How to plug some of these tax leaks


Why do we even need taxes? To pay for government services, of course, because not many government workers receive free groceries or free electricity, and under these conditions they can’t afford to work for free.

Should our current taxes be increased, decreased, or stay the same? That all depends on whether the people want more government services, less, or the same.

One way to get more government services that matter without increasing taxes is to eliminate government services that don’t matter and constitute waste. It’s a matter of making better choices.

Since we’re into election season, this is a good time to explore our candidates’ views on public spending, and I’ll bring up some thoughts I have had. See if you agree.

I’ll start with “a penny saved is a penny earned.” As pennies accumulate, eventually one can run into serious money. That’s how SPLOST advocates, those people who constantly dream of raising our sales tax by a penny on the dollar, end up dreaming of raising millions of dollars for government projects from which they hope to benefit. Obviously pennies count.

So let’s save some pretty pennies. Here are my thoughts.

Have you noticed how we have only one major airport in Atlanta? Is there a need for this airport to have a name? Is there a need for it to have two names, like Hartsfield-Jackson? Absolutely not. No need for the word “international” either: those who need to know already know it and the others don’t care. Just calling it the Atlanta airport would be sufficient.

Now think of all the signs that carry two names we don’t need, all the paper on which the two extra names are written and the ink required to print them, all the airtime wasted by media announcers bothering with this nonsense. It’s clear that both men whose names were given to the airport are now dead and don’t care. So what’s the reasoning? Has anybody thought about the cost?

Moving on to the Atlanta stadium, or the Omni, or the Braves’ ballpark, we can see that they were given other names too, and the media fools use these names regularly, for free! These names were not needed, but at least those who paid for them are private entities who might be helping the taxpayers shell out less money for our sport temples. So we’ll let that go.

But it might be worthwhile to call attention to all the federal courthouses and post offices that are given names unnecessarily. A waste of time and of money. The more so because it is Congress itself which votes on these names, instead of passing budgets on time, preventing government shutdowns, and enacting important tax breaks long before year-end so people may know what to expect.

How about street names?

Now here we’re talking Fayette County, as well as the rest of the state.

My first observation there is that we are all opposed to distracted driving as being unsafe. Get hit by a texting driver and you’ll understand what I mean. We want to discourage that.

But having to make out long or unnecessary street names is distracting for a driver too. So here’s my proposal.

Let’s have a law that makes it illegal to have a street name that contains more than one word for a name. After all, the purpose of having a name for a street is to help you find it and distinguish it from some other street as easily as possible.

You want to have a street named after a fellow named King? You call it King Street. I have never seen a street named Thomas Jefferson — neither he nor George Washington had a middle name.

I understand the usefulness of having names for our streets — although I like the orderliness, logic and convenience of numbers like 1st Avenue, 2nd Avenue, etc. — but the overall purpose is to help drivers know where they are, at a glance, and to turn safely onto the right street if they want to when they get there.

Now think about the cost of making up all the extra-long signs? Metal, paint, labor. That’s tax money. Wasted. Add it up inch by inch and sign by sign, and the cost goes up as driving convenience and safety go down.

Next in line, of course, is naming streets or roads that don’t need to be named, because they already have a name. We see that with our own Highway 54 in the Peachtree City area, where signs suddenly appeared telling us we were getting on Floy Farr Parkway, and a bit later on the way to Fayetteville that we were on Paul Heard Highway.

Good grief! If we taxpayers didn’t have to pay for the signs, it would still be bad, but we have to pay for them and that makes it waste. (Honor these guys some other way.)

There are stretches of interstate named after various politicians here and there, and that too is a waste, on the state level: for making them, for installing them, and for maintaining them. Then we waste our time and get distracted by looking at them as we don’t know whether their message is important or not until after we’ve seen them.

There is another way to waste money with street names, and that is by changing them once in a while, a practice widely followed in the city of Atlanta. Every change makes all the people and businesses on that street have to change their address everywhere, including on printed stationery and other documents and on the web, and it makes all street maps of the area obsolete. That becomes like one of these expensive unfunded mandates forced upon local governments by higher governments, and it promotes confusion.

Another bad government practice is the naming of a street (or road) with a different name on the left than what you get on the right. It’s basically the same street, but as it crosses the road you’re on that street changes name. That does not help driver concentration, and it must complicate map making. It takes two signs, too, instead of one. The less of that, the better.

So the question becomes, am I the only one who realizes how absurd and expensive all that fooling around with street signage is? Do we have candidates at the local level who see what I see and feel what I feel about all of this? If so, why is it we never hear about it?

In the end, the less money our government wastes, the less money it needs to raise through taxes, SPLOST or otherwise. To be conservative means to conserve one’s money for really worthwhile purposes. Not an incessant appetite for taxpayer dollars.

With elections now coming up, it might be a good time to look into candidates’ record on their spending practices, and whether they go for fluff or substance. You may call me grumpy, but at least my eyes are open. I just plain see too many leaks in the tax bucket, and not a plumber in sight!

[A 30-year Fayette resident, Claude Y. Paquin lives on a road with a 5-letter name with a sign that’s easy to read.]