Be Warned

When you're behind on your bills, do you cut your pay?

Sounds silly, doesn't it?

Then why do states and countries behind on their bills, seriously consider cutting your pay by hiking your taxes?

I'll tell you why. Because it is easier to slap on a tax or a surcharge than it is to cut a program or tick off a vital constituency. It's all in how you do it.

And look around, my friends, they're already doing it. I know this routine well. Here's how it plays out.

First, you paint a really gloomy picture. In Washington, you talk up a likely $40-billion deficit. In New York, a likely $3-billion gap. In New Jersey, $2.5-billion.

Then you start throwing words around like "crisis." Then hints of how to deal with that crisis. Certainly, officials tell us, we have to revisit budgetary priorities. Yet they generally say nothing of programs to be cut, but revenues to be raised.

Let me use the English words they are not using: taxes are almost going to have to go up.

No one has said exactly that, but they are all but setting the stage for that.

One legislator in New Jersey went so far as to say, you can't cut two billion bucks in vital services with the wave of a wand. But you can, I guess, scale back tax breaks with the same wand? Or future tax cuts: if they haven't happened yet, they aren't tax cuts yet. So junk them, we can't afford them.

When government — state, local or federal — starts supporting its own sorry butt by kicking us in the butt, well, that's a pain in the butt.

Be warned.

This is not about what government wants to do for us. It's about what government wants to take from us. First, by warning us, scaring us, bracing us. As if their very survival were at stake.

Let's just remind them it's not about them and the money they keep. But about us and the money they take.

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