We seldom have a direct vote or voice in setting our levels of taxation. Federal taxes are imposed by an arrogant and uncaring United States Congress, and I mean both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Despite record high levels of tax revenues, our debt load is speeding past $16 trillion, and unfunded liabilities are several times that amount.
When the 535 members of Congress chose to come home and campaign, they did so without making a decision on what are usually referred to as the Bush tax cuts. Their inaction will result in a record raid on our wallets if they continue to sit on their hands.
Dozens of new or additional taxes and fees are set to take effect during the coming year if they do nothing, including multiple new Obamacare levies.
Faced with the spiraling cost of living and lacking a clear decision on the status of a myriad looming Federal tax increases, we will all go to the polls in November with a high degree of uncertainty as to whether we can afford to vote for the various local revenue issues such as funding for schools, roads, senior services, child protective services and more.
It is only at the local level where we are allowed to go to the polls and vote on taxes for the things we might actually want.
In the Congress and in the statehouses, our elected officials tell us how much of our money they will allow us to keep.
Every time they squeeze us for more money through their multiple taxing schemes, we have less income available to allocate to our local institutions. When we are in the polling booth sweating bullets over whether we can afford to vote for one or more of our local levies, we have to do so without knowing for sure if we are going to get zapped with an increase in our federal taxes in January. Most of the decisions to raise our local taxes are close ones as it is, and I don't want the greed of the Washington leviathan forcing us to sacrifice what have been valued local institutions in favor of Washington pork.
This dilemma makes it tough to fund things like the hundreds of schools and service programs for individuals with disabilities across the region when we can't even predict our own tax burden for more than a few months into the future. If Washington takes a bigger bite, there is less left for us locally. And locally is the only place where I can stand in a polling booth and have my say about funding for police and fire, roads, school levies and all the others.
Seniors on fixed incomes are the most conflicted, especially with a looming explosion in Medicare "gap" insurance premiums, higher prescription drug costs and reduced coverages. Prices for gasoline, electricity, food and almost everything else are up, while interest rates on their meager savings are effectively zero.
Exacerbating the rising cost-of-living trend is the ever-running government printing press, cranking out more and more fiat money, making every new dollar worth less than all those printed before, including the ones in our wallets and bank accounts.
Congress has not just driven up prices, but has assured that the dollars we do get to keep are worth less and less. My mother's $18 monthly Social Security COLA won't even buy a tank of gas for her 13-year-old Buick, cover her growing out-of-pocket costs for Medicare, offset record-high heating fuel prices or the growing grocery bill. Nor will it for millions of others on fixed or declining incomes.
Most of us can cope with almost anything if we know what's coming. It's the uncertainty that can flummox and frighten even the strongest and most experienced among us, and positively terrorize the elderly who still have vivid memories of the Great Depression.
None of this bodes well for those served by our local institutions. Nor is this their fault, whether it is the youngsters in school taking their turns to chase their dreams or the most vulnerable of our sons and daughters who will live their entire lives in that nether world of disability completely dependent on the rest of us.
Since it is our money to start with, why in the world couldn't we have been given the simple courtesy of a plain yes or no decision in Washington before we go to the polls?
To paraphrase former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot, that big sucking sound you hear is the vacuum cleaner-like roar of more of your shrinking paycheck rushing from your pocket to feed the already engorged but insatiably greedy central government in Washington.
(Wallace is a senior fellow at the Institute for Excellence in Education at West Liberty University, a senior fellow at the Public Police Foundation of West Virginia and a health care contributor at the CATO institute.)