I've heard a lot of reasons for raising taxes over the years. Most of them were pretty mundane. "We need more money to keep kids from starving," Commissioner Somebody O'Another would say. "We need more money for more police to keep you safe," Mayor UBettim Wonderful would intone.
There were variations on the theme: Potholes don't fix themselves, you know, and the pipes are making our water taste rusty. So dig a little deeper, the mayor and commissioner say.
Frankly, at this stage of my life and career, it all sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher to me: Wah, wah, wah.
When the day started Wednesday, who could have predicted that a fellow West Texan would break new ground in justifying a tax hike? Before I read Tom Head's justification for raising Lubbock County taxes, all I had to look forward to was the gossipy chatter of the pirates who play in the Wednesday night poker game.
But the Lubbock County judge opened new vistas. Instead of the derision that greeted his comments on a Lubbock television station on Aug. 21, Head ought to be recognized for raising that clichÃ©d bar sky-high. From now on, local politicians seeking to justify a tax increase are going to have to top Head.
In case you've just beamed down from Mars, the good judge told Channel 34, the Fox affiliate in Lubbock, that county taxes had to go from 32.9 cents per $100 valuation to 34.6 cents per $100 valuation to ensure national security. A 1.7-cent rise in the county tax rate is a cheap price to pay to make Lubbock County a bulwark against a United Nations takeover.
If President Barack Obama is re-elected in November, Head declared, "I'm thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe." The tax increase is necessary to fund contingency plans, the judge continued. Obama, Head said, will turn the U.S. over to the U.N. Resistance will naturally follow. "And we're not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy."
Well, there you go.
Judge Head will see your pothole and raise you a Concord.
That national defense tactic is so breathtaking in its simplicity that it's a wonder the self-proclaimed geniuses who populate Austin's political scene didn't think of it first. Well, maybe they did, come to think of it, but not on the scale that fellow in Lubbock did.
In the run-up to the primary, most Republican candidates we talked to were running flat out against Obama no matter what level of office they were seeking. They just didn't go that extra step. I can't imagine why, because there is a segment of the population yearning for a hero to protect them from blue helmets and black helicopters.
Into that void stepped my man Judge Head.
"He's going to send in U.N. troops," Head predicted. "I don't want 'em in Lubbock County. So I'm going to stand in front of their armored personnel carrier and say 'You're not coming in here.' And the sheriff, I've already asked him, I said, 'You gonna back me?' He said, 'Yeah, I'll back you.' Well, I don't want a bunch of rookies back there. I want trained, equipped, seasoned veteran officers to back me."
Attaboy, judge. I wouldn't want a bunch of rookies backing me either. I was in the mechanized infantry, so I'm familiar with what an APC is all about. It's serious bidness. But let's trade war stories later. Back to this one.
I'm certainly pleased that Head isn't one of those chicken hawks who talk a good game but never could get around to putting on a uniform when they had the chance. He's willing to lead or at least he was for awhile.
Unfortunately, the good judge started to crawfish a little when his comments hit the big time. Head, a former police officer, told the Lubbock Avalanche Journal that his comments were all together now, class taken out of context.
To put the comments in context, Head said, "As emergency management director, I have to think of the worst-case scenario, and I used that as an example."
Now, a U.N. takeover of Lubbock is undeniably worst-case, but, "Does that mean that I think the U.N. is going to come rolling into Lubbock? No, that probably is not going to happen," Head said.
Does that mean he won't need that tax increase after all? He didn't say.
Arnold Garcia Jr. is editorial page editor at the Austin American-Statesman in Austin, Texas.