Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can. Samuel Adams
Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions. James Madison
Almost any government activity can also be seen as taking property "without just compensation." The basic model of an unconstitutional "taking" would be if the government threw you out of your house. Michael Kinsley
(Who needs Samuel Adams, James Madison or even Michael Kinsley . . . when we have Corey Fong?)
Recently, the president of the ND Chamber of Commerce, Andy Peterson, used the police to attempt to intimidate townhall attendee, Palmer Reising, for raising an inconvenient question about the use of taxpayer funding for the Chamber’s anti-Measure 2 campaign. Reising referenced threatening body language as a part of the attempt to stifle his question. (Rob Port, sayanythingblog, May 5).
Reprehensible, indeed, but what body language could be as effective as an eviction notice to someone who, after years of belief that he owned his home, hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments over 30 years in principle, interest and property tax, is laid off, retired, his pension fund raided by the scum who do that sort of thing, who finds that therefore he can't pay his tax.
One of the prime features of a free society is the RIGHT to OWN PROPERTY. In North Dakota, as in many other places, this "right" does not exist in reality. It is a mirage. The proud "homeowner" here is nothing more than a tenant of the state. THE STATE OWNS "YOUR" HOME. There IS no "right of ownership" when the state (i.e. the county) can take your home away from you because you can't pay the rent on it. Property tax is the rent you pay the government for the right to occupy the property you thought was yours. It is a cruel deception.
Many people invest in "buying" their homes because they believe it is a rock-solid "investment" that will hold its value as they end their working careers and retire - a very important part of their life's work, in fact. Well, in fact, it isn't. It is only a very expensive lease.
Of all taxes, property tax is the most regressive - the hardest on the poor. Every renter pays it to his landlord, who then sends it on to the government. Every hard-working homeowner struggles for decades to "retire" his debt by the time he is himself retired. The elderly are then at the greatest risk of losing their home and shelter. They, and of course the disabled or those whose work ends sooner than expected through loss of business (ever hear of that during this depression?) or loss of the job they depended upon.
Nearly any other form of taxation is more fair to the poor, the elderly, the disabled and the under- or unemployed, temporarily or otherwise. Income tax is tied to actual income. If you lose that income the tax goes down with it. Sales tax is mostly - or can be structured to be mostly - voluntary. If you can't afford the tax on the new car or the electronics gadgets or the home improvement or the other stuff, you can decide to save longer for it or do without it. No one will put you out of your home and steal your life’s investment.
The reason why anyone would want to retain this property tax - which is high, compared with many other parts of the nation - is the addiction of “government types” to that unending stream of income – and power. They are government types instead of entrepreneurs precisely because they have not the vision to see what an opportunity looks like. North Dakota has billions in reserves. Yet these people want to continue to extort large taxes from struggling "homeowners" just so they can keep doing what they're doing and stay in their comfort zone. They don't ever stop to think of the stimulation the elimination of this tax would be to North Dakota's economy. The climate it would create for long-term business investment and construction of desperately needed homes, the relief that it would provide to North Dakota citizens who could then plan investments of their own here. Or just pump some much-needed cash into the economy through patronizing other businesses here. That is the key difference between a giver and a taker. The taker is grasping and clinging to THAT WHICH IS NOT HIS. The giver is more interested in what works than in hanging on to someone else's stuff.
So what is in this for these graspers? The astute reader will note that every time a city or county – or the state itself – wants to lure in an out-of-state investor the first line of enticement is to offer the tax abatement. “No tax for you – the rest of the community will carry your load for you if you come here.” Perfect. For them. And for the magnanimous bureaucrats and city councils who offer it. But you, the homeowner, won’t see that kind of treatment. You’ll be expected to pay for XYZ Corporation or be thrown out of your home. No excuses accepted. No exceptions. The thinking here is that this is a great come-on for investment in the community and YOU’LL be the big beneficiary because of the great effect it will have on your local community! Yea! So, why not exponentially increase this benefit? Why not spread it around to all taxpayers? Because, obviously, if you did THAT, you wouldn’t have all that power and influence to peddle anymore. And that would be a shame. No more sweetheart deals, no more kickbacks. Just plain old opportunity for all North Dakotans. No more unfair advantages to sell.
The State Tax Commissioner has officially projected a 7.7% increase in property tax over the next ten years. Let’s just cut to the chase and call that a 77% increase over the next ten years. There’s not a thing you can do about it. Will that be difficult for you? Will that raise housing costs? Will that discourage construction (when we desperately need this investment in the oil industry)? You think? Well, there IS one thing you can do. Vote YES on Measure 2 and put this specter back in its box for good.
Will the local fire department be shut down? No. The measure provides for full funding based on the current full funding. Will it hurt the schools? No. The measure provides full funding here as well. Will it rob us of “local control”? No. Because in Measure 2 itself, it provides that the decision making will remain local and the spending discretion will remain local. There is no threat at all to “local control”. The “KIL” (Keep It Local) gang would have you believe otherwise, would attempt to cover this up. But it’s right there in the measure. Read it. By voting Yes you will hurt only one entity – the consortium of big government hacks, parasitic agencies and those who wish to retain this power to gift some at the expense of others. At your expense. They don’t mind that these taxes are lower today than they will be at any time in the foreseeable future. That will be your problem, not theirs. Just try to argue with them when your bill comes due and you can’t pay it. Will it matter who’s right then? Who has made the investment? It is not your County Commission who has paid your mortgage and your taxes and interest all these years, not they who have maintained and improved your home, not they who have paid for insurance for 40 years, haggled with them over minor claims. It is just they who will come like a thief in the night at disposses you of that property if your good fortune comes a cropper and you lose a job, a business, your health or your youth. There are givers and takers.
Arguably, it is far easier to go to your state legislator with your petition for support. Your state representative or senator is acutely aware that you have leverage – your vote. Think about it – do you even KNOW who your county commissioners ARE? Do you know whom you send to Bismarck? More likely. County commissioners thrive on their relative anonymity. They coast back into office without anyone paying much attention. What they do is mostly not “page one” material. They work quietly to assess your valuations and bill you for the taxes. They quietly take away your home if you can’t pay – after your name has been smeared in the legal notices, of course. You are always on the defensive. Yes, you can vote for or against them, but do you know them? Do they campaign on issues that seem relevant? Will one do anything differently from another?
North Dakota continues to be dominated by the takers in this equation. Let us hope that the people of this state will overcome their timidity, look beyond the small minded threats of these desperate takers and above all, recognize the necessity of true property ownership in the scheme of a free society. IT IS SIMPLE: IT IS IMMORAL TO DEPRIVE AN 'OWNER' OF HIS PROPERTY AND CALL IT 'TAX'. THE RIGHT NAME FOR THIS IS 'THEFT'. If you want to do your state and its citizens a real service, VOTE YES on MEASURE 2.
Sally Morris is a member of Americans for Constitutional Government and the Executive Committee of the Valley Tea Party Conservative Coalition.