Karl Marx liked trains. Rod Brooker does not.
By Rod Brooker
So I’m reading Mr. Ingram’s most recent one-act play about what’s-his-name and Mark Sharpe, and Sam The Anti-Pope, and I’m thinking it’s a pretty good piece of writing for a Celt, and then I’m reading the comments of you gentle readers, and lightning strikes me.
This whole complex issue of the train tax, the Arkansas house, the County Fathers, and home schooling was all moshed together in my mind, and, in an instant, enlightenment!
Jerry Bowmer. Jim Norman. Get it? No?
A few of you who commented on Mr. Ingram’s column observed that our beloved Hillsborough County has been well-fornicated by developers for decades, and there has always been a majority of county commissioners that have pimped the county and raked in the bucks. Some decades were flagrant (Jerry Bowmer) and some more subtle, as long as you are a rock in a phosphate pit. I mean, favors and campaign contributions are not the same as Andy Jacksons in brown bags, are they? You kids are thinking, “Andy Jacksons?” Yeah, they were the Benjamins of the 1970s.
Some of you have gone to Defcon 4 at the term “train tax.” Kids! I have to call it what it is. Remember the Penny for the Good Life? It was really the Bucks for the Performing Arts Center. That penny was allegedly for “sports, arts, and recreation.” Little children would learn the cello in ball parks dotted across the county. So what happened?
Did I mention it was sold as a two-year penny? Funny, it’s still there. Or not there for us, in terms of the jingle in our pockets. What is the “good life” penny paying for today? I’m asking. Next we had a half penny tax to build a football stadium for billionaires. At least it was sold as a 30-year half penny but it will still be here after the Apocalypse.
Just because I am a Socialist does not mean I am a Philistine, or a not-a-real-man. I like the Performing Arts Center. My aging back does not like the seats, which is my problem. But was it really worth a penny from danged near every buck we drop for things other than serious food and prescription medicines? I’d gladly pay a 10 percent or 20 percent surcharge on performance tickets rather than to lose that penny. Likewise I like the Bucs and RayJay. Same story with my back. Same story with putting a surcharge on RayJay tickets. Such surcharges fall under the category of “user fees.”
User fees let government put the bulk of the cost of a service or facility on the people who use it. On the other hand, if government taxes everyone to provide something that only a few people use, it’s called income redistribution. Spreading it around. Socialism. Vote for the train tax, and you are a Socialist. Relax. It happens in the best of families.
Pennies add up. Take the next one we’re being pressured to give up. Please. If you think the train tax is going to add bus lanes and build wider highways, do I have a bridge for you . . . The train tax is going to build a strange rail line that will lose money, and most of the people paying for it won’t use it. And the train seats will be hard on my back, but that’s my problem. So how do we price a rail system? This is a tough one. Who will be the users? How do we get our hands in their pockets today for something they’ll use tomorrow? Raise gasoline taxes for a train? The real question is, who the hell is going to ride the train? Really. The train is a shiny new toy that some people want under their Christmas tree. They are selling it to us with all the vagueness at their command.
The problem is financing the capital investment for all these cool things that a few people want to buy. Bonds are popular government offerings to do so. Unfortunately, except for the idiots who bought mortgage-backed derivatives, potential bond-holders will want to get their money back someday, with interest. Maybe we can back bonds with the projected stream of income from train fares? See the above reference to “vagueness.” Have you noticed that the train-tax people don’t ever, ever say the words “Miami Metrorail.”
At the end of the line, I, a Socialist, am voting against the Train Tax. What the hell kind of Socialist am I? Talking privately now to Sam The Anti-Pope: I’m on your side this time. Got a job for me? Just kidding, big guy.
Re-enter Jerry Bowmer and Jim Norman. They have both been County Commissioners, and both have the letters J, O, R, and M in their names. Those facts alone raise suspicion. And developers seem to have done really well in their terms. But I paint Jim Norman with a heavy brush. As long as I can remember, there have been at least four Commissioners ready to “create economic growth and bring jobs to Hillsborough County.” Thanks to these commissioners, developers have made billions of dollars by doing things on the cheap. Which is why we need better transportation. And schools. And sewerage. And all that stuff.
So today we should be talking about things a lot more important and urgent than a choo-choo train. Today we have to bail out Kennedy Boulevard, not unlike the Socialist federal government’s bail out of Wall Street. The big difference is, the Wall Street gang was going broke. Down here, the developers were sitting at our table, getting fat.
Pass the pennies?
Rod Brooker is a Socialist hippie who puts up a train set at Christmas for his grandson and who takes the little guy to ride steam trains in Parrish. Negative cynic that he is , Rod figures the little guy and his Baptist pre-school classmates will be paying our pennies, and more to come, all their lives. E-mail Rod at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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