IT MAKES NO CENTS

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It’s Friday, the week has gone well, you’re feeling pretty good, and this weekend promises to be exciting. Your daughter has her first dress rehearsal for the big dance recital, and you want to let her know how proud you are of her. So you head on over to the big box store (I mean, this isn’t the actual recital, after all!), to pick up a trinket for your darling. It takes pawing through every one of the bracelets, charms, and dangling beauties for you to finally locate the perfect pink and purple combination.

“Here we go,” you whisper to yourself, carefully checking to make sure that no eavesdropping customers are surreptitiously uploading a shot of your goofy grin, or pressing those three numbers to bring the gendarmes running to their rescue. “This is the one. She’ll love it!”

Grinning broadly, you picture the look on her face as you help her fasten the gewgaw on her delicate wrist. Approaching the register, you hand the treasure to the cashier.

“Isn’t that gorgeous!” gushes the clerk. “For you?”

“My daughter. She just loves these bracelets—must have ten of them. Usually she wears all of them at once.”

“So adorable,” she warbles, and turns to ring up the sale.

As you reach for your wallet, she smilingly hands you a $5.00 bill.

You shake your head, confused, and say, “No, I want to buy this lovely item. I’m not returning it.”

The clerk insists. “This is for you. Please take it.”

You shrug, figure this must be some new type of prebate, accept the money, then immediately offer the bill back to her as payment for your token.

But the cashier shakes her head. “That’ll be $11.00.”

“Eleven? But it says $5.00 on the shelf!”

“That was before we gave you the incentive.”

“Incentive? I didn’t need any incentive! I was going to buy the bracelet anyway! But the original price was only $5.00. Now you want the incentive back, plus the original price, plus another dollar? That’s more than twice the original cost! No thanks, I don’t want it any more. Here’s your incentive back. And you can keep the bracelet, too.”

As you hold out the bill, the cashier backs up, shaking her head and waving you off.

“No, you have to take it now.”

“But I don’t want it at that price,” you insist.

“But you took the incentive. Now you have to take the whole deal.”

“I didn’t know anything about the incentive! I would have never taken it if I’d known that you were going to jack up the price like this! I didn’t even need the incentive! And now, I don’t want the bracelet any more.”

“Oh, I think you do,” purrs the cashier, nodding as a uniformed officer approaches, hand on his gun.

You turn to him with relief.

“Good afternoon, officer, I’m glad you’re here,” you exclaim. “This cashier is trying to rip me off. She gave me this money, but now she’s charging me more than double the price on the shelf!” You take a step closer to hand him the bill.

“I’m not here for you,” he gruffs, as he stiff-arms you back a step. “I’m here to make sure that you don’t bother this poor lady, who is just trying to do her job. Now pay up, bub, before I have to make you.”

If this sounds like a ridiculous way of doing business, it is. The problem is that this is exactly the way the federal government works, minus the smiling cashier. They give customers (us) incentives to buy things (like the Chevy Volt), but in the process, the price of the subsidized item skyrockets all out of proportion to its initial cost, due to the inherent inefficiency in passing money around through fifty different agencies before it finally lands in your pocket. And that isn’t the only inefficiency in the system. Those agencies all have overhead, and employees, and must keep their lights on and their advertising going, and on and on. And someone must pay for all of that, as well. So by the time the final consumer has stashed away his $5, it has cost $75 or more to get that money into his hands. It would have been a much greater savings for all to have just let the Volt live or die on its own. But then we wouldn’t have been able to tout the productivity and innovation of the great American society. After all, it certainly isn’t as though anyone would willingly fork over hundreds of dollars for an iPad or Air Jordans without some major incentive.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Not only does the government offer prebates in order to get people to conform to the social engineering of the moment, the feds also give away millions of dollars per year to companies to grow or not grow, to make or not make, or to research or not research many other items, from sugar to solar to shale.

Now, understand, cutting the few measly millions spent each year on subsidies and incentives would not even make a dent in the federal budget. But it would be symbolic. And as we all know with the proposed hike in the taxes on the one-percenters, symbolism is important. The federal government is all about symbolism. Propping up their favored industries is one form of the constant social engineering they love to engage in.

Since so many unfavored businesses are able to stand on their own, though, it seems that we consumers can somehow figure out how to spend our money on what we want without the need for further justification. The only reason for the feds to provide a crutch to some businesses is to further their own agendas, agendas which do not always mesh with the ideals of the American public. And there is certainly no reason for the same people who claim to hold the health and safety of this nation in such high regard to give even one nickel to sugar and tobacco producers. And yet they do just that, year after year.

Let’s just say no to subsidies and incentives, and let the taxpayers keep at least a small portion of their hard-earned income—especially when some of those taxpayers are the very same businesses who are on the receiving end of the subsidy chain.Taxing the subsidies makes no sense in any universe I can dream up.

Stop all subsidies and incentives now, or at least pick one unlucky business to hammer, in order to get the ball rolling. Take the beginning, tiny step. Start somewhere, and once one subsidy has been removed, the drop can become a trickle, which can grow into a flow, and suddenly the floodgates open, the subsidy program is no more, and we wonder how we ever thought that preferential treatment for one business over another was a good idea. If businessmen shouldn’t run government, government certainly shouldn’t run businesses.

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Filed under Critical Thinking, Politics

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