I’d Like My Money Back

April 15, 2009

President Barack Obama
Representative Barbara Lee
Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Donald R. White, Alameda County Tax Collector
Mayor Ron Dellums

Messieurs and Mesdames,

Rather than my usual practice of remitting taxes to you on this, your high holy day of April 15, I am this year writing to request a return of all monies previously remitted, for non-performance of services promised.

As evidence for my claim:

National Security
Contrary to the promise of a “Peace Dividend” following the collapse of the Soviet Empire, you have alternatively pursued a series of reckless adventures and preemptive “actions” globally that have reduced the security of residents of the United States. Despite other promises, the U.S. will not leave a rebuilt country, stable society, or democracy when and if it ostensibly pulls its troops out of Iraq. As you may recall, pre-invasion estimates for achieving “success” in Iraq ranged from $30-60 billion; as of December, 2008, the cost to date is estimated at $900 billion—qqqprojected to climb to $2.3 trillion or more. Meanwhile, though Americans were led to believe that Afghanistan was secured years ago, such turns out not to be the case: you have acknowledged, Pres. Obama, that the “Taliban is resurgent and Al-Qaeda threatens America from its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border;” Pakistan has ceded one province to the Taliban, with more likely to follow. And just as a question: where is Osama bin Laden? Perhaps you all would have done well to heed the Independent Institute’s solution, proposed in September of 2001 and in accordance with provisions actually found in the U.S. Constitution, to let privateers bring bin Laden in for justice.

As documented in numerous ways by countless researchers, the United States public school system is an abysmal failure, with California’s among the worst of the worst. The Institute for Research on Education Policy & Practice at Stanford released a report “Getting Down to Facts: School Finance and Governance in California,” showing, among other things, that California public schools still rank among the very worst in the entire nation; the state imposes one-size-fits-all rules in a manner the report terms “regulationitis;” it has no coherent way of supporting, developing, identifying and keeping quality teachers, or removing ineffective ones; its education data systems are so bad that it’s impossible for schools to share information about what’s working and what isn’t (such as how many students are dropping out); and the state hands out education dollars irrationally and then largely prohibits principals from deciding how best to spend them. Thus, your problem is NOT needing more money.

Meanwhile, my husband and I expended our own after-tax dollars to procure alternative educational services for our children—qqqas do 25% of all Bay Area families, and more than 34% of Bay Area public school teachers.

Roads are in ruinous condition and provide inadequately for road services demanded. Meanwhile, taxes collected as “earmarked” for road construction and maintenance are instead diverted to general funds use. Your gazillion-dollar rebuild of the Oakland-San Francisco bridge, ostensibly necessitated by its failure in the 1989 earthquake, was originally slated to open this year at a cost of $1.1 billion. It is most recently projected to open in 2013 (24 years after the earthquake!), at a cost of $6.3 billion. You have thus demonstrated gross incompetence that merits replacement.

In a past career with a firm that owned, leased and managed fleets of thousands of rail cars operating across North America, I saw first-hand an incredibly efficient and equitable system whereby every rail car in the entire continent is equipped with a small transponder, from which information is collected by railroad owners at thousands of points along their tracks. Each rail car owner is then billed for its use of each mile of every railroad. The entire process is highly automated and virtually seamless.

Before the government got into the road-provision business, there were, for example, three competing toll roads from which to choose for travel between the San Francisco Peninsula/San Mateo bayside and nearby Pacific coast. There is now one, publicly provided and “free,” and my use of it on Easter Sunday demonstrated its inadequacy. I would therefore prefer to opt for such a private arrangement for my future transport needs.

Police Services
Oakland is virtually the poster child for violent crime in the U.S. The tragic recent deaths of four police officers are just the latest senseless murders for this city ranked fifth in crime in the U.S. Meanwhile—qqqsurprise!—qqqno one tracks response times for government emergency responders—qqqpolice, fire, paramedics. No wonder the government’s own latest proposed solution is to hire private security officers to patrol the streets.

Our neighbors and we long ago created a neighborhood watch group, and banded together to pay for a private patrol service—qqqon top of each of our individual home alarm systems—qqqand we quickly share information on any suspicious activity via a neighborhood-wide email group.

In sum, please refund the taxes collected fraudulently for services never provided. If you need additional evidence, please do not hesitate to ask: there’s plenty more where this came from.

Very truly yours,
Mary Theroux

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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