Other peoples’ money

It’s been said, it’s one thing to be compassionate with one’s own money. Wholly another when it’s not your own.

James lives in a small town. Population of ten thousand. When James bought his small farm he figured that the deal, including what he’d pay in property tax, was doable. Even a bad year or two he could weather. More than that he’d have to skimp to get by. That’s the way it is. His risk, his reward.

Three years later, spinster Olsen’s home burns to the ground. It was a meager home of two small bedrooms, living room, and single bath she’d inherited from her late father. All had been lost. She’s a beloved member of the community, living on a small pension. The insurance she’d maintained on the house was found to not be enough. It only paid for about 20% of its value. She’d neglected to ever look to its provisions.

Her friends and neighbors felt terrible for her predicament. They managed to raise enough to get to 50% rebuild of her home. That’s not good enough they all felt, so they went to the Town Council.

The Council, not wanting to look uncaring, voted to issue 10yr Bonds. Some people bought those bonds. Spinster Olsen had her rebuilt home and all its replaced contents.

The next year, James sat on his front porch looking at his property tax bill. It had gone up. Cost of the Bonds. James hadn’t had the best of year; weather too dry. He could handle this amount of increase. Hope next year the weather is a little better. Nine more years to go.

It’s now two years later. James is getting by, the weather had been a bit better so he’d not felt any real bite from that increase. Everyone in the town is happy for spinster Olsen.

In late summer the dam lets loose. Wipes out a tenth of the peoples’ property; one thousand spinster Olsens. It’s catastrophic. Not enough can be raised directly, so to the Town Council they go. 30yr Bonds are issued. The Council said, “It takes a village.”

The next year, James sits on his porch and looks at his arrived property tax bill. He hangs his head low, uncertain as to tomorrow. What he could not see that day was that in three years the Sheriff would come to his farm. “Back taxes, James. Your farm’s been seized. Sorry.”

“What will I do now, Sheriff, I have no job, no income, no nothing.”

“Well, there’s Social Services.”

James thinks on that. Another, added to the rolls; me. Someone pays, it’s tax dollars. A penny increase here, a penny increase there. Yeah, soon it’s real money. I’ve done the analysis. Can’t run this farm with such high taxes. If only spinster Olsen had had savings, moved into an apartment till she’d saved up a bit more, then perhaps even gotten a loan she could afford.  Instead, I, and others, paid for it. No one asked me. Hell, I gave her a hundred bucks, of my money. Wish I still had that. Today I need it. Then there was the great flood. I paid for that, too. People are grumbling about the property taxes now. It’s getting tight on everyone. Heard Dan closed his shop. Business is way off. He’s on the rolls too now. I used to provide farm goods, at real good prices. Local. Now they’ll have to go elsewhere. Cost of acquisition will be higher. What a shame. Lori lost her job at the restaurant. It had bought goods from me. Had to let her go. Cost of keeping her had gone up, with the Council raising the minimum wage. Restaurant is trying to keep its prices down, stay in business.

Nope, they didn’t send spinster Olsen, or the flood victims, to Social Services. I wonder if her pension can cover her property taxes now. Me? I’m off to Social Services, wait in line with Lori, fill out forms, another in need of other peoples’ money.