I have a confession: I stared at my computer screen off and on for four hours trying to figure out what to say for my last column of the year. I was stuck mainly because I wanted to provide the necessary amount of holiday cheer and optimism for the new year, but three stories settled in my brain in a way that made it difficult:
1. Driving in the rain for some Christmas shopping, I passed a woman standing with an umbrella in one hand and a cardboard sign in the other. “I wouldn’t be out here unless I truly needed to be,” said the sign, or words to that effect. I gave her some money.
2. The city of Kuna is actively campaigning to create a new taxpayer-funded recreation district. Kuna, you will recall, is the town that rejected a school levy and was forced to vote for it again until they got it right. It seems rather tone-deaf of city officials to move forward with a plan that would cost some of the lower income residents $100 a year or more. Worse, the city has decided to actively campaign for the new taxing district, even going so far as to advertise for signature gatherers in an effort to put the issue on the ballot, likely a misuse of government resources.
3. The urban renewal agency in Coeur d’Alene is spending taxpayer money in an effort to market itself, build public awareness and get people to have warm, happy thoughts about the government agency. Agency officials are quoted in the Coeur d’Alene Press saying, "If we have better outreach efforts, we feel like a lot more people would be supportive of what we do.”
What does No. 1 have to do with Nos. 2 and 3? Every day, government agencies, including the ones in Idaho, are looking for ways to pick your pocket.
The amount of money donated to the lady standing the rain probably doesn’t come close to what she’ll pay in higher taxes—directly or indirectly—through the confiscatory practices of the government. The woman standing in the rain, trying to find enough money to feed, clothe and shelter her family is competing against the people who are using her money to finance the effort to take more money out of her pocket. The government do-gooders who think they’re helping by setting up another government taxing district or marketing government programs are having the opposite effect.
The title of FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe’s 2014 book is a plea to government officials: “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff.” That’s my 2015 plea for the government officials who take people’s hard-earned money.
And I resolve that in 2015 I will do everything I can to point out and fight every single time a government official in the state misuses taxpayer dollars, engages in shameless self-promotion at taxpayer expense, creates new ways to siphon money from people without their knowledge or uses taxpayer resources to benefit the politically powerful or well-connected.
Well, now I know I did find just the right amount of holiday cheer and optimism for the new year that I was looking for.