Letters to the editor for Feb. 1, 2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Dear Editor,

Dear Editor,

Three years ago, a small non-partisan band of grouchy, anti-tax citizens became activists and formed the Taxpayer Protection League to fight off a county-wide property tax referendum that we took exception to, not because we don&8217;t want the best education we can provide for the children of this county, but because we didn&8217;t believe giving our hard-earned money to this school board would achieve that end.

That was 2003. We also pointed out that the rate of growth in the county&8217;s population and the consequential growth in sales and property tax revenues would have made the tax unnecessary.

And a vast number of voters agreed, defeating that tax measure by a country mile and sending what should have been a crystal-clear message that we don&8217;t want to hear the words &8220;tax increase&8221; cross a politician&8217;s lips again until we see you practicing the words &8220;fiscal responsibility.&8221;

Three years later, it seems that the only ones who didn&8217;t get that message are elected pseudo-Republicans who are still grasping at straws trying to find ways to raise taxes.

&8220;Mister Conservative&8221; himself, Senator Hank Erwin &8212; who thus far hasn&8217;t seen a tax he didn&8217;t like in his entire tenure in Montgomery &8212; hasn&8217;t gotten that message at all.

Despite the fact that Helena voters rejected a county-wide property tax increase for school construction in 2003, Erwin evidently thought it was smarter in an election year to pander to local politicians and enable yet another end-run around the people&8217;s will.

He was too busy promoting a bill that would have allowed tax-hikers another pass at raising taxes one city at a time to remember that he those cities already made it plain as day that they didn&8217;t want their taxes increased.

It was his published promise to hold the line against higher taxes.

Every questionnaire I saw in print showed him committed to opposing sales tax increases and property tax hikes, and by that and many other measures, Hank Erwin has been an abject failure as a legislator.

Then when the pressure came down from taxation activists who already wonder who this man is and what he did with their preferred Senate candidate, the rudderless Erwin reversed himself and withdrew his bill, forcing the school board to get creative and actually do a little heavy lifting. The powers-that-be have gone to Plan B, done a little basic math, brushed up on their economics, and lo and behold, unearthed a previously undiscovered funding source for a new middle school in Helena: money they were going to have anyway, the fruits of this boisterous county&8217;s economic and population growth.

As if by magic, they didn&8217;t have to raise taxes after all.

I hate to say we told you so, but we did, and we&8217;ll keep telling you so until you get the message.

Raising taxes will stifle our economic growth.

Lowering taxes will spur it on.

Now write that a hundred times on the black board, and don&8217;t try a stunt like this again.

Try getting creative before you start trying to raise taxes. Beforehand, not after we vote it down.

Education is a critical function of our economy and our community, and anyone who says conservatives don&8217;t care about it is trying to sell you something.

We care very deeply, but we do also have this annoying insistence that the quality of education be measured more substantially than by superficial yardstick of how much money the government threw at the problem.

But I hope politicians start learning this lesson too: every time you propose a sales tax increase, you had best be prepared to fight for it, and you&8217;d better have your facts and figures straight.

Fiscal conservatives have no patience for lazy politicians who&8217;d rather raise taxes than plan carefully and make tough choices, and we are going to go on saying so, and stepping right into the fray.

We never get tired of looking over your shoulder.

Politicians that want to succeed in Shelby County had best realize that there is no more good will available for waffling on taxation,

When you say you&8217;re a conservative, we&8217;ll be watching closely to see if you mean it, and ready to oppose you if you betray our trust.

I hope all the people of Shelby County, and especially the people of Helena, understand just how badly some of their leaders are trying to sell them out to higher taxes, and just how little politicians seem to respect the will of the people. The tax-and-spend club currently holding many an office has a very bad habit of thinking they know better than you do about how to spend your money.

I know a way you can respond that hits them right where they live.

Run for office, or stand up for someone who will. We&8217;ll stand with you, as long as you&8217;re right.

George Oldroyd


Dear Editor,

Today marks the end of an unprecedented era in American history. After more than 18 years on the job, the second most powerful person in the country &8212;and perhaps the greatest central banker in history &8212;will retire.

Since August 1987, Alan Greenspan&8217;s name has been synonymous with the economic and financial policies of this nation and, indeed, the rest of the world.

During this historic period, communism fell, the Internet arrived and a truly global economy emerged.

As chairman of the Federal Reserve (Fed), Greenspan has often been portrayed as an austere and obsessive inflation fighter. But despite this label, he was able to navigate the economy around several massive landmines.

That he faced myriad challenges during his tenure is without question. Two months after he took office, the stock market crashed, the Dow Jones industrial average falling 23 percent (508 points) in one day. Greenspan and the Fed responded by pumping funds to financial institutions to increase liquidity in the banking system.

Greenspan also faced a technology boom and bust, two recessions, financial crises from Mexico to Asia, terrorist attacks and various corporate scandals. Through it all, he remained unflappable, continuing to trust his instinctive decision making powers.

His performance in view of these formidable challenges is underscored by the fact that unemployment is lower today than when he took office. Real wages are up and inflation is lower.

Productivity, or output per man-hour, is more than one percent higher than in 1987. And, after adjusting for inflation, the stock market has more than doubled.

What is it about Greenspan&8217;s approach that made him so successful in keeping the economy performing at a high level for almost two decades?

Throughout his tenure, he embraced a simple philosophy on central banking. His approach was to allow the expansions of the economy to proceed unfettered and take steps to soften the recessions.

Greenspan possesses a unique talent to comprehend the complex mechanics as well as the unique psychology of the markets. On a daily basis, he perused mountains of data, looking for obscure indicators that other economists overlooked.

To his credit, Greenspan never allowed politicians or financial experts to influence his decisions. Neither was he locked in by inflation targets.

Greenspan&8217;s performance, however, was not flawless. Among other things, he was criticized for supporting the Bush tax cuts.

But his leadership of the Fed, on balance, has been extraordinary. It is doubtful that anyone else could have performed so well.

On a personal level, I found Greenspan to be a modest and personable individual with a quick wit.

Thanks, Mr. Chairman, for making all our lives better &8212; and thanks for the memories.

Wayne Curtis


Dear Editor,

Train wrecks. Coal mine disasters. Horrible truck crashes. Snail pace response to Katrina. What do these things have in common? A government that has failed to protect the public.

Ever since Ronald Reagan won the presidency, we have been told that the government is not the remedy for problems, it is the problem. We must reduce its size. We must relax its regulation of business. And everything will be fine.

Well, we are reaping what we have sowed. The Republicans, along with many gutless Democrats, have cut out or weakened many of the rules protecting the workers of this country, and even when serious defects have been found, the fines are minute. And now we find that the national guard units are very short of men and sometimes have no vehicles to handle an emergency.

It is time we get back to having a government responsive to the people&8217;s needs.

There will be plenty of money around if we just raise the taxes back to where they were, on the top five percent of our population. Previous tax &8220;relief&8221; for the rich did not get the economy back on the track, but simply made the rich richer. Low bank interest rates in the first years of the Bush administration prove enormous sums of money were available for start-ups or business expansion.

There was no need for the tax cuts on the rich, but such tax cuts simply were an excuse to say we can no longer afford to police businesses or provide services to the needy in an emergency.

Roy Lechtreck