Thursday, July 14, 2005

Pro-tax hypocrisy

Wednesday editions of the Times Free Press are enlivened by the inclusion of the grocery ads and other circulars.
Alas, Wednesday editions are deadened by the inclusion of a weekly column by one David Magee, supposedly a famous writer, although I had never heard of him.
Advent of the inauguration of the local column was hailed by the paper as if it were a momentous event.
I looked forward to seeing it, but the first one, or at least the first one I saw, about a month ago, contained one sentence that caused me to stop reading.
The subject was something about area private schools and how the parents of children sent to them were not a cause of financial problems for government schools, despite claims to the contrary (by whom I have never known) that those parents were somehow depriving the government schools of money.
Magee had one sentence that said something like "school A or school B or school C are not ..."
That is where I stopped reading.
Mr. Magee must himself be a product of government schools, and likely Chattanooga-area government schools or he would know the verb should be "is."
Conceivably, though, especially considering the medium, a "copy editor" made the change and Mr. Magee is innocent of the charge.
He is not innocent of this new charge, though: He is attempting, through rather childish sarcasm, to promote more taxation, supposedly to benefit the local government schools.
He begins his column, published 13 July 2005, and titled "Let's line our pockets with school funds," with "Those who staunchly oppose additional funding for our public schools at the local level have won me over. Never a man too big to admit when he's wrong, I no longer am claiming that our schools need more money.
"In fact, I've seen the light. We residents need this money, these extra pennies that might be added to the property taxes, more than those greedy administrators, teachers and students do. I can barely afford my golf green fees anymore [sic], and cable television, what with must-have HBO add-ons and all, is beginning to be a real financial drag."
Such drivel continues for several paragraphs, and he concludes, finally, with "...The objective is not to give our children, teachers and administrators every advantage, but to put as many pennies back into our own pockets as possible.
"After all, we need it more than they do."
There are so many errors in such nonsense, it's hard to know where to begin with correction.
Well, let's try this: The school systems spending the most money, and the most money per child, are also the ones getting the worst results. Such places include New York City and Washington, D.C.
North Dakota, on the other hand, is routinely criticized for not spending as much per student, but its students routinely receive higher scores on such tests as SAT and ACT.
Mr. Magee uses his sarcasm to try to defend such school activities "like drama and debate and music" as being preferable to, say, football. Actually, I agree with that point, but quite obviously tens of thousands of parents and students don't.
Mr. Magee is making two serious errors, beyond his writing: Believing government schools have some kind of sacred position in society and believing that a need is some kind of right.
There is a third error, one that could, by some harsher critic than Marshmallow Morrison, be called hypocrisy: Mr. Magee is absolutely free to hand over as much of his own money to the school system as he wishes.
Alas, he strives with heavy-handed sarcasm to shame others into handing over their money -- no, worse than that: He tries to shame us into asking government officials to raise taxes, which means forcing us -- everybody -- into handing over our money.
Sure, he uses the demagogue's trick: It's only pennies. But, as my Scottish forebears said, Many a mickle makes a muckle.
It's true, by the way, the Hamilton County teachers are underpaid. By the scores and droves, they are applying for jobs in other systems, especially in Georgia (strange as it might seem to anyone who doesn't know how that state spends money on schools; Georgia teachers come a lot closer to getting what they deserve than many other states), but even in smaller-population, more nearly rural systems nearby.
The Hamilton County administrator, though, is vastly overpaid and the system is, as is so often true, top-heavy with administrative personnel; and an annual fortune is paid out to "consultants," people from outside brought in to do what the local people are supposed to do in the first place.
And those are the reasons local residents and citizens are so reluctant to have to pay higher taxes -- on top of an obscene sales tax, nearly 10 percent, even on food and clothing!
They just don't see the system as being capable of spending what money it gets wisely or efficiently.

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