StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

Are 4th of July Parades Wasteful Government Spending?

08 Jul 2013
Posted by Stan Collender
posted back in April about how some businesses in Colorado were doing the equivalent of voluntarily paying additional taxes when the sequester spending cuts forced Yellowstone National Park not to do its customary spring snow removal on park roads. Waiting for the snow to melt rather than plowing it off the roads threatened to reduce the number of visitors to the areas surrounding the park and, therefore, the amount of business the very tourist-heavy stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. would do.
To deal with this, many in the business community decided to pay for the snow removal themselves. As I said in my post, this was the equivalent of an increase in taxes. There was no increase in service and no reduction in the amount these businesses paid to the federal government, they just an additional amount to a different entity -- the snow removal services.
Lydia DePillis reported much the same thing in The Washington Post this past weekend when she wrote about how businesses and some individuals were paying for the 4th of July celebrations -- especially parades -- that previously had been provided by local governments. In some cases the reduced local government spending was the result of the recession. In other cases it was the result of the sequester reducing federal aid to state and local governments.
Either way, federal spending cuts led some businesses and communities to directly sponsor the Independence Day events by writing checks or contributing to foundations that then paid for them. In both cases the payments were in addition to state, local and federal taxes that were not reduced to go along with the reduced services. They therefore qualify as the equivalent of a voluntary increase in taxes.
There are two ironies to this situation.
First, it demonstrates quite conclusively that some government services that many might classify as frivolous, wasteful or simply unnecessary -- like parades, fireworks and military bands -- are actually very, very popular and will always be hard to eliminate.
Second, the companies and individuals that contributed to qualified nonprofit foundations to pay for the parades and fireworks may have gotten a tax deduction for doing so. That means that, in spite of the effort to reduce costs and the deficit, the events may have cost federal, state and local governments anyway through reduced revenues.

There's a third essential

There's a third essential point to all of this that must not be ignored. Even if this kind of shifting of costs were completely fiscally neutral, and practical outcomes were identical, right-wingers LOVE this stuff.

This is because it fits in perfectly with their long game of convincing voters that government can't do anything useful, thus reducing confidence in government, and thereby greasing the wheels electorally for desired privatization of profits and socialization of losses. They love nothing more than poison pills like sequester that are intentionally designed to destroy the ability of government to do the useful things it is intended for. Then they can gleefully turn around and point to the ineffectiveness of government.

I know I say this all the time, but Stan, you really need to wrap your mind around the fact that the right-wing Republican Party is not at all interested in any outcome other than the complete neutering of the federal government. You seem to think that they actually care about things like making sure roads are plowed, poor people don't die in the streets, etc, and that there is simply an ideological difference between them and Democrats on how to achieve those uncontroversial ends.

This is delusional. The Republican Party seeks to completely undermine the relationship of trust between the governed and the government, thereby making it easier and easier for their real constituents--not the racist misogynist homophobic culture warriors, but the super-rich transnational robber barons like Romney--to complete the job of looting the public wealth of the nation.

Just to make clear it was not

Just to make clear it was not businesses in Co but rather businesses in Cody and Jackson Wy, which makes more sense as these cities are gateways to Yellowstone. A question was there any contribution from West Yellowstone MT, or Gardner, MT to the effort? (Its that these are the two other gateway cities that would be affected, or is it perhaps that these routes got plowed earlier anyway. In the Cody case I suspect the East Entrance is a low priority route into the Park, and I can believe the south entrance (Jackson, Wy) might be as well.

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