Commentary: Mo' money causes mo' problems

August 6, 2007

Many of you who read this column know I do a number of things to make a living. I host the morning radio show at WXNT-AM 1430, practice law, write this column, teach at the University of Indianapolis and Ivy Tech Community College, act, perform stand- and most recently started doing commentary at WRTV Channel 6.

I make a pretty good living and, with the exception of my son, who inherited his adopted father's bad spending habits, I don't do too badly. I can put away for savings while still enjoying a cigar and a Superman martini. I don't write this to brag by any means, because I was always taught that as quickly as you get your fame and success is how quickly you can lose it. I write this because the more financially stable I become, the more I'm concerned about people less fortunate than I am.

Now before some of you start thinking this is a piece about redistributing your wealth and giving it to someone else, don't. You work hard for your money and you should have to pay only what is necessary for the important functions of government. Unfortunately, the people who don't do as well as we do are bigger victims of government and its desire to separate us from our hard-earned cash because they can't fight back.

Who didn't get a big scare in late June/early July when the property tax bills hit? If you had a 34-percent increase in Marion County, which was the average, you were lucky. I heard plenty of stories about 60-percent, 70-percent, and even an 850-percent increase in a tax bill. Add to that a jump in our county income tax for public safety, and I can't help but be completely puzzled trying to figure out how a family of four earning $50,000 can get by.

With the increase in taxes, I wonder how long people will be able to stay in Marion County before they flee for the lands of lower taxes and less crime. When I look around the capital city, I have to ask myself what we are paying for. A new central library that is nothing but a monument to Murphy's Law? A public school system so bad that half the students don't show up on the first day? A criminal justice system that has manipulated itself so that early releases are eliminated by making sure a significant number of criminals never get to jail in the first place? You have got to be kidding me!

The sad part about this is that someone like me can afford the tax increases and still manage, but someone on a fixed income is (fill in the blank) out of luck. High taxes, poor schools and rising crime do nothing to help the well-being of the local economy. All they do is drive away the middle-class families who are crucial to a city's survival. And by the time it is all said and done, the only people left in Marion County will be the people who can afford to live here and the ones who can't afford to leave.

The even bigger tragedy in all this is, the elected officials who have chastised the productive class for the wealth it has acquired continue to support policies that encourage high taxes and failing schools, which will keep a large number of our fellow citizens in a state of permanent underclass.

I don't mean to sound like Marx or Mao, but I can't help but wonder if the only way to save the poor and downtrodden in this town is for the affluent and influential to rise up and throw out the current powers that be.

Now that would be a revolution.

Shabazz is the morning show host on WXNT-AM 1430 and of counsel at the law firm of Lewis & Wilkins. His column appears monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at ashabazz@ibj.com.
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