All Politics Is Local

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I tend to avoid discussing local politics in this space. Part of what makes the Personal Liberty Digest™ the world’s top-ranked Libertarian website is our “laser-like” focus on the subjects to which you, our patrons, can relate. The political goings-on in the city of which I am a resident, Savannah, Ga., are probably pretty inconsequential to most of you; and they’re certainly unlikely to rate a discussion on an internationally recognized site such as this.

However, on Tuesday, my fellow Savannahians and I ducked into the polls with our usual civic pride (about 19 percent of eligible voters took time away from holding down the area’s couches and/or holding up the area’s liquor stores to bother). Though the ballot questions dealt with a very local issue, the nature of the question provides what President Barack Obama might call a “teachable moment.”

Tuesday’s balloting in Savannah asked:

Shall a special one percent sales and use tax be imposed in Chatham County for a period of six years for the raising of an estimated amount of $370,000,000 for the purposes of funding certain capital outlay projects within Chatham County and the municipalities in Chatham County including storm-water and drainage; road, street, bridge, and transportation; water and sewer infrastructure; administrative, cultural, judicial, industrial and recreational facilities and improvements; park facilities and improvements; greenspace; public works and public safety equipment and facilities?

If imposition of the tax is approved by the voters, such vote shall also constitute approval of the issuance of general obligation debt of Chatham County in the principal amount not to exceed $30,000,000 for County projects.

The question related to the sixth extension of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), an added penny on the local sales tax — this time in order to fund a new arena in a dilapidated part of town. On the surface, it seemed like a reasonable request. However, the ballot omitted the fact that Savannah’s city council has spent the better part of the past decade proving that not only can it not be trusted to safeguard the public commonwealth, but it isn’t particularly concerned about that fact. In the past few years, the council has treated its constituents to a series of scandals and budgetary missteps that included: a racist conspiracy to rig the hiring of an unqualified city manager (who was subsequently forced out for cause), an under-the-table payment of $50,000 to a city council member and a general attempt to run the city at least as well as that urban paradise of Detroit. And the SPLOST revenues have been egregiously, even deliberately, misspent. Try the same question, as translated from the overly detailed ballot-speak:

May we impose on you to grant another extension for a tax which we have repeatedly proven we will misspend, mismanage and/or just plain waste; with the caveat that we will ostensibly use the latest revenue for projects we have failed to convince the public are even necessary, much less wise?

My beloved denizens of Personal Liberty Digest™, these are precisely the sort of lessons we must learn and the battles we must win. In truth, consumption taxes like Savannah’s SPLOST are the most egalitarian methods of taxation. Those who spend like a certain first lady at a five-star resort gift shop will pay more in sales taxes; those who spend like a General Electric factory worker who lost his livelihood when Obama’s crony Jeff Immelt outsourced his job to China will pay far less. But even the fairest method of tax collection loses validity when it is employed to fund an unfair goal, and that method loses even more so when the collectors are as trustworthy as a certain husband of a certain first lady.

The SPLOST ballot question that my neighbors and I faced on Tuesday serves as an excellent, albeit municipal, allegory for the larger choice that faces us all as Americans: If the government has repeatedly proven itself unworthy of our basic faith, is it wise to assume that it’s operating honestly this time?

By the way, the measure passed. (*Sigh*)

–Ben Crystal

Personal Liberty

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.

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