Monday, August 25, 2008

Convincing the People to Pay More Money

How can you tell the difference between those politicians who have sold out and bought into the "government as usual" status-quo, and the elected officials who remain representatives of the people? During past columns, I have described two of the criteria that I have formed, based on observing the political process. In my next two columns, I would like to explain the third, and I believe most important, criteria that best defines the difference between these two groups.

In recent years, local, state and federal government has placed a heavy burden of taxation on the people in Oklahoma. You might think that having all of these financial resources would mean that the government would not ever have to ask the people for more funding.

In the free market, the consumer rewards those businesses that do a good job by buying their products. Businesses are thus rewarded for having the best products at the lowest possible prices. And those who work in the business world are forced to work hard and perform well for their consumers. If they stop working hard, the result will be that consumers will stop buying their products and those businesses will cease to exist.

In the government world, those who run the government do not have to react to free market forces. Consumers (we, the people) are forced to use government services no matter what the quality is -- and we are also forced to pay the bill. Even if the government does not perform to our satisfaction, it will still exist; and rarely does the price of government go down.

The burden of doing a good job in government is not based on employees acting under free market principles, but on the ability of government officials to cut prices for taxpayers while providing a quality product.

When the need for more funding faces government officials, all too often, established politicians choose the easier task of launching a massive public relations campaign to convince people to pay more money, rather than fighting the tougher battle of lowering their own budgets.

In my years of observing local, state and federal government, I have never seen a proposed fee or tax increase that I felt was justified. There is usually a way for the government to make ends meet without having to resort to an increase, although it might mean the government has to tighten their own belt and use existing resources in a wiser manner.

I have certainly seen how hard government officials work at trying to convince people that any number of Armageddon-type scenarios will most certainly occur if they do not give in to the government and increase taxes. I have also seen how quickly a cottage industry of businesses profiting from new expenditures can develop in order to convince people to "do the right thing."

As a result, all too often the people give in to the hype and give the politicians what they want: more money.

Next week, I will provide you a recent example of how people may have narrowly avoided having to pay an unnecessary fee increase.

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