how far government has grown today, we would have scoffed at the obscene difference in size and cost. Such continued unchecked growth of so-called public services could easily implode into a nation-wide financial disaster of biblical proportions.

There are some who declare the era of big government over says Clint Bolick, author of “Leviathan” (July 2004) and are dead wrong. In Leviathan, Bolick shows that, although the national government has downsized somewhat since the Reagan era, local government has grown exponentially. This ever-expanding beast, he explains, saps our nation's productive vitality and threatens us with "grassroots tyranny."
Drawing from his experience as an attorney with the Institute for Justice, Bolick uses illuminating cases from the litigation trenches to show how powerful local government has infringed on freedom of speech, freedom of commerce and enterprise, private property rights, and even the simple right to be left alone. He explains how locally controlled government school systems reflect the values of powerful interest groups and why—despite spending millions of taxpayers' dollars—they are unable to provide the basics of education and the like. Bolick ultimately reveals that, although the rules are often rigged in favor of local governments and against ordinary citizens, we can take action to rein in these out-of-control bureaucracies.

So where do we in Richmond begin? Perhaps by just saying no to increase in taxes would be a start. That may work for a little while, however the bureaucracies will not relent. If you will recall when Proposition 13 was voted in, the cities, state, and counties raised a hue and a cry that they could not survive. Amazingly, they did survive and not so amazingly, they creatively milked other sources for money to feed their insatiable appetite for continued expansion. They discovered that they could assess more taxes by calling them special taxes.

Take a look at your tax bill. You will see:
· WCCUSD parcel tax
· Mosquito & Vector Tax
· Emergency Med B
· AC Transit-Measure BB
· Richmond Sewer
· Richmond Storm Drain
· WCCUSD Assessment
· East Bay Trails LLD
· WCC Health-PRCL Tax

On the “AD VALOREM side of your real estate taxes, in addition to your 1% Countywide tax you must add:

· City of Richmond
· East Bay Reg. Park
· West CC Unif Bond 2000
· WCCUSD 2002 Bond
· Comm Coll 2002 Bnd.

Now this is just your real estate taxes!

Now add to that mess:

· sales and use tax
· transient occupancy tax
· utility user tax
· documentary transfer tax
· motor vehicle fees
· franchise fees
· licenses and permits
· fines & forfeitures
· use of money and property
· revenue from other agencies
· charges for services
· indirect costs
· Street Maintenance from state gas taxes
· Pension Tax override for public safety
So what does this all mean? It means no matter whether you vote yes or no on this additional sales tax, the city, county, or state will figure out how to tax you in another more subtle fashion. They will continue to grow. They will continue to be increasingly inefficient. They will generate more legislation to expand their already bloated budgets. What you see is a monster in motion. It literally cannot be stopped until it self-destructs when there are no longer enough people out there willing and/or able to plough their hard-earned cash into government coffers.

Of course there is always a solution; however, it is doubtful that the bureaucracy will have the fortitude, desire, and/or courage to implement a remedy. The City of Richmond now takes in and spends $107,813,489.00 per year! This is an incredible amount of money! Of that sum it is interesting to note that almost 39%, (approx $41,000,000.00) is on the Police department. Studies have revealed that only about 20% of police department activities actually involve police activity. The rest is for maintenance and administration. So why not hire non-police personnel who do not cost so damn much money? That would be too easy.

In fact, even some communities in the United States either have abdicated policing to the state or have hired a private police force. Unfortunately, the Police unions and associations have put pressure on the state to stop using private police forces. Who’s the boss anyway? Are they public servants or are we here to serve them their bloated salaries, pension plans, and probably the highest benefit packages in America.
Of course I would like to see the police get a living wage; however, it seems that not only the police, but the entire city of Richmond staff and administration enjoy some extraordinary benefits that one would only expect in richer communities such as Beverley Hills or La Jolla. Richmond is for the most part a much poorer community than many others in the Bay area. I doubt that anyone will remedy this aberrant inequity in the very near future. Perhaps the system must first totally collapse and then we can start all over again. Perhaps for cities like New Orleans, Katrina was not such a bad idea. As for Richmond, I certainly hope we do not have to endure a disaster before we finally wake up.

Posted by fredarm at October 29, 2005 04:17 PM