A working class hero is something to be.
— John Lennon (respect)
Correspondence: "You think you know so much, but you're always talking about something that you think is wrong. I never see you offer any solutions."
Response: "I don't think anyone would listen too closely to my ideas, but ..."
... Since you asked, I have come up with a carefully-considered five-step program that will genuinely help this community, state, region and country with their financial woes. This is not, as is typical, a knee-jerk reaction: "Just fire everybody ..." "Quit giving anybody anything ..." "Close everything down ..." Implementation would be easy, and the end results would be savings or increased income.
1. CURTAIL TRAVEL (for the local school system): When David Maschke ran for the Dougherty County School Board four years ago, he asked for and received a copy of travel expenses paid by the local system. The list was stunning, the cost astronomical, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars. Many of the trips, it turned out, were taken by several teachers from the same school who traveled to their destination separately and secured separate accommodations, all charged to the system.
Sorry, folks, but with amazing advances in technology, these "fact-finding" and "in-service" trips are no longer a necessity, other than to provide a taxpayer-funded vacation. If a conference is actually justified and can benefit the school system, an IT person can hook up a teleconference in a matter of minutes. Cut out the needless travel, and you can put more money where it belongs, in the classroom.
2. NO MORE FREE RIDES (for the state of Georgia): I did a story a while back about the state Regional Commission-sponsored travel program that provides transportation (yes, the little blue-and-white buses) for citizens to and from appointments. Meant for senior citizens and others who have no means of transport, the millions-of-dollars-a-year program is abused on a daily basis by the greedy segment of the population always looking for — and usually finding — a way to beat the system.
How frequently do we see these little buses tooling around the state with only one — two at the most — riders on board? And, as I learned while working on the story, if an individual has a medical appointment in, say Atlanta, he or she can secure a ride and count on doorstep-to-doorstep service. Sorry to those who don't game the system, but this money-waster should go away now.
3. WORK FOR WELFARE (for the nation): No, America should not quit taking care of its disabled or its widows and orphans. But it should stop giving money to able-bodied men and women who can't find — or refuse to look for — work. Give people a short — very short — period of grace, and then make their next check dependent on them completing 40-hour work weeks. Despite the acclaimed shortage of jobs, there are roads that need to be maintained and cleaned and projects that can utilize skilled and unskilled labor.
And, while we're here, it's time for prisons to be about more than "three hots and a cot." We need a return to the "Cool-Hand Luke" concept of road gangs sweating it out in the summer and working off the cold in the winter. (Where's Dragline when you need him?)
4. NO MORE LOOPHOLES (for the nation): Yes, in order to receive the necessary services that our various governments oversee, we should pay taxes. But should multi-billionaires — and presidential candidates — really be paying less money than their secretaries because they can afford to hire slick CPAs (an oxymoron?) to find ways around paying their fare share? I think we all can give a big "hell no" on that one.
The answer? A flat tax. Nobody escapes. Pick a rate — 15 percent, 20 percent, 25 percent — that's fair, and no one gets a penny until the tax is paid. It doesn't matter if you make $1,000 a year, $100,000 or $100,000,000, you pay your percent before the loot comes rolling in. No more government sissy-fighting over which group should pay what share. We all pay the same.
5. LEGALIZE (for the whole world): No, Sister, I don't smoke weed. But it's the world's No. 1 cash crop, and the only people making money off it are the Mexican, Afghani, Russian and Colombian cartels who would execute their mothers if they were two days late on a payoff. Let adults grow it, possess it and, yes, smoke it, but regulate the sales and manufacture just as you do booze.
Folks in Colorado and Washington can't be the only ones smart enough to see the benefits here.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.