Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Go Green: Why Should Richmond Subsidize Pollution Anyway?

Many area residents have followed the story of the government workers in the city of Richmond who have been double-dipping for their official-business transportation. I don't know the details of all this -- perhaps their pay stubs don't show the transportation reimbursement as a separate component, in which case it doesn't occur to them they were getting it. I don't pay much attention to each line item on my pay stub, either.

I don't particularly care, either way, because whether or not they were double-dipping is just window dressing. The best way to prevent problems like this is simply to eliminate their jobs.

But if Richmond taxpayers simply can't live without government workers interfering in their everyday life, perhaps the next best solution is for government employees to be required to use the same transportation system for their commuting & official business as they force all taxpayers to subsidize: The Bus. Employees should be given free tokens to do so, and should have to pay an "impact fee" if they choose to drive anyway.

According to the Virginia Employment Commission, there are 10,840 employees who get a city of Richmond paycheck. Interestingly, Richmond's own budget website says there are only 8,493. Must be some secret agents in there somewhere.

Besides the fact that not a single one of these folks produces new wealth to ultimately enrich everyone, how many have cars they have to park downtown? Let's say half of all employees work downtown, or about 5,000. Including hizzoner. Few of them carpool -- spend ten minutes marveling at the aggressive driving during the commuting hour and while doing so, observe how few cars are carrying more than one person. So, let's say there are 4,500 spaces taken up by Richmond government workers' cars every day.

At the same time, many in government will happily regurgitate the garbage science of anthropomorphic climate change; hypocritically while they are collecting fat bonuses to subsidize their trifling meddling around town and unspecified activities at cheap hotels. Here's where the rubber should meet the road. If government is going to force-feed the poison of discouraging private resource use and emissions, it should be the first to "go green". It should set the good example, rather than be the poster child for "do as I say, not as I do". Government employees should all be required to use GRTC (or ride a bike, or walk) to go from their homes as well as to go to and from all official-business appointments.

Think of how this will open up downtown to productive uses. Businesses require available parking at low cost to be able to produce wealth for the government to tax. Shoppers who used to avoid downtown will find thousands of welcoming parking spaces so they can do business with a thriving commercial area, rather than thousands of government workers' cars crowding them out.

Think also of other potential benefits. One would be that increased biking or walking will improve city workers' health. Better health means lower costs to the city for health insurance. Another would be the fact that thousands of government worker's cars taken off the roads will reduce the demand for fuel. Reduced demand means downward pressure on gas prices - a good thing for everyone.

Government employees generally accomplish little but the looting of the productive private sector. For that reason, their impact on society should be minimized or eliminated wherever possible. With one little change, the city of Richmond can re-open the commercial district, support its own bus service, and eliminate several million tons of emissions its workers inject into the atmosphere every day -- and lower the tax rate due to lower costs.

Later, we can move on to eliminating 29,449 state workers' and 5,942 federal workers' cars from the streets as well.


Marc Montoni lives in Henrico County with his family and serves as a member of the Libertarian Party State Committee. He is a network consultant and writer who often contributes to the city of Richmond's tax revenue by patronizing city establishments.

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