Are We Being Undertaxed in Cobb?

By: Lance Lambeton

As seen in the Marietta Daily Journal 1/22/2022

This is a question where progressives reflexively answer yes. And as far as the three-seat democrat majority on the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, (BOC) the answer is an emphatic and unambiguous yes. Take for example the quote from freshman Commissioner Jerica Richardson in a recent MDJ article: “For the level of service that we’re asking for, and the current way in which we operate…this county has been vastly underfunded.”

Wow wee Commissioner. There is no equivocation there, and quite frankly I respect her for being candid and direct, while abhorring her position. Not only are we “underfunded” but “vastly underfunded.” Her position is made at a time when revenues coming into the County are at historic highs and where the federal government, in response to the pandemic, has been falling all over itself to throw millions of dollars into County coffers, often with little accountability.

But before we dismiss Ms. Richardson’s perspective out-of-hand, it might be useful to dissect it more closely so we can better understand the political assumptions that underlie it. For example, what is the level of service she is asking for? Does not the County already provide a robust, and I would argue, overly generous level of services already? How many more parks, dog runs, aquatic centers, senior centers, bicycle paths, water parks, multi-million-dollar state-of the-art libraries, sidewalks to nowhere that are rarely used, and buses that often-run empty do we need to expand before the County achieves the level of service that the Commissioner is asking for?

The answer is that when it comes to the progressive mind-set there is no limit when it comes to taxes and spending. Increasing taxes is the means to the end of having more money to spend on more services, because as we all know, government is better able to decide how to spend your money than you are. Such is the hubris of progressivism.

On the contrary, a responsible Commissioner would endeavor to see how we can provide the current level of services with the resources currently available, and maybe even seek a way to actually lower taxes. That would give Cobb Countians more money to spend on themselves and their families. What a concept! Imagine empowering taxpayers to have greater control over the choices they make on their own behalf and removing some of that control from the County.

While that sounds good in practice, it would require the BOC to re-examine what Ms. Richardson describes as “the current way in which [the County] operates.” For example, under President Reagan, he initiated what became known as The Grace Commission, whose mission was to apply common sense business practices to the operation of the Federal Government. As a consequence, the President was able to root out over $400 billion in waste, fraud and abuse.

The BOC could also read the book Cutting Back City Hall by Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation for dozens of real-world examples of local governments implementing privatization and contracting out local services to save money. It can be done, but it won’t happen under the current iteration of the BOC.

Instead, what taxpayers are facing in Cobb, and which Ms. Richardson certainly implies in her statement, is that we can look forward to not only not seeing a reduction in our millage rate, or even maintaining its current level, but a looming tax increase. That is because to progressives like Richardson, taxes are the drug, and spending it is the high. And like any drug addict, elected officials of the progressive stripe are addicted to spending. It gives them power, prestige and the fawning gratitude from recipients of taxpayer largesse.

And this addiction not only afflicts progressives. Even former libertarians, like Cobb County School Board Chairman, David Chastain, have fallen under its spell, where he is now an ardent champion of the Education SPLOST, whereas once upon a time he was opposed. Such is the seductive power of spending other people’s money.

So while there is no hope on the horizon of lowering taxes in Cobb, it behooves taxpayers to take a determined stand against their increase. This must be done if we are to protect our assets from further erosion by those who think they know better how to spend your money.

Lance Lamberton is the Chairman and founder of the Cobb Taxpayers Association and served as the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Policy Information under President Reagan.

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