You Can't Just Sweep this Under the TARP

“Shall a levy renewing an existing levy be imposed by the city school district for the purpose of providing for the emergency requirements of the district in the sum of $1,850,000?”  This was part of the language that appeared on the ballots in Warrensville Heights back on May 5th.  An initiative that passed with over 60% approval. Similarly, the City of Parma had a decision on their ballot, yet the voters there said “NO!” by a resounding 2-1 margin. And I think I know why. Frankly, they probably came to the conclusion; why vote for a tax levy now, when the government just passed a huge tax levy, albeit without our individual vote, just a couple of weeks ago? 

According to the amount of federal bailout money available to Ohio is a little more than 4.5 Billion dollars, with more than half of that being specifically allocated for programs related to education. So why the push for new local taxes? 

Before the people even voted, Governor Ted Strickland signed off on a formal request for stimulus funds which means that all Ohio school districts can begin vying for a slice of the 2.6 Billion dollar pie baked up by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. So essentially, by voting “yes”, Warrensville Heights is now on the hook for higher local taxes for their own school, and sooner or later, also on the hook for higher federal taxes that are sure to come, in order to pay for the A.R.R.A grant money that will end up going to school districts like Parma.

A while ago I was ridiculed in an online discussion for suggesting that we shouldn’t accept any of the federal funds for local projects. As the argument went; it’s our money anyway, and the government is going to spend it somewhere, so we might as well get as much of it as we can.

Well here we are, money is getting passed out everywhere, with very little accountability and almost no oversight. So when the bill comes due, how do you think the people of Warrensville Heights will feel about picking up the tab for the cities that didn’t even try to carry their own weight? This is not about money, it’s about responsibility.

Right now, elected officials are scrambling so hard for new sources of income that I thought I saw several councilmen getting into a motorboat down on the Rocky River with a handmade pirate flag and guide to commercial shipping on Lake Erie. Times are apparently so tight that California is considering legalizing marijuana just to get a new cash crop, the AFL-CIO is considering voluntary pay cuts to prolong employment contracts, and strangest of all, Southern Ohio is actually considering the allowance of casino gambling if it will provide new taxes. But in the face of this struggle, on February 27, Governor Strickland may have taken the most radical step of all when he signed off on officially turning our State into a ward of the nation.

Well, I guess if you voted for change, mission accomplished, because what once was the U.S.A. is now simply “America”, as most Governors have now seemingly given up the last remnants of being the “United States”. What once was a nation of individual states; proud of their “do-it-yourself” initiative is now merely a collection of over-aged kids living in their parents’ basement looking for gas money, a stocked fridge and free laundry service.

Are we really comfortable giving most of our tax money to the federal government just so our state can then turn right around and start begging for it back in order to help them fund local projects? Are you okay with people you’ve never met, some of whom have never even been to North East Ohio determining how much of your money goes to Lakewood and how much goes to Cleveland Heights?  Are you okay with voters in New York essentially deciding that they’d rather not pay higher real estate taxes, because they can always have Ohioans help pay for their failing schools.

The stimulus money has to come from somewhere, and more and more states and cities are opting to go on federal welfare rather than dig themselves out of the economic hole. This increases the overall burden and makes it next to impossible for individual municipalities to overcome the now overwhelming demands made by the nation. But if you follow my previous analogy, keep in mind that the kids that are now moving back home aren’t a burden on their parents, because the parents don’t work, the only income for this type of household comes from the other kids. That’s right, if you’re paying taxes, you’re like a sixteen year old kid mowing lawns every day so your parents can take the money and then decide whether or not your brother needs a new pair of sneakers. 

By voting “no” on a school levy, the voters are saying that either the schools don’t need more money or that the value added isn’t worth the price paid by taxpayers. But instead of trying to change the minds of their constituents, politicians have now found a convenient way to circumvent the system. They simply print the money, approve allocations to their own districts and authorize the work they think is needed. All the while knowing that taxpayers will have to pay the bill anyway once the money is spent.  They ask for your money, you vote “no”, they decide otherwise, and you still get the bill. Seems very democratic doesn’t it?

Stimulus money is more dangerous than crack or heroin. Just like the thug dealer on the corner, politicians will tell you all the benefits, they’ll tell you how it will help you get through the day, and they’ll probably promise you the first hit for free. But while the high might be immediate, the oppressive addiction is inevitable and the damage inescapable And it’s time for someone to have the sense to “just say no”.

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Volume 5, Issue 10, Posted 6:42 AM, 05.20.2009