Thursday, March 04, 2010

"The aversion to paying 75 cents a mile to a foreign company to simply drive on a public road hasn't faded, nor will it."

Elections come & go, but resistance to toll taxes continues


by Terri Hall
Texans United for Reform and Freedom
Copyright 2010

If there's one thing we've learned in the 5 years we've been fighting to keep our freeways toll-free, it's that elections don't matter near as much as the people themselves staying engaged in the ongoing battles against our own government.

We've passed the era where citizens could get by with complacency, we're in a new ballgame now. After years of neglect and trusting our elected representatives to do the right thing when no one's looking, it's obvious to even the casual observer that those days are long gone, and we now face the Goliath of entrenched special interests and lobbyists who really run the show.

As one of our supporters likes to put it, we need a permanent, grassroots lobbying class for "we the people."

One thing about elections remains the same...the same recycled candidates show-up in office year after year. Though on rare occasions the good guys and bad guys trade places, by and large, for a litany of reasons I won't go into here, it's those who have been corrupted and who have no qualms about ignoring and exploiting the taxpayers that remain the powerbrokers. The kingmakers simply won't tolerate the incorruptible being in charge. So we've learned to work hard for the good guys, but to expect the bad guys to still be there when the dust settles.

Issue-based activism works

The grassroots have shown that we can mount an offensive and successfully defeat toll-related issues one at a time, year after year, by constant vigilance. The bad guys only have to win once to get their pay-dirt, but the taxpayers have to win time after time, year after year to defeat the litany of bad legislation and policies that hit the pipeline at breathtaking speed.

The aversion to paying 75 cents a mile to a foreign company to simply drive on a public road hasn't faded, nor will it. The waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money by an out-of-control transportation department can and must be fixed. With the taxpayers on high alert, we can return to a sensible, sustainable, and affordable transportation policy in Texas, one without the highest tax on the table...tolls.

One of the biggest challenges in unseating incumbents isn't so much the name recognition and hefty campaign coffers (though these things can be enormous obstacles) as it is the growing number of political favors and payback the politician doles out the longer he's in office. It makes for highly motivated voters beholden to incumbents who eagerly head to the polls to re-elect the guy who is the gift that keeps on giving to one's industry or pet program.

Corporate welfare

I sat down and read an issue of the Business Journal this week. A sizable chunk of the stories involved businesses who owe their success to taxpayer handouts. One business that experienced explosive growth (5,900 percent) exclusively provides services for the federal government. One article brazenly offered tips on how to secure contracts from local bond elections (and avoid pesky obstacles like competition) by positioning oneself early for favorable treatment by being a team player and helping the bond election pass.

For all the mudslinging about social welfare programs, corporate welfare costs the taxpayers dearly. The self dealings that often involve the revolving door between private sector and public sector positions, jumping between the two in order to secure government funding or land a government contract by being well-connected, often exploits taxpayers with backroom deals made in secret with lobbyists. Instead of standing in line at a welfare office, they have slick web sites that tell them of all the upcoming bond elections, how much taxpayer money is on the table, and what contracts are up for grabs. This ain't capitalism, rather, it nicely explains the origin of the phrase: "hogs at the trough."

The sooner we, the taxpayers, identify the enemy, the sooner we defeat the cronyism that grips the "system." With our freedom to travel at risk and the threat of a complete financial meltdown of the infrastructure bubble (that will be too big to let fail) our politicians are creating with massive, multi-leveraged toll road debt, we cannot and will NOT relent until freedom is secured.

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