The utility knife.
Feeling the gouge of hidden taxes
We all know governments waste piles of money on downright nonsense like Tony Clement’s G8 pork-barrelling or Dalton McGuinty’s zillion-dollar energy plant shuffle. And because on a good day a political party can become the federal or provincial government with less than 40% of the popular vote, they can and do spend literal fortunes on things the majority of citizens may not even want (welcome to the nanny state).
Yet even though we know it happens all the time, we still meekly fork over whatever they demand of us to pay their bills, because we don’t like the alternative. Like the man once said: “You pays your taxes or you goes to jail”. Not much of a choice. Although, to be fair, most people believe we have a moral responsibility to pay and don’t need the implicit threat.
Our society is based on a time-honoured agreement that we will surrender a certain amount of our money and individual liberty to the government in exchange for it giving us goods and services and organizational structures better provided en masse.
Perhaps that’s why the phrase “tax grab” riles so many people up. It implies a whole new level of gimme, gimme, gimme on the part of the government that breaks our traditional agreement.
A friend complained to me the other day about the latest tax grab he’s identified, the large increases on his water bill. Have you looked at yours lately? I won’t give you the whole sad story behind the seemingly exponential increases, because I know many people’s eyes glaze over when you put numbers in a story about taxes. We know there isn’t going to be a happy ending, so who cares?
It’s bad enough when obvious taxes go up, but it really hits home when we discover they are being snuck by us masquerading as something else. I don’t know your preference, but I want to know when the government is taking advantage of me. Not that I can do much about it, but at least I can have a cigarette ready for afterwards.
Our local city council has expended some effort lately on minimizing property tax increases. That works for me because I’m one of those people who believe we pay a lot more for some services than we should, and there’s always room to reduce costs.
But if you factor in the increases from the water rates and the previous increases in hydro costs, our savings not only disappear, they go into reverse. Check your own bills if you don’t believe me. And that’s where the real problem pops up. As the taxing authorities get used to today’s revenues (there are a lot of taxes in the cost of your utilities), they tend to forget what yesterday’s were. So in effect they are always starting with “just barely enough to get by”, which leads to the perceived necessity of more money next year, and pretty much every year after that.
Yes, London city council has kept taxes down for the past couple of years, but as sure as God made little green apples the day will come when a new council will blast them through the roof again, claiming they have no choice because previous cuts and freezes left work undone and bills unpaid.
And not a word will be said about savage increases in water or hydro rates, or utility hook-up fees or any of the many other ways our pockets are picked by government, all in the name of “paying your fair share”.
Like everybody else, I’ll continue to pay, but I’d feel a lot better if I thought the number was anywhere near fair for what I receive in return. Ω