Getting it from both ends

by YES! Staff

It would be depressing to total up all the bailout money the federal government is throwing around these days. It would also be somewhat trite, and likely premature, as we fear this voracious raid on the US Treasury has only just begun. On a related note, a speed trap on Business-40, set up right near the 5 th Street exit in Winston-Salem, has recently nabbed two YES! Weekly staffers who, it should be said, ought to drive more carefully in populated zones. These events are connected by the vast economic bureaucracy that rules us all. For now, we’ll just call it “The Man.” First, the Man takes a bunch of your earnings. That’s nothing new. He calls it “taxes,” which does not disguise the fact that about a third of your money is gone, often before you even see it. In 2007, the Man collected about $2.5 trillion in tax revenues. And almost half of that amount has been pledged to bail out our lending institutions and other flailing industries. Meanwhile, while the country is losing jobs at an incredible rate — more than 500,000 just last month, which diminishes the tax base and puts further strain on government social programs. So there will be some belt-tightening as the economy contracts. And while economists say that money is not a zerosum game, the federal budget certainly is, and more of it over here means less of it over there. State budgets are feeling the pinch as well due to the aforementioned declining tax base, a rise in the price of doing business (states got killed on gasoline this year) and diminished borrowing capacity. That’s why state governors clamored for their piece of the federal budget at their conference in Philadelphia this week. President-elect Obama has pledged yet another chunk of that sweet, sweet federal pie for infrastructure repair and job creation, yet it seems North Carolina is hedging its bets. Which brings us to the speed trap on Business-40. It made all the papers Thanksgiving week that NC State Troopers would be prowling the highways in an effort to slow down holiday drivers until Nov. 30, similar to a measure taken in April that netted more than 11,000 speeders. Yet, as of Dec. 3, troopers and city police were still patrolling the highway around Winston-Salem issuing tickets. Speeding tickets, my associates will tell you, run about $150 a pop. If they can get another 11,000 speeders, that’s like $1.65 million, straight out of the pockets of taxpayers who are keeping this economy propped up with little or no say in the matter. Do that every couple of months, and you’re in business.

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While economists say that money is not a zero-sum game, the federal budget certainly is, and more of it over here means less of it over there.