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Bill Kennedy: Taxation vs. tolerance

Posted: April 23, 2009 6:57 p.m.
Updated: April 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
We humans have a natural inclination to be tolerant.

A normal, healthy individual is wired physiologically and psychologically to adapt to his or her environment. When our eyes encounter bright light, for example, the pupils will constrict automatically to reduce the offensive assault on our senses. Similarly, when we see an object of interest, the eye will dilate to take in more of the desirable image.

On a different level, the body adapts more slowly. For example, people who live near a waste processing plant or a mushroom farm over time do not notice the offensive odors that can cause the heads of a newcomer to reel.

Such adaptation affects all aspects of our lives. But, while physiological adaptation has a merciful side that helps us to cope with undesirable situations by triggering mechanisms in the body and the brain to remove irritants from our lives, it also has a downside - it can close our senses to needed change.

The debilitating quality of adaptability is probably best exemplified by frogs, which when placed in a pot of hot water will quickly jump out, but when placed in a pot of cool water that is slowly heated, will remain in place until they perish.

Similarly, we humans can become so accustomed to doing things in a certain way that we do not even consider new, improved techniques or processes. Taken to the extreme, the indifference brought on by such toleration can cause us to sit like the proverbial frog until we are turned to soup. Ouch!

We can avoid becoming a victim of irrational adaptability only by periodically reviewing our thresholds for change, resetting them to reasonable limits and committing ourselves to effective action when those limits are breached, much like the frog that leaps from scalding water.

The current economic crisis brings us to a time when such a review is warranted. Over the past several years, our state legislature has spent more money than it has taken in, adding incrementally to the deficit year after year while a compliant public sat quietly in place. Many of the programs funded committed the state to large "back-end" obligations, such as unduly generous retirement and benefit programs for state workers, union members, and others that now cannot be sustained without drastic action.

The "drastic action" the Democrat-controlled state legislature enacted as part of the 2009-10 fiscal year budget agreement included a substantial tax hike, placing undue burdens on already over-taxed citizens.

Just weeks after that untoward action, the legislature now has placed on the May 19 special election ballot a series of initiatives that will further burden taxpayers who are being asked to foot the bill through an extension of the increased tax rates, a loan against uncertain future revenues and reallocation of funds for purposes other than what was intended by the voters.

What is more, the ballot initiatives for the May elections are being packaged through a clever promotions campaign as being unavoidable and representing true reform. In reality, they are nothing more than a request from a group of spending addicts for yet another "fix" at the taxpayers' expense.

Perhaps the most egregious of the measures is Proposition 1A, which purports to change the budget process by increasing the size of the "rainy day" fund that is designed to protect us from unforeseen financial hardships of just the sort we are now experiencing. The problem is that our legislators have not demonstrated savings discipline even during boom times, when it should have been easy.

Now that the hard times are here, they are attempting to balance the budget on the backs of hardworking Californians by imposing an additional $16 billion tax, which passage of Proposition 1A would entail, despite the packaging that touts it as a way to stabilize the "rainy day" fund and reduce the ups and downs in state spending.

Enough, already! It is time to review our thresholds for change, reset them and take action. The recent "TEA Party" demonstration clearly showed that taxpayers have been tested to the limits, as hundreds of Santa Claritans of all political persuasions - Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Democrats, undeclared and others - unabashedly sent a clear message that they are resetting their tolerance levels. Now, it is time to follow that demonstration with action by voting against Proposition 1A. That way, we can send a message that we are replacing tolerance with tough love designed to rehabilitate the spending addicts in Sacramento. Together, we can make a difference ... Right Here, Right Now!

Bill Kennedy lives in Valencia and is a principal in Wingspan Business Consulting. He serves the community as Chairman of the Planning Commission, Chairman of the SCV Chamber of Commerce and member of the various board His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of these organizations or those of The Signal. Right Here, Right Now" appears Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.

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