Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Proposal

[Ol' Remus of The Woodpile Report, long one of my favorite Web colleagues, has produced a gem of a satirical-but-maybe-not piece that should serve as an inspiration to any of us who might someday be minded to protest local school taxation. I reproduce it here with his permission. -- FWP]

The entire staff of the Woodpile Report, and his cat, held a closed door meeting—on account the bugs were flying—at the Woodpile Report Global Headquarters and Jiffy Screen Door Repair, ... um, Compound. The proposal was adopted unanimously, surprising none of the attendee, there never having been a tally other than 1-0, not counting when the vote is deferred due to forgetting what the matter at hand might be, in which case the vote is recorded as a tie, namely 0-0.

The Proposal was this: eligibility to vote for school budgets shall be limited to those who pay the school property taxes from which the budget is funded. Members of the school board must also be property tax payers lest they proselytize among the citizenry and studentry to the disadvantage of the taxpayer. Further, eligibility to vote for prospective school board members shall be limited to those who pay school taxes. That's it.

The proposed method was this: payment of property taxes shall be recorded with a receipt made out to one person, an actual person, that person being the property tax payer, by name. A section of this tax receipt shall be a voter registration certificate made out to the same name. No person shall be issued more than one registration certificate even if they own multiple parcels taxed separately. No voter registration certificate may be transferred to, or used by, a person other than the one named. The principle is simple: one school tax payer, one vote.

"But, but," the cry went out, "we renters pay property taxes, albeit indirectly, and our children are as affected as any others by school budgets." To which ol' Remus said, "Indirectly doesn't count. Shall your employer also be eligible to vote, however distant he may be, he being the source of your income, and by extension his customers and stockholders as well? If you move to another town the day after you vote shall we subtract your vote from the tally? As for your children, they shall take the schools as they find them, as do all the children in the district, all are receiving the same schooling even if at no cost to their parents. No dear renter, with no skin in the game you are a consumer of the worst sort, the invoice goes to others so you insist the deluxe options alone are sufficient."

"The property tax payer is mandated to extend himself beyond reason and yet you still cite imagined inadequacies," Remus continued. "You judge spending proposals not in comparison to the available means but in comparison to an ideal, and therefore your favored expenditures are without upper limit. You believe yourself free to conflate wants with needs, and worse, even in the absence of your material support you imagine your presumed happy endings to be on higher moral ground as well, so you characterize dissent as base and despicable, and so it shall always be when your part goes no further than to consume that which others are compelled to set before you."

"You are fond of the term 'fully funded'. A school is fully funded when those providing the funds say it is fully funded, not when the recipient or bystanders say it is." It was with satisfaction Remus saw the speaker stare at the floor, fidgety with shame and stunned into wordlessness by this devastating response. Remus's chest swelled with righteousness, his eyes fixed on the glorious ethereal glow emanating from the aura of truth and justice that fairly pulsated in the room. An unseen celestial chorus harmonized from above. Cold pizza on an empty stomach will do that to a person.

Another speaker rose. "Anyone old enough to fight and die for his country certainly should be eligible to vote on school budgets," he declared. On this there was instant agreement. Eyes met and heads nodded. Nothing's too good for our boys. They talked of youthful faces prematurely aged and grim from defending hearth and home from horrors too awful to name. O the humanity. Nay! We shall not exclude them from this comparatively trivial affair of the home front. Norman Rockwell would eternally reproach us from that Big Atelier In The Sky, the ghost of Audie Murphy would hector us to a deservedly early grave. Some sang the Star Spangled Banner, some chanted U-S-A.

The usual troublemakers had equipped themselves with pitchforks and set to sharpening the tines while glaring at Remus through their eyebrows, Celtic style. Others were passing around old war posters with slogans in sans serif bold about never forgetting and buying bonds to the threshold of penury and turning in used cooking oils as an act of selfless patriotism. The illustrations featured determined, ultra-fit young men in sharply creased uniforms marching under bluebird skies and billowing pennants. Others depicted cigar-chomping GIs in outright sartorial distress, and in need of an emergency shave, plunging bayonets into the chests of the enemy at less agreeable venues. "Those posters once hung on classroom walls," Remus mused, "there's no Zero Tolerance in times of actual peril." But he let all this play out before launching his rejoinder.

"Setting aside the fact that neither the school nor the township are authorized to declare war, or noticeably inclined to do so, much less empowered to send anyone off to combat or conclude a peace treaty, it's enough that any young person who pays school taxes is qualified to vote, even if unwilling or unfit for military service." A hush fell over the room, shoes shuffled nervously on the floor, hands were clasped, fingers interwoven, knuckles white. Alas, even yet there were a few glowering holdouts. Remus pushed the stick forward and bored in for the finishing shot, saying, "a moment's thought reveals potential enlistees are not in fact veterans, nor are they likely to be. Yet some of the school tax payers among us are veterans—many with no children. Where is the equity in this?" Faces reddened.

"Hear me my friends," Remus exclaimed, one hand over his heart, the other stabbing the sky. "Shall we continue to let those who do not pay decide what funding shall be provided by those who are compelled to pay? What reason may be thought too slight to warrant increased funds when those funds are provided by others? Is it not enough that all benefit alike, those who pay and those who do not? How is it those who do not pay shall decide how much less of our earnings we may keep when already we provide their children's schooling at no cost to them? Is this not injustice enough?"

Remus's oratory was attracting passersby now. Cicero was there, in resplendent toga, faint movements playing about his lips as he silently repeated the key phrases. Suetonius took a seat at his side and jotted notes should the great consul require prompting at a later time, which is probable, he being deceased and all. "Shall they also decide the cafeteria menu or disallow squirrel guns during season?," Remus added, striking his finest stentorian pose. Those in attendance, which is to say: none, including the town leftist, bent forward in rapt attention.

As the throng left Woodpile Report Global Headquarters &c. there was murmured admiration for the power and symmetry of this Proposal. Then a stranger approached and, upon learning the Proposal had been adopted, By Acclaim With Oak Leaf Cluster, was heard to say, "...one man, one vote," whereupon the crowd set upon him and discomfited him most grievously, tanned his hide when he died, Clyde, and that's it a-hangin' on the shed. If there were a shed.


Weetabix said...

A good solution for all voting on all budget matters.

Anonymous said...

Amusing, no doubt (Ol' Remus is always worth reading, and quite adept at getting a laugh out of things that are not actually funny) and not without merit as a palliative measure, but in big-picture terms rather like painting the barn door after the horses have got out. With the piper payer (meaning in practice those on tax-financed payrolls who detail what is done with the money, not those who occasionally get to vote about how much more will be extracted from them) calling the tune, one must expect that ubiquitous tax-financed "education" will result in large numbers of people who believe that tax-financed damn-near-everything is a Really Swell Idea.

Anonymous said...

Why limit it to school boards?

Weetabix said...

If enough of us homeschooled, eventually there'd be no question but that the taxes for schools should be reduced significantly.

Just saying.