Friday, May 06, 2005

Bread and circuses

The people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now concerns itself no more and longs eagerly for just two things -- bread and circuses.
--Juvenal (c. 60–c. 130), Roman satiric poet. Satires, no. 10

What is the purpose of government in the United States?

Is it to secure the rights for all citizens of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness?

Or is it to grow its own budget, throwing the populace bread and circuses along the way to ease the pain of the increasing burden of taxes?

Now that Hennepin County has decided to ask the Legislature for permission to levy a tax to help build a coloseum for the ultimate bread and circuses, professional sports, (Hennepin County OKs Twins stadium plan, Star Tribune, May 4, 2005) a re-reading of Juvenal seems timely.

As former Hennepin County Commissioner candidate John Knight said in a letter to the editor, "There is lots of talk of how small the Twins stadium tax will be. Proponents say it will only cost you a few extra cents for this, a few extra bucks for that. Call it the 'invisible tax.' The fact is this proposed tax increase amounts to $353 million in new taxes, which is real money -- our money. As a taxpayer and voter, I am insulted to hear that a referendum 'would kill the deal.'"

We elect our officials to represent us in the forums of government, but levying a controversial, county-wide tax like this without a referendum borders on taxation without representation. I say this as someone who grew up listening to Twins games on WCCO, watching the Hamms bear on TV, and reading the Twins-O-Gram at Met Stadium. Kudos to Commissioners Linda Koblick, Penny Steele, and Gail Dorfman for casting three courageous votes against the plan after a butt-busting seven-hour public hearing.

Ballparks in Phoenix and other cities have been built with taxpayer funds without voter approval. Will Hennepin County be next?

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