Morris: Sniffing Out Stupidity
Man’s best friends are becoming more and more helpful. They have been trained to sniff out bombs and drugs and lost hikers and long-buried bodies.
Now, there are dogs that can smell COVID-19. When they detect the virus, they simply sit down by the carrier, and that person can then be whisked off to quarantine hell.
Wouldn’t it be nice, I have wondered, if a dog could be trained to smell out stupidity?
The only problem is that I would turn my canine detective loose in the halls of government – let slip the dogs of war! I can imagine him sniffing around a legislative chamber in Washington or Indianapolis, circling madly, then dropping to the floor with a nervous breakdown.
If I let him roam City Hall in Fort Wayne, I think I know where he would go – straight to the mayor’s office.
That gentleman just announced he wants the General Assembly to give Fort Wayne permission to add 1 percent to the city’s food-and-beverage tax, which would go with the 1 percent already paid by bar and restaurant patrons.
Really. He wants to hit the food service industry, which has been crippled by the pandemic and is hanging on for dear life, with one more burden. If that isn’t stupid, it will do until the real thing comes along.
The mayor is quick to offer answers to objections he anticipates from whiny curmudgeons like me:
The hike wouldn’t go into effect until at least 2022, when it is determined that the restaurant industry has fully recovered from the pandemic.
Oh, sure, that will gladden the hearts of beleaguered small-business operators. Just when they’re finally recovered, and can breathe a sigh of relief, here will come the city to pile on.
It’s not that big a deal – it would cost the average patron about $14 a year.
Well, yeah, but that’s on top of the 1 percent patrons already pay, not to mention the 7 percent sales tax, the second-highest state-level sales tax in the nation. For every dollar spent on a meal, another 9 cents would be tacked on. To paraphrase Everett Dirksen, a penny here and a penny there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.
Patrons flinching at that pinch, if they’ve dined out in the first place, are likely to start skimping on the tips, which would hurt some of the hardest working, lowest paid workers in the service industry.
I recall the time I dined in a downtown restaurant and left my usual 20 percent tip. When the waitress thanked me profusely, I asked why.
“This is such a 10 percent town,” she sighed, and, I swear, put an extra roll in my doggy bag.
We really, really need the $6 million a year that would be generated for “Fort Wayne development.”
But at the same time he cites that need, he boasts of the $1 billion in public-private funds already spent on development and says another $1 billion is in the pipeline. Forgive me for saying so, but if you’re bragging about $2 billion and still need $6 million, that’s like me saying, “Thanks so much for that $2,000, but I just can’t make it without another $6.”
And my very, very, all-time favorite:
This isn’t just really a tax. It’s a user fee. People only pay it if they eat out, and they don’t have to eat out.
You can call anything a user fee. People don’t have to work and suffer the income tax. They don’t have to buy furniture and cars and encounter the sales tax. If they don’t want to pay property tax, they can just rent. I don’t care what euphemism is used, if my money is taken from me and thrown into the black hole of government spending, that’s a tax.
And just in case you think I am a partisan hack who only sics his dogs on spendthrift Democrats, I will point out that Republicans, too, love to tax but hate calling it that.
It was Richard Nixon, after all, who invented revenue sharing, the most insidious scheme since income-tax withholding. Hallelujah, Washington just gave local communities money, and they could spend it however they wanted. Never mind that the money was taken from them in the first place and the bulk of it squandered with waste, fraud and abuse.
And it was the administration of Ronald Reagan, bless his heart, that came up with “revenue enhancing” and “receipts strengthening.” And they didn’t even share.
I’ll stop now, but with a warning. Every dog has his day.
Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.