Letter At Length

Keep our government with us, not against us

Two simplistic slogans show slow suicide in our society: "Taxes are draining us," and, "Government is only bad for us."

Griping about taxes diverts our attention from all the other drains of our money, much of it enabled by the anti-tax, pro-free-market zealots who use government to coddle corporations, empowering their profit at our loss. A weak, tax-denied government is beholden to corporate lobbyists, not us.

Consider how insurance premiums and bank fees exploit our town.

Stillwater (now closed) was threatened with a nearly $5,000 fine for not carrying liquor liability insurance that would cost from $10,000 to $25,000 a year. Multiply that onerous premium times all the clubs in town, all mandated by insurance lobby-influenced government boards, and we see how distant insurance companies grow rich off us.

In Bend, the Construction Contractor's Board fined an unemployed handyman $600 for not carrying the requisite license, liability and bond that would cost him about $1,000 a year. Such handymen work for $10 to $25 an hour but can be turned in to the CCB (anonymously) by those who complain they'd have to reduce their hourly from $50 to $35. Want your leaves raked, your door handle tightened? You'll have to pay a lot more to cover the mandated license, insurance and bond requirements.

As a contractor I didn't have to know which end of a nail to hit with a hammer. All I had to know was legalities and then pay for yearly insurance, bond and bi-yearly license. I was paying out a third of my income to the insurers and bonders I never needed to use. The CCB doubled the bonds on every contractor in Oregon because of 19 unresolved disputes among 400,000 otherwise responsible contractors. What a boon to the bonders! I dropped my license.

Government-mandated insurance is like the mob selling "protection" — pay up or you'll have trouble. How easy for the insurers and bonders to play up fear of trouble, their lobbyists paid to sway our regulators to do their lucrative bidding.

Consider health insurance. We're paying twice as much for half the health care as comparable societies. We gripe about taxes, forgetting that we pay ever more for costly, mediocre health insurance and ever-costlier health care.

Consider banking. Every time I use my debit card at the Astro Station or the Co-op the bank gets up to 3 percent. Every transaction sends money out of town. Add to that all the sudden increases in the rates, the absurd overdraft and late fee charges, and we see how we're at the mercilessness of bankers unimpeded by a weakened government.

How much does Ashland lose yearly in insurances, bond fees and banking fees, which leave our town, and how much do we pay in taxes, which largely return to our economy in terms of local jobs, food stamps, etc.? Ironic that we elect those who say "government is bad for us" only to endure their being just that! We ought not to accept the slogan or the reality of government being bad for us. It ought not to be alien, our enemy. In a participatory democracy, government is us taking care of ourselves.

I don't want a government that does the dirty work of the insurance and banking industries on us; I want one that protects us from them and intercedes whenever the corporations are failing to meet our needs fairly. I'd be glad to have a not-for-profit, government-run insurance and banking system (federal, state or local) that costs less, is locally run and returns benefits to the community.

Private corporations have no interest or obligation to the common good. Meanwhile, the mechanism that could and should control them, the government, is largely hired by them via campaign contributions, and is increasingly defunded, weakened, insulted, and used on us, not by us. We should wake up to these cynical and suicidal slogans, pay fair taxes for decent purposes and put our government back on our side.

Brad Carrier


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