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Keep taxes local
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    It's been brought to my attention that by writing this column every week, I have some sort of influence over my readership.

        Oh, you poor, poor dears.
        Unfortunately , the people I'd really like to reach are a bit hard-headed and set in their ways.
        Ah, like looking in the mirror.
        This week, though, I'm returning to a theme that I've used before and I'm sure will be a consistent thread as I write these columns. Hopefully, if I repeat it over and over again - like the Bush administration incessantly chanting "We're winning the war" or "Iraq is tied to al-Qaida" or "I'm the decider" - maybe it will sink in.

        That theme is: local is better national.
        To support my idea, I've created a pyramid of responsibility, not unlike Maslow's hierarchy of needs. But while Maslow focused on the needs of the individual, my pyramid focuses on individual responsibility - the responsibility for their life, their actions and taking care of their needs.

        The bottom of the pyramid is personal responsibility. Since the individual has the most responsibility for his or her own life, we use the widest and biggest part of the pyramid. What they put in their mouth, what they suck into their lungs, what they teach their kids, what they do with their career, what they do to make money, what friends they make - you get the picture - it's up to the person.

        It's the individual who's the foundation of the society and my pyramid. So, like any building, the larger the foundation, the more stable the structure. The correlation is that the more responsibility we, as a society, place on the individual and the family, the more stable our society becomes.

        From there, we move up one level of the pyramid to the local level, which handles issues of infrastructure, development, neighborhoods and, theoretically, schools. I say "theoretically" because all you have to do right now is ask a teacher or administrator about "No Child Left Behind" guidelines or statewide testing, then sit back and see what they say about local control (or lack thereof).

        Further examining the local control of schools issue is for another Friday altogether.
        From there we move up to the state, which should oversee the highways, criminal and civil law, as well as other issues concerning health and safety of its citizens. However, local concern should take precedence over state demands.

        Finally, the federal government. It should be taking care of the items expressly set out in the constitution - immigration, national defense, interstate commerce, foreign treaties, etc.

        Go read it for more details. We should all probably bone up on that document, anyway.
        To sum up, the individual has the most responsibility over himself, followed distantly by the local governing body, then the state, federal and international - each one having less and less responsibility, control and authority over the individual.

        However, in today's society, we are in the process of allowing our government officials to turn that pyramid on its head. Right now, with the Patriot Act, looming national health care, the FAA, DEA, FDA and every other federal acronym - we are slowing transferring individual responsibility and local authority over to the feds.

        Along those lines, there is a movement afoot in Georgia to transfer quite a bit of local control and authority to the state level - namely, the proposal by Bill Richardson and crew to eliminate property tax in favor of an increase in the state sales tax.

        Besides the fact that this violates the structure of my pyramid, this proposal would funnel all the funds currently under local control - property taxes - and siphon them to Atlanta to be distributed by the powers that be. Do we really want the "Golden Dome" determining how much money we get to spend on our kids?

        Dropping property tax down to zero and taxing people based on consumption makes for good sound bites. But the fact is, this would shift the tax burden to the poor and middle class.

        Take, for example, someone that owns rental properties, say 10 or 20 houses. And say he pays an annual tax of $2,000 per house. It is unlikely this property owner - there are many in this college town and others around the state - would be able to consume enough goods and generate enough taxes to match their current tax bill.

        So, as much as property tax is a pain, at least we have more control over our local goons than we do the goons in Atlanta.

        In "The Taxman" the Beatles sang, "Should five percent appear too small, be careful I don't take it all." We need to be careful that the state doesn't take it all. We might not ever see it again.

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