OPINION: Vote “No” on both ballot questions. Not to save money, but to save democracy.
Tuesday’s two state ballot questions are as important as any candidate. The first question would let state government to borrow another $125 million. After paying Wall Street “transaction fees” and other overhead, the money would fix up libraries in certain towns.
I love libraries. However, Amazon, digital books, and the internet make brick and mortar libraries less important than ever.
Meanwhile, “project labor agreements” and pay-to-play politics make government construction unaffordable, and unsustainable. We should be cutting costs, not borrowing money.
The second question would change our state constitution again. It would put all money from environmental lawsuits into a special fund “to preserve the State’s natural resources”.
It sounds like a good idea. However, in the past state government money borrowed for “Green Acres” and “Open Space” to bulldoze trees, pave parking lots, and raise budgets and salaries at the Department of Environmental Protection. It also paid top dollar for worthless real estate owned by politically connected people. Nothing would require any of this money to clean up properties involved in the lawsuits!
New Jersey taxes are unsustainable. Both Republicans and Democrats refuse to set priorities and cut costs. They borrow money and pay it back with years of tax hikes. Special interests change the constitution to earmark money that would be better spent elsewhere.
The first step to change this is to vote “No” on both ballot questions. Unfortunately, most voters will probably vote “Yes”. In the past, New Jersey voters approved 90% of all state ballot questions.
Back in 1896, Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian-French economist, explained why with this parable:
“Suppose that in a country of thirty million citizens, it is proposed under some pretext or other, to get each citizen to pay out one dollar a year, and to distribute the total amount among a group of thirty persons. Every one of the donors will give up one dollar a year; every one of the thirty beneficiaries will receive one million dollars a year.
“The two groups will differ very greatly in their response to this situation. Those who hope to gain a million a year will know no rest day and night. They will win newspapers over to their interest by financial inducements and drum up support from all quarters. A discreet hand will warm the palms of needy legislators. . .
“On the other hand, the despoiled are much less active. A great deal of money is needed to launch an election campaign. . . . The individual who is threatened with losing one dollar a year—even if he is fully aware of what is afoot—will not for so small a thing forego a picnic in the country, or fall out with useful or congenial friends, or get on the wrong side of the mayor. In these circumstances the outcome is not in doubt: the spoliators will win hands down.”
According to Pareto, democracy was not sustainable. People who took from the government would get richer and stronger politically. People who paid the taxes would go broke, and become weaker politically. Pareto predicted in the early 1900’s that the democracies of Europe collapse and be replaced by Communist or fascist dictatorships.
For years, America did not have that problem. Our federal and state constitutions (and our political culture of individual rights and limited government) restrained government officials here. But not anymore.
Here in New Jersey, those people who will financially benefit from the $125 million loan package on the ballot are actively campaigning for a “yes” vote on Ballot Question #1. The bureaucrats in the Department of Environmental Protection, the lawyers, contractors who build artificial sand dunes and others who would be paid from an earmarked “natural resources” fund are persuading you to vote “yes” on Ballot Question #2.
Hardly anyone is campaigning for a “no” vote. As in Pareto’s parable, few individuals threatened with losing a few dollars a year will spend money, exert energy, or make enemies for “so small a thing”. Unfortunately, what we are really losing is our democracy. New Jersey cannot survive many more of these “yes” votes.
Seth Grossman is a Somers Point attorney and executive director of LibertyAndProsperity.org. The organization maintains a Liberty and Prosperity Facebook page. It meets for breakfast 9:30 am every Saturday at the Shore Diner in Egg Harbor Township by Parkway Exit 36. Seth Grossman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.