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Published November 28 2010

Local flood tax makes good sense

For the first time in a long time, my wife and I canceled each other’s votes on an important ballot measure in the North Dakota elections. Whatever else we might disagree on, it usually isn’t politics.

The split wasn’t on Measure 2, which proposed banning “canned hunts.” How a single North Dakotan could have voted “yes” on that measure escapes me. No one considers canned hunts to be the real thing; they have no effect whatever on open hunting in our state; and as one writer noted, there’s no difference between shooting an elk behind a fence and shooting a steer likewise. The initiative was a solution in search of a problem.

Nor was it about Gov. John Hoeven’s ascension to a senatorship. Neither of us could vote for a man who promises warmongering as usual in Washington, D.C., thus guaranteeing that as many North Dakota children as possible get killed in forsaken wars across the globe, for nothing.

No, after years of being a card-carrying member of the Old Right, a rock-ribbed paleoconservative, appalled foe of modern conservatism and liberals, and despiser of big government and big taxes, for the first and likely the last time, I voted for a tax increase. Sorry to disappoint.

There were excellent reasons to oppose the countywide half-cent sales tax. But it seemed to me, following a tradition that is now long dead, that none of us has a right to impose the financing of our local or regional needs on others on the outside. What case can be made that an Alabama farmer and an Idaho lumberjack must ante up, at IRS gunpoint if necessary, to protect us from Red River Valley flooding?

Flood protection is at most a state matter, although perhaps an argument is to be made that protection as massive as the proposed diversion can’t be handled solely at the state level. Still, spreading the cost over the 12-15 years the project will take, if it ever gets started, does appear to be feasible given North Dakota’s projected surpluses.

At any rate, local taxpayers should pick up a significant share of the cost of this matter and others. It’s wrongheaded to see federal grants given for local problems such as law enforcement fighting drunken driving; this is as clear a matter for local control as one can find. The amount of funding we’re willing to spend on such things is our affair, and no one else across the country should be obliged to fund our preferences.

James Madison believed that there was nothing in the Constitution “which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” That’s why liberals hate that document: It restricts their power to spend to only enumerated objects, although cowardly progressives will hide behind the Constitution when usurpers such as George W. Bush come along.

Here’s to the flood tax being put to good use.

Nelson is a Fargo postal worker and regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary page. E-mail r.cnelson@702com.net