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Randy Alcorn: Santa Barbara Sales Tax Hike Proposal Latest Example of Public Greed

Everywhere there’s little piggies living piggy lives? You can see them out to dinner with their piggy wives, clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon. These George Harrison lyrics apply nicely to the economic cannibalism that pervades so much of American society. Selfish greed is the nexus of many of the issues threatening social and economic stability.

There are few, if any, sectors of society that are not guilty of economic cannibalism. The usual suspects — banks and other mega corporations — are obvious culprits, but selfish greed also thrives in academia, medicine and government.

Since 1978, and measured in constant dollars, the cost of all goods and services has increased by 242 percent. But, in that time the cost of medical care has increased 543 percent, while college tuitions have increased a whopping 971 percent. Most of us are familiar with the edacity of the health-care and health insurance industries, but the hogs in the higher education industry are not any less gluttonous.

But, in today’s quick tour of the nation’s pig pens, lets look at the government oinkers: the politicians and public employees who have enriched themselves beyond their worth. Steadily over the years, members of Congress have shamelessly increased their pay and given themselves and federal employees exclusive lifetime benefits that most workers in the private sector will never have. Federal employees are multitudinous and well fed on tax dollars. It is no wonder that the Washington, D.C., area has the second highest median household income in the United States.

Meanwhile, at the state and local levels, public employee unions, particularly police and firefighters, have been greedily gorging on public treasuries to the extent that some municipalities have declared bankruptcy while others must reduce public services and impose various fees and taxes to cover larded compensation packages.

The new annual fire protection fee recently imposed on California home owners is an example of government having to gouge taxpayers to support its habitual overspending. Homeowners’ property taxes, incomes taxes and sales taxes should already be enough to fund a fundamental public service like fire protection, but when government lavishes itself with inordinately generous pay and retirement benefits there is less and less tax money available to cover essential services or to provide prudent reserves for contingencies — like wildfires.

The City of Santa Barbara, like so many cities and counties in California and across the nation, has steadily succumbed to the greed of public employee unions, especially police and firefighters unions, whose exorbitant pay and pensions now command a huge portion of city revenues. Over time, a steady parade of pusillanimous and complicit city council members have capitulated to or cooperated with these unions, and the city now finds itself confronting growing revenue shortfalls and large looming pension liabilities.

Rather than say “no more” to these union bullies, who are often political allies of council members, some council members supported by certain self-interested parties are proposing a sales tax increase that would apply within the city and give Santa Barbara the dubious distinction of having the highest sales tax on the Central Coast.

The proponents of the tax increase claim it is needed to fund various infrastructure projects and maintenance, but if so much tax money had not been diverted to fill the troughs of the public employee unions there would be more money available for needed maintenance and building projects. The real financial problem is funding the excessive compensation of the unions. The tax proponents would rather address that problem by increasing taxes, even on those segments of society that can least afford them, than end the public employees’ feeding frenzy.

What can be done about such hoggery? Again, we turn to the lyrics of George Harrison who said of the piggies: In their lives there’s something lacking, what they need is a damn good whacking.

What they lack is a sense of altruistic restraint and a realistic measure of their economic worth. The whacking part is imposed restraint either applied automatically through inevitable economic collapse, as when municipalities declare bankruptcy, or from informed aroused citizens demanding elected officials put an end to the excess.

Unless Santa Barbarans want to pay higher taxes and more fees so that cops and firefighters can retire at 50 years old with near full pay and health benefits for life, they need to whack this tax proposal and any other attempt to avoid addressing the real financial issue — overgenerous employee pay and benefits.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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