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January 30, 2008

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Jim A

Charlie, this is a very interesting topic. I'll add two cents about the social safety net, and whether retirees are interested in social safety nets when they decide where to live. Many years back, with kids in primary school, I sat on a PTA Executive Board and heard one of our PTA parents objecting to 'capitation-based revenue sharing' and the idea that citizens of our fairly wealthy school zone within the county should have to pay taxes to finance the schooling of kids living in the less wealthy school zones. The underlying concept was that "every boat should have its own bottom." Her sentiment was consistent with the idea that our tax dollars should be spent on the schooling of kids in our zone and not on the schooling of anyone else's kids. As I was framing a response, one of the grandmothers in the audience (a retiree) stood up, and pointed out that a new and inexpensive light rail system had recently connected our rural zone with downtown zones, much to the satisfaction of our 'green' locals. This initial comment prompted a little apprehension in the crowd, some of whom later told me that they had worried about cognitive aging and a possible 'non sequitur' senior moment. But grandmother went on to note that the light rail line included stops in the middle of the least wealthy school zones of our county. She then said that for the first time in memory her neighbors were experiencing break-ins, loss of tv sets and other electronic equipment, etc. She wondered whether it was true that we would be better off if we were to focus our tax dollars solely upon the kids in our own school zone, and what might happen if we were to create large disparities in school revenues, zone by zone. She didn't have to say much else. Her challenge was enough to remind us all of the value of the social safety net, as well as the consequences when one of our community members (and the child of the family) falls so low as to provoke challenges to public safety and well-being. It is true that some retirees move to low tax states or jurisdictions without looking into trends in the quality of the local schools and the local crime rates. One can hope that more retirees are looking into the quality of the schools, the crime rate, and the social safety nets that help us keep one another from falling so low -- with an eye toward the well-being of the polities and aspects of community well-being that never will be captured in the tax schedule. Goodcheer! Jim

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