We've had our version of the Aesop fable The Grasshopper and the Ant, loaded with lessons for our time or any other. The story has it that the lazy grasshopper whiles away his summer days singing and hopping and having an all-around good time.
The hardworking ants work, march and struggle to carry food crumbs to their anthill, storing up for that stormy, rainy day. Indeed, the inevitable happened. Came the stormy rainy days and the industrious ants have something to munch on while the fun-loving grasshopper squeezes his empty and painful tummy. He begs for some food but is refused by the ants.
Let's do an initial review of the moral of this fable. Government, the grasshopper in this little morality tale, is constantly trying to get its citizens, the ants, to cough up more and more of what they've earned by the sweat of their brows so that it might pay for its own needs, according to Cal Thomas, co-author of the book, Common ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America.
The latest tax measure from the Legislature was the $15 tax against visitors. Most recently, there's the tax legislation designed to tax foreign investors for establishing their offices here. But the exogenous taxes, ethnically intended for outsiders, would exact the complete opposite in revenue generation.
It's bad enough the closure and exit of businesses, forced by the highly prohibitive cost of utilities. And you still want to sink the balance of private industries with more tax mirage? Whatever happened to common sense? I suppose the grasshoppers' wings are riddled with holes, thus the inability to employ intellectual acuity and clarity or at least some common sense.
Reality check, anybody?
Can the Legislature explain the wisdom behind indiscriminate tax increases in a woefully bad business or economic climate? The issue is very simple: As businesses close and the tax base contracts, there won't be that many to tax, is there? How could this simple common sense escape your nimble minds?
I suppose that the notion of the ants in this case being “foreign,” therefore it's fine to tax them to death? Haven't they assimilated into the local community? Said Thomas: “Only if the tax-and-spend 'grasshoppers' start feeling the heat from the taxpaying 'ants' are they likely to reverse course. Some of that heat may soon be coming from people who are fed up enough to act. There are reports of wealthy individuals and some businesses from states with high taxes, including Maryland and certainly California, moving to states with a lower state tax, or no state tax at all.” It's a timely lesson meriting quick review and emulation from among our airheads who have themselves become giant grasshoppers.
Said Thomas further: “The economic lesson is this: Human nature has demonstrated that if government can squeeze more money out of its citizens without having to cut wasteful spending, it will; and if citizens can get other people's money without having to earn it, they will become addicted to government and come to regard the sustenance as an entitlement.
Europe's fiscal crisis
He noted that much of Europe is in crisis today “because it has become a victim of its own welfare state. Instead of industry, there is indolence. Economies are in trouble because government, not the individual, has become supreme. France just elected a socialist president, rejecting necessary austerity. The European gravy train has derailed.”
Thomas concluded: “The moral lesson is this: When government takes money from people who earn it, government has a responsibility to spend it wisely and in ways that achieve the ends set down in our founding documents. Chief among these is that noble sentiment found in the Preamble to the Constitution about promoting “the general welfare.”
“By 'spreading the wealth around,' rather than teaching and encouraging individuals to build wealth for themselves, government robs people of the joy produced by human initiative; indeed it takes from them one of the building blocks that makes us unique among living things: the dignity and reward of work.” It's good for leadership to retreat if only to shore up lost common sense so prominently replaced by ignorance.
We can't afford being grasshoppers anymore. We must adopt the industry of ants to recapture and rebuild these isles. With persistent economic contraction, investment decelerations and growing distrust in government, the urgency for an organized plan requires serious attention, not myopic and reactive mindsets and approaches.
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.