Your Tax Dollars' Inaction

by Penny Teal
Originally published in the Mystic River Press

The taxpayers in Groton are leading the revolution against outrageously high property taxes. Some town residents saw astronomical jumps in their assessments last year, and have had all they can take or rather, given all they can give. Many longtime residents are facing the sad prospect of havi g to move out of homes they've known, loved and cultivated for decades.

Certainly something is awry when retirees are forced to leave town (literally), having worked hard for years with every intention of finishing out their time where they are. Tragically, there are not many places to run and hide. Everywhere, municipalities are suffering, and yet taxes have climbed and climbed and climbed.

The people managing the town, however, insist they cannot possibly cut any more corners and still keep the town running. Just as the people managing the state's funds swear they can't contribute more. Unless by way of unfunded mandates, that is.

Where is all our money going? Is there a black hole much closer to our corner of the universe than astrophysicists suspect?

One answer to that question ( the question about the money - there isn't really a black hole anywhere along the shoreline) is that services that could, and should be provided by higher levels of government have been cut, increasing homelessness and unemployment (in the last 3 months in Connecticut, more than people have lost their unemployment benefits), with all their concomitant problems, and depriving the education system to the point where it cannot prepare many students for college or even for nonprofessional jobs (the federal government puts less than 0.3% of its budget toward job training, and internationally, US students rank 18th in science and 17th in math). Municipalities are picking up the pieces left in the wake of a ruinous federal government decimation of services.

I was asked this month to write about local opposition to the resolution recently passed by the Stonington selectmen, in support of our troops. The fact is, everyone I know, myself included, supports our troops. To some of us, passing a resolution saying we support our troops is akin to passing a resolution saying we support our children (in some cases it's exactly that).

However, many of us locally do not support the illegal attack we have made against Iraq, soon to be visited upon Syria and then perhaps France. And many of us connect the dots between exorbitant military expenditures and exorbitant local taxes. Our great nation now wastes more than half of our discretionary spending on the military (including military-related debt payments). Mystic River Press readers have probably seen the James Madison quote I'm so fond of, because it was the closer on my email account for awhile and got appended to every letter or article I submitted. It's the warning that, of all the threats to liberty, war is most to be feared, because with war come tax increases and debt. Here are a couple of other quotes from learned people.

"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence...is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government...The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or our democratic processes."

Those words were spoken by the decidedly conservative, unwaveringly troop-supporting General and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

We know that this war is increasing the risk of anti-American hatred and potential terrorist attacks. One has to wonder whether leaders who are not capable of diplomatically dealing with a brutal foreign dictator (and the world is full of them) will be capable of diplomatically promoting democracy in a foreign land once it has been ravaged and thrown into chaos by our military incursion. One has to wonder if we are not being thrown into perpetual warfare, whether the $75 billion just appropriated for the devastation of Iraq is not the tip of the iceberg. One has to wonder just how many lives must be lost, how many dollars can be squeezed out of us before we realize that we are going about things entirely backwards.

We could bring our troops home, out of danger, give them mansions and let them live like kings and queens. That seems pretty supportive. In the meantime, we could get corporations off welfare, cut the military-industrial complex down to a sensible size, put some money back into education and job creation, and actually see our tax bills decrease. Then we wouldn't have to pass another resolution, saying we support our children. We'd actually be doing it.

Penny Teal is a former Green Party candidate for the CT State Senate.

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