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7.7 is the new 4.9

I heard on the news that City Council just voted down the proposed new Snow Tax, but they’re now looking at a property tax hike of as much as 7.7%.

I would never rub the noses of those who voted for Mayor Larry in the mess he’s made, but it sure is tempting, eh? How many times do people need to have it proven to them that when politicians campaign on the promise of a tax freeze, they’re lying? They lie because it works: plenty of people will vote for any politician who promises them a tax freeze. Once in office they can raise taxes, and those same voters will eventually forget about the broken promise and the tax hike, because they are idiots. (Okay, maybe I would rub voters’ noses in it.)

I’m probably the most cheerful taxpayer you’ll ever meet. As a single parent raising a child on social assistance for six years, I used to think about how nice it would be to have enough income to pay income taxes. Then I got a job and started paying income taxes, and I would look at that box on my pay stub and feel good about it. I would think about all the things I was contributing to: health care, education, social programs, social services, housing, all kinds of good stuff.

One time I went to an investment seminar with a couple of friends from work, and the seminar leader stood at the front of the room and asked “How many of you feel like you’re not paying enough taxes?” and I raised my hand. He was flustered speechless. Finally he said “You know, I’ve given this seminar a lot of times, and nobody’s ever raised their hand to that question. It’s just a rhetorical question.”

My friends cracked up. But for me, it was the truth. I liked paying taxes and I wouldn’t have minded paying a little more. (I do realize I’m in the minority on this, and I have to admit I’m not quite as enchanted by taxes now as I was back then.)

I think this is one of the reasons I find it frustrating that some of my fellow voters are reeled in by the phony tax freeze promise. They don’t get that it’s through our tax dollars that we deal with things as a collective to make this a better place to live. And because some voters are motivated only by self interest, they’re depriving all of us of a chance to have a better class of politician in office – politicians who, for starters, are above the cheap tax-freeze lie.

Sometimes I think democracy sucks. It might work if the majority of voters were smart and thoughtful and took the time to understand the issues, or if the majority of politicians were honest. But the way it works, it can’t work. Politicians are rewarded for being sneaky and deceitful.

Plus, they know they only have the job for a few years, and they don’t want their successors to get credit for their successes, so it’s counterproductive for them to think long term. That’s why so few of our problems ever get solved.

We don’t just need a better mayor than Larry O’Brien; we need a better system than democracy.


13 comments to 7.7 is the new 4.9

  • Yeah, I’ve often said the problem with the power in the majority is that most people are stupid. And I like paying taxes too. And I wouldn’t mind a tax hike if it meant better health care and social services (and not raises for politicians).

  • In fairness, I think a lot of people find tax hikes particularly unpalatable with inept, corrupt, and/or wasteful governments (which pretty much covers them all).

  • rww

    There is a better system than democracy – an enlightened benevolent dictatorship, but just as democracy depends on the wisdom of the masses it depends on finding an enlightened benevolent dictator.

  • future landfill

    Once we start thinking of ourselves as citizens rather than taxpayers we might be able to leap that hurdle. Citizens recognize the needs of neighbours; taxpayers only see their property assessment. I remember a few years ago a City of Ottawa survey asking about services. If the buses were free, if the library was open 24 hours, etc. etc. (all the socialist pipe dreams we could conjure up) the cost to citizens – oops, taxpayers – was about the same as a Tims double double per day. I wuz good for that, but buddy in Barrhaven apparently wasn’t.

    All the same, I’d be good for 50 bucks for Larry to fill the potholes on Lyon Street!!

  • I’m with you in that majority. If our taxes were actually used to take care of people (especially here in the US), rather than to subsidize industries and the rich, greedy bastards who own them, I’d be more than happy to pay more. I’m a county-government employee in a state where the electorate voted to lower property taxes, even though they still expect us to provide the same (or ever better) levels of public service via the police, EMS, fire department, libraries, road department, etc. Who do they think will pay for these things?? It makes me nuts.

  • I totally meant to type “minority.” Really. Sigh.

  • This is why I’ve always been a social anarchist Zoom. I honestly believe that without a government those who are true leaders (and you can call them benevolent dictators I suppose) will take charge of the issues that matter to THEM and work together with others to see that those issues are considered in the community. I really think PEOPLE have reasons to think longterm, politicians never ever will.

    I was reading about using early childhood education to address systemic poverty awhile back, and what it was addressing was “teaching” middle class values to disadvantaged children. What they were teaching was how to get past the desire for instant gratification and to see things in the longterm rather than the moment – for these kids to literally get past the feast or famine thinking that generational poverty ground into them. Delayed gratification was seen as the key “value” in growing up middle class and was a key to non violence and conflict resolution, to economic growth and security.

    The way we have established populist democratic rule is based on an impoverished mentality.

    PEOPLE have reasons for thinking longterm, politicians never do.

  • A functional democracy depends on an educated, thoughtful electorate. It’s not enough to elect someone on the basis of one speech or one issue. And getting elected should not be for life. “Politician”, at least in the US was never intended to be a career. Interested people are supposed to take their turn at running the country. At this point, govt has become such a big business that only wealthy people ever have a shot at getting their voice heard. I live in a state (New Jersey) with the highest property taxes in the country. I don’t mind paying the taxes that pay for snow removal, schools, infrastructure maintenance as long as they are ably managed. I do mind paying extra taxes so that state employees don’t have to pay for health care ( a hefty chunk of my paycheck).

  • I know what you mean. People treat taxes as if it were a lethal plot. I want my socialist country to keep it social safety net. If I don’t have kids, I don’t want a rebate on school taxes. If I don’t happen to use a senior home, I don’t want that back. We’re all in this together.

  • You know Zoom, I can relate. There was a time when I was comparing what my father made with what I didn’t and I realized he was paying more in tax than I was making in income. Come to think of it, while that was about 30 years ago, it’s also true now! Gag me with a spoon. Anyway! So I agree that paying tax is something we have to do and shouldn’t gripe about.

    In the other vein, I confess I voted for Mayor Larry but I did so because I couldn’t stand the idea of Charelli one more term and there was no other credible alternative. I know people thought Alex Munter was one but I didn’t. Now I have come to realize that Larry is just as naive and foolish as I feared Munter was so, rock, meet hard place. In any event, I think we need a better mayor AND better councillors. Every time I read a Randall Denley column in the Citizen, I cringe. I agree with you and think the system needs improvement too. But that pace of change is glacial so I think we’re more likely to get a new mayor before we get a new system.

  • Finally, a blog that isn’t afraid to call an idiot an idiot.

  • Gae Fenske

    Don’t ever forget, when someone carries on (and on) about Democracy (someone like GWB for heaven’s sake) the original Democracy was definitely bloke-oriented, and only worked because it was under-pinned by a slave class. Oh, and in those days the only real “love” (not necessarily sexual) existed between men – women were incapable of, and unworthy of “love”.

    Gae, in Callala Bay (south coast NSW, Australia)

  • Thought-provoking comments all round. I’m still chewing on some of them.