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This week Iâ€™d like to write about a disturbing trend in our society, that, while not particularly new, is getting worse and worse as time goes on. As I recall it from my pre-Department of Education public school history classes, not to mention the hundreds, or possibly thousands, of history books (which according to my wife are all still hanging around our house), that Iâ€™ve read, one of the big reasons our Founding Fathers revolted was to put an end to â€šâ€śTaxation, without representationâ€ť. I wonder if the Founding Fathers would have been as eager to revolt against England if they knew some future idiot(s) would come up with the IR$? I have to say, as far as a tyrannical organization, with the power of life, death, or imprisonment goes, I think the American IR$ would stack up well against anything King George could ever have dreamt up.
By the way, before I go on, our Founding Fathers did envision problems with government becoming too large, overbearing, over-expensive, and overly-intrusive. The reason the checks and balances were installed in our system of federal governance were for just this kind of thing. The problems weâ€™re experiencing now arenâ€™t because the Founding Fathers left a system that was inherently too flawed to continue, but rather that we, as in you, I, and our elected representatives, are not using the system as it was meant to be. Among other things, the House of Representatives should have long ago cut off funding for some of the worse government abuses, but because (and Iâ€™m assuming here, it isnâ€™t possible to know another personâ€™s thinking) they canâ€™t bear the thought of a â€šâ€śgovernment shutdownâ€ť of some sort endangering their reelection chances, they have abdicated their power of the purse. While it may be that the Founding Fathers underestimated the loss of political backbone in our country going forward, donâ€™t forget they were also against a professional political class, which may have been how they expected to limit that problem (meaning weak kneed legislators without enough backbone to do whatâ€™s right for the country).
Getting back to the subject, it seems that a lot of communities have raised taxes, on the people and businesses who make up their tax base, to the point where even the politicians are aware that they canâ€™t go much higher. Or at least canâ€™t be seen to go much higher. However the love of spending by even the most insignificant bureaucrat, coupled with the desire to do all kinds of expensive feel-good projects with public money, have apparently sparked a spirit of inventiveness in even the lowliest of politicians.
Letâ€™s take a â€śfor-instanceâ€ť. Letâ€™s say that we have a group of politicians who want to build something that is so large and expensive, that it far outstrips any justifiable local need. Not to mention local pocketbooks. I donâ€™t know, letâ€™s say this â€šâ€śthingâ€ť that people would like to build, but arenâ€™t willing to pay for, looked a lot like a hmmm..., what can we use for an example here? Oh, I donâ€™t know, since I canâ€™t think of anything else, and nothingâ€™s really coming to me, how about say, a sports stadium, or a convention center? So now that weâ€™ve decided that we want to build a nice big convention center (or multi-million dollar stadium to hold high school football games), but arenâ€™t going to be able to convince taxpayers to pony up for the expense involved, whatâ€™s a bureaucrat to do? Well, it would seem like this is a real problem, at least for elected officials, but appearances can be deceptive. This is actually well plowed ground, and government officials, or at least the ones where I live, have this nailed. What pray tell have they invented to cover this situation? How are we to pay for things that are so ludicrous that even progressive government officials are embarrassed to put them on a bond election? What has bureaucratic inventiveness come up with to cover this seemingly unsolvable dilemma? Why, nothing less, or more, than â€šâ€śtaxation without representationâ€ť.
While the term taxation without representation fell out of favor here sometime around 1776, bureaucrats being what they are, the idea lives on yet. The form of this that Iâ€™m familiar with is something called the â€šâ€śvenue taxâ€ť. Basically, what happens with a venue tax is that hotel rooms in the taxing district in question collect an extra tax, above any sales tax, from people who rent the rooms. While Iâ€™m sure there are a minor percentage of people living in hotels and motels who are permanent residents, and may even be able to vote, Iâ€™m equally sure that far and away the majority of people who rent hotel rooms are from outside the local area, state, or even country. In other words, a group of people with absolutely no say in local governance, but, since they are staying in hotels and motels, with at least some money in their pockets, are targets rich for fleecing by local government.
One of the justifications local governments use for this kind of tax (or highway robbery as I like to think of it) is that they are using the revenue â€šâ€śgatheredâ€ť this way to build, maintain, or improve the very facilities which bring people who rent hotel rooms to town in the first place. On the other hand, as a person who has to pay this tax when I travel to other areas, I look on it as being monetarily penalized for visiting the localities where local governments levy this tax. Whatâ€™s really annoying is that when I do go to conventions, without fail, a representative of the hosting city, and itâ€™s usually a member of the City Council or the Mayor, will give a â€šâ€śWelcome to whereverâ€ť speech at the start of the convention. Usually this blather will be something along the lines of what a great, superior, smart, good looking, benefit, you get the point, group of people you are, and by the way we are so very fantastically pleased that you have graced us with your presence. This will of course be followed a few days later by the hotel Iâ€™m staying in presenting me with a bill for the room with an additional charge from the city for the amount of my fine for â€šâ€śgracingâ€ť them with my presence. Personally, if Iâ€™m paying taxes while Iâ€™m there, I want something for my tax dollars. Instead of the local dignitary trying to schmooze us at the beginning, I think that same dignitary walking around making sure everybody had something to drink when they wanted it while the convention is ongoing would be a much better return on my money. Sadly, the community I live in does the same thing to people who visit here. Iâ€™m always so embarrassed by my city representatives when they get up in front of crowds and give the welcome speech. In my opinion, if they were really glad to see people, they would stop fining them for coming
As bad as the venue tax is, and itâ€™s bad, Iâ€™m aware of a community or two that is trying to charge people who have insurance for the fire department coming out if they have a fire. While that may not sound unreasonable, in reality thatâ€™s an example of a city trying to tax people from the farthest reaches of the country to support their local fire department. Not only that, but theyâ€™re trying to get insurance companies to collect that undeclared tax for them. This isnâ€™t a new idea either, and frankly, I donâ€™t know how many communities are trying something like this, but I bet itâ€™s a bunch.
Taxing people who donâ€™t live in a particular place, and thus have no say in those taxes, is a bad idea, and itâ€™s something we shouldnâ€™t be putting up with, no matter how hard politicians try to sell it.
Bruce Kreitler is the author of Obamageddon (the Culmination of the Progressive Looting of America) and posts this and other articles at BruceKreitler.com.