by Tom Licata
“Burlington school plan would raise taxes 10.9%,” read the headline. “Budgeting for equity,” read another.
“A big but not unsupportable number, said taxpayers who attended a budget hearing Wednesday night…. The figure is shocking, but… “I don’t have a problem with it,” [said a mother of three].” And here’s the kicker: “About 30 people attended the meeting, including School Board members and district staff. No one spoke against the proposed… budget.”” (Burlington Free Press, Jan. 4).
Imagine that! No. One. Spoke. Against. The. Proposed. Budget. Where’s the equity in that?
As a Burlington resident, I’ve become accustom to such headlines. I’ve also become more ominous in my outlook of them.
Let me explain.
As Vermont property taxes have grown at double and triple and quadruple the rate of household income, most future home buyers can no longer afford both property taxes and the monthly mortgage payments. Something’s got to give. And because property tax payments are fixed through the force of law, what “gives” is a reduction in monthly mortgage payments: Accomplished through the reduction of a homeowner’s asking or sale price.
Remember, a family’s single greatest asset is almost always their accumulated home equity.
This kind of government-directed, sleight of hand homeowner’s “financial repression,” is merely cleverly veiled theft. It won’t appear on any tax bill but it is theft, nonetheless: Theft of one’s accumulated life-savings. And it has the pernicious effect of developing into a negative feedback loop for governments and their communities: As real estate prices decline, overtime and barring commensurate tax rate increases, town and municipal revenues will fall.
Of course this pernicious effect is the child of an even greater pernicious occurrence, that of Act 60/68 and the troubling “Budgeting for [social] equity” phenomenon.
Act 60/68 was billed as the great “equalizer.” But Act 60/68 and those calling “to take a moral stand, valuing equity and justice more than the conventional idea that sharing resources is somehow obsolete or a manifestation of class warfare” (“Budgeting for equity,” BFP, Jan. 9), pervert and distort the meanings of “equity” and “freedom” in a free society and in a Free-Enterprise economy.
What is occurring in Montpelier today should raise the hair on anyone’s neck.
In a Free-Enterprise society, equity is found in “equality of opportunity,” merit and hard work. In a Socialist society, equity is achieved through “equality of outcome.” This kind of redistributive equality can only be achieved through use of force: A growing and troubling tread in Montpelier and too often accomplished by either sleight of hand or “with iron fist in velvet glove.”
In a Free-Enterprise society, freedom is defined as “freedom from coercion.” Man should generally be free from the arbitrary dictates of other men or governments.
In Montpelier’s society, freedom has gradually evolved into “freedom from economic necessity”: Healthcare as a Right; Housing as a Right; Food as a Right; College Education as a Right. Etc. These kinds of “Rights” can only occur at the expense of other kinds of “Rights.”
These other kinds of “Rights” are so described in our U.S. Constitution as “unalienable Rights”: You have a Right to your life and you have a Right to your liberty and you have a Right to keep the fruits of your labor, that is, you have a Right to your property.
Prosperity in Vermont can only be achieved through the policies of a Free Enterprise society and economic growth. Conversely, impoverishment in Vermont will increase through continued “Progressive,” socialist-based income and wealth redistribution policies.
Government’s primary role is to secure our “unalienable Rights,” as defined within our Constitution. Montpelier should not delude itself into thinking itself as “grantor of Rights,” defined however arbitrarily by whomever in power.
Should Vermonters continue to enable Montpelier’s delusion as “grantor of Rights” rather than “securer of Rights,” be forewarned that what is derived from government can be taken by government, whether by force, sleight of hand or “with iron fist in velvet glove.”