Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:
● It’s obscene that court reporters on the public payroll are allowed to pocket the substantial fees paid by those who need transcripts of court proceedings, as the AJC’s Janel Davis reported. It’s quite amazing that archaic provisions of state law go unchallenged that provide sweetheart financial arrangements to individuals and groups that wield power in courthouses — laws, for example, that provide two or three public pensions, some funded with fines and add-on fees. Republicans, when they came to power, didn’t own that system. But now they do. They’ve done little or nothing to change it.
● A pleasant surprise, since much of the media tends to cheerlead for bigger government, is the front-page story Tuesday by AJC transportation reporter Ariel Hart. Headline: “Not all MARTA cuts are so bad,” followed by the smaller headline, “Halting low-ridership routes should help budget, efficiency.” This is the beginning of honest, rational and informed public discussion. The question always to keep in mind in advocacy-group-provided anecdotes about the impact of proposed cuts: Is it an accurate reflection of the overall truth? Answer: Often not. As Hart points out, five of the 40 MARTA routes to be eliminated carry one person per mile on weekdays. But for the economic crunch, discontinuing service on those routes would never have been allowed.
● Granted, people being arrested for DUI on a public street have no reasonable expectation of privacy in matters related to the offense. But what the salacious detail that former UGA athletics director Damon Evans had a pair of woman’s red panties between his legs has to do with whether he was driving drunk is beyond me. It’s not relevant to the issue of his arrest and including it in the report was an invasion of his privacy.
● Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall paid $200,000 over the last two years in regular pay and overtime to a driver/security aide, the AJC reports. From the school house to the halls of Congress, we have a regal government. How did we get to the point in this country where low-level government functionaries — city, county and local school officials among them — require entourages, drivers and security teams?
● The U.S. Postal Service, which cut 40,000 positions and still lost $3.8 billion, proposes to raise the price of stamps to 46-cents in January. Its increases stampede customers to alternatives. Two-day-a-week home delivery is OK by me. We need a drastic reinvention of the first-class mail business model.
● DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis wants to refill 235 positions vacated by employees given financial incentives to retire early. That’s in addition to 200 hired to refill public safety and 100 hired to refill court-related jobs. Early retirement incentives for public employees are just phony paper-savings gimmicks. When you look away, the payroll’s back where it was and the pension hole’s deeper.
● OK. Final word. A fee is a charge imposed on the sole beneficiaries of a government service. It’s a tax when there’s no direct correlation between the payers and the service. The $10 levy on the purchaser of auto tags that Georgians are being asked to approve this November to fund trauma centers is a tax — and it’s unbecoming of Republicans to pretend otherwise. It’s hypocritical to criticize President Obama and Congressional Democrats for dishonesty on, say, cap-and-tax pass-alongs while calling this tax a “fee.” It’s a fee if it’s imposed just on users — or, I suppose, if it’s imposed on autos, four-wheelers, power equipment, swimming pools, ladders, knives, guns, mad dogs, snakes and other objects associated with traumatic injury. And, by the way, the sum to be raised will never be enough.