To the Editor:
In response to Orion Breen’s letter in the July 19 issue of TCT, “Taxes are a necessary good,” I disagree with the author’s characterization of those who oppose excessive taxation as irrational and irresponsible promoters of fear and hatred of government.
This is the hyperbolic rhetoric often employed by big-government advocates who wish to pick the pockets of tax payers indiscriminately without accountability—and accountability is the key word here. It is not an accurate characterization.
All taxation should be accompanied by accountability, and it for a long time it was not. Some legislators—and Mr. Breen—have been much too quick to believe that more taxes were always the answer and that tax cuts always hurt people. That is changing.
When it comes to raising taxes—or maintaining taxes—the following four questions are now being asked: Are they necessary? Are they cost effective? Are they with the consent of the public? Is the government efficiently using what it already has? When the answer is found to be no, our more responsible elected officials are opposing them.
Asking these questions—as Governor LePage, Treasurer Poliquin and the Republican majority have done for the past two years—is not promoting fear and hatred of government, as Mr. Breen suggests. On the contrary, it is demanding accountability for what is being done with taxpayer money that Mainers have already entrusted to the state.
Indeed, consenting to taxation is the highest form of trust a citizen can give to its government. Mainers should expect their elected representatives to use that trust with the highest integrity and diligence.
With that trust comes an expectation that our elected representatives will carefully evaluate, via those four questions, anything funded—or suggested to be funded—with taxpayer money without having to be accused of “cutting off basic services” to our children or other inflammatory charges. It is fair to ask if government spending—for whatever reason—is necessary, cost effective, consensual and efficient before we allow our representatives to expect Mainers to pay more.
It is irresponsible to suggest that every opposition to new taxes—or proposed tax cuts for existing taxes—must result in the “loss of essential services” to some perceived need the government must meet and every tax or tax hike ensures its protection. It is, however, responsible to ask where savings can be made before state government complains it is inadequately funded.
We should be suspicious of declarations that there exists no waste, mismanagement or redundancy in state government that cannot be eliminated to reduce costs before taking more from Mainers.
Mainers should be asking why it is always they who are expected to do more with less—never government. Mainers should cut their household budgets, their family priorities and restrain their pursuit of happiness. But government? No way, there is not a penny to be saved anywhere. If you force them to cut their budgets, they threaten to put people out on the street. Taxes good; cuts bad.
We should not believe it. I refuse to believe that savings cannot be found in state government agencies without resorting to such threats in hopes they will protect their ever-expanding budgets via this subtle emotional extortion. In this more likely scenario, taxes are bad. They keep the government from accountability and efficiency.
Every penny of taxation a Mainer gives to the government results in a penny of lost freedom—the freedom to use the fruits of our labor to fund our own family priorities. It matters not the income bracket from which that tax money comes from. Sometimes the loss of income to Maine families—and the accompanying hardship that comes from it—outweighs the benefits expected from the tax.
This should oblige our elected representatives to say, “No, we will not burden Maine families with this tax.” That is accountability. That is diligence. That is a representative who looks out for the welfare of his or her constituents.
Those who advocate such an approach are not promoting fear and hatred of government. They are advocating responsible management of what is entrusted to government—the hard-earned money of Mainers. They demand the government exhibit the fiscal discipline Mainers must exercise in their own homes.
Mainers cannot go to their employers and force them to give them raises to help them out of financial hardships, however they arise. They must make hard choices: eat out less, disconnect cable, work a second job or a whole host of other difficult options.
What has government typically done when its mismanagement of Mainers’ tax money has necessitated tough budget decisions? They have simply put their hand into our pockets and taken what they want to cover their blunders, thank you very much.
Our elected representatives are supposed to be a layer of protection for the taxpayer to ensure that our government is making the same tough choices that all Mainers have to make. We should expect it. Dare I say, we should demand it. Government must make hard choices—and ask tough questions—before enacting more confiscatory taxes that hurt all Maine families while hiding behind the overused do-gooder excuse: “But it’s for your own good!”
What is good for Maine are representatives who will step in and advocate for the taxpayer by measuring results over good intentions: cost versus benefit. We should expect our representatives to stand up for us, not quietly lay down their heads while the government continues to operate without needing to show results, efficiency, necessity or public support.
Governor LePage and the Republican majority have demonstrated over the past two years a willingness to be that line of defense—a defense lacking under Democratic rule—to make those hard choices with the state budget that all Maine families need to make in theirs.
It is not always the popular thing to do. I am sure my children would not like it if I disconnected cable television—but it would be necessary if the family good required it. I applaud the governor and the Republicans for taking principled stances on tough fiscal questions, even if they are unpopular.
I am running in hopes that I can help them continue.
Timothy J. Lajoie
Tim Lajoie is a Republican candidate for House District 74 in Lewiston.