Larry Banman: There is simply no free lunch
October 14, 2010
Nature has brought us an idyllic autumn season. Warm temperatures, brilliant colors and a sky so bright you nearly have to avert your gaze.
The rhythmic sights, sounds and smells of an Indian summer cast a spell of tranquility and serenity (filed pre-snow). And yet, if you look a little closer, there is unrest that people are feeling that threatens to expose itself in frustration and anger.
I believe we are facing a pivotal crossroads in this country, in this state and, most importantly, in our communities. We are at a threshold that I think will define how we go about business and life for the next generation. It is always more fun to look at things in hindsight because your accuracy rate improves. To determine how things will play out in advance is a much more inexact exercise.
A focal part of the battleground will be in the election booth in early November. Candidates will vie for positions of power that will help determine what ideologies control our governing bodies. More significantly, I believe, are the ballot initiatives that, if passed, will have dramatic and for-reaching effects. Amendment 62 isn’t getting as much press as Amendment 60, Amendment 61 and Proposition 101. I find that one somewhat fascinating because, as I understand the initiative, we as the electorate of Colorado will, as part of our state constitution, define when a person’s life begins.
At a public meeting in Granby last week, the raw emotions of this election season surfaced. It wasn’t dramatic, life and limb were not threatened and there was no shouting or shoving. What you could hear was the edge in people’s voices, the pain and exasperation that comes from feeling stress at an internal level.
The Grand County Library District hosted a public forum at which the various public entities were asked to verbalize the financial impact if 60, 61 and 101 pass. Representatives from the county, library district, the two school districts, one of the recreation districts and five of the towns in the county gave their best estimates of the consequences. The language in the amendments and proposition is, in some instances, open to interpretation (reference, future litigation). For instance, the way the county is interpreting 60 is different than the way the towns are interpreting 60. That difference alone can be defined in millions of dollars. Plus, they are being voted on individually and not as a group, so one, two or three could pass.
For the most part, it sounded like each entity gave a worst-case scenario. That’s not wrong or right and, frankly, I like to hear worst case. Brace and plan for the worst and be pleasantly surprised if it isn’t that bad.
There was a tinge of gloom and doom in the room anyway when the proponents of 60, 61 and 101 took the floor. It started off poorly when the proponents argued for more than the allotted two minutes per speaker. The spokesperson for the proponents said the cuts wouldn’t be nearly as deep as indicated by the local representatives. A call for belt-tightening was made. It likely didn’t help matters that the spokesperson was from out of the county. The tension then thickened when local representatives heard statements that felt a lot like accusations of poor stewardship.
It was quickly evident that the room was primarily opposed to 60, 61 and 101. There were definitely barbs on some of the comments as well as murmurs of agreement and disapproval as various people stated their cases.
As noted earlier, nobody left the building fearing for his or her safety. What I came away with, however, was the feeling that people are experiencing a rising sense of dread and fear for what the future holds. The frustration is that the answers are becoming more elusive and harder to digest.
What 60, 61 and 101 symbolize to me is a dissatisfaction with what is happening. The economy still stinks, if we aren’t already losing our home or business, we know somebody who is, the national debt is so huge it can no longer be comprehended and many people just want things to go back to 2007 or at least remain the same.
The crux of the issue, for me, is this: As a society, we have nurtured a sense of entitlement that has people believing if they can’t afford something, they have the right to have it provided to them but paid for by somebody else. We are fast approaching a day when that can no longer happen. The free lunch that we thought we were invited to has a payment due.
I am buying a home, a business and a condo on the Front Range. When I look at my tax statement each year, I make a conscious effort to think about what those taxes are purchasing. I live in a free country and I go to sleep each night with a reasonable expectation that I will wake up safe and sound. When I get up for my midnight drink of water, I don’t even question that it will come out of my tap and will be safe. Even in the dead of winter, if I had to go to Kansas to visit my ailing mother, chances are excellent that the roads would be cleared and open. Our lives depend every day upon people who are educated in our public school system. In an emergency, we call 911 and police, fire and ambulance personnel are at our door within minutes. Even the services I don’t use are there for those who do. Those people are often my neighbors and friends.
It would be naïve of me to think that those items don’t come with a price tag. We all pay a lot in taxes (income, sales, property, use, fuel, etc.). All of those pay for the items listed in the previous paragraph. I have a beef with income tax (I think a flat tax is the way to go) but I still believe I am getting good value for my property tax dollars.
Those who wish to be isolationists are free to make that choice. What we cannot long support is a society that believes it has a right to services for which somebody else picks up the tab.
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