Candidates should be challenged on government entitlements

Sounding Board Editorial #11 (April 13, 2008)

Dennis Foster

     The topic of government support for this project, or that project, seems to mostly center around two questions:  Is it a good idea? Does it cost much?  This kind of thinking drives me crazy and I took the opportunity of this editorial to lay out the bigger questions:  Who is entitled?  Who isn't?  Why?  The questions are not rhetorical.  I really do want to know the answers to these questions and I wish politicians were held accountable to answer them.  Far too often you get some kind of mushy response that some proposal "helps the community" which just avoids spelling out the specifics.  This comment ran on April 13.

With city elections right around the corner, I want to support candidates that will promise change I can believe in - especially changing the way that government is used to promote special interests, which concentrate benefits into few hands while spreading costs around to many pockets.

In the private market, this isn’t a problem, since these special interests must convince people to voluntarily give up money to support their causes – like the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, the Sunshine Rescue Mission, the National Rifle Association, and the Nature Conservancy to name but a few.

But, in the public sector, the pursuit of special interests degrades our freedoms and liberty by mandating that we pay for these interests, be it a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, the inclusion of “affordable housing” in residential developments, or that taxpayers subsidize a small group of people who ride the bus or an even smaller group that want to fly to Los Angeles.

Especially appalling is how often recipients of these special benefits feel entitled to what they have received rather than thankful and humble!  If you’re not sure on this score, re-read the e-mail commentaries, published in this paper last week, on finding housing in Flagstaff.

So, in the upcoming election for mayor and city council, I would ask candidates to answer these simple questions, and to do so honestly:

1.  What housing, jobs, and transportation are residents of Flagstaff entitled to?
2.  Who is entitled, and who isn’t?
3.  Why?

Dennis Foster has a Ph.D. in economics, teaches at the university level, is an avid Grand Canyon hiker and once worked for Al White cleaning hotel rooms for a living.

     The attitude that I see exhibited in the public arena really is one of entitlement.  One letter writer, critical of my opposition to the bus, referred to how he had decided to retire to Flagstaff from St. Louis.  And, he feels entitled to a bus system, subsidized by taxpayers.  In the housing stories was a recurring theme - people moving to Flagstaff, finding it difficult to make ends meet, and being "forced" to move elsewhere.

     If the city is to promote "affordable housing" who is going to be helped?  Will it be long time residents?  Or, residents in some favored job category (police, nurse or teacher)?  And, why is that?  This is the problem with government welfare - all taxpayers must pay to help those deemed suitable.  I am much more comfortable with discrimination practiced by charitable groups that raise their money through voluntary contributions.  For more on this topic, read the story profiling two families and their housing woes, as well as the web comments posted below the story.

     In my bio I mention Al White, who is a current city council member and often champions the "need" for higher wages and affordable housing.  The point being that even I had jobs that are bottom of the barrel.

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