Taxes. Everybody hates them. Well, those who actually pay them hate them. At any rate, taxes are evil – at least according to the predominant Utah right-wing Republican ideology.

Taking people’s money away always makes the economy worse. And on top of that, it is wrong to take money from some to give to others, even if you’re trying to do something good. It’s called Stalinism.

Enter the Salt Lake County Council. Recently, they voted to reduce the salaries of county employees by 2.75 percent in 2010. The County has a daunting budget to overcome, and this measure will save almost $5 million, no insignificant chunk of change.

Roughly 4,000 county employees will have their paychecks docked, and the county gets the money. This sounds familiar, though. It’s almost as if these employees are themselves being taxed. Not only taxed, but taxed in order to continue providing the necessary services of local government. Where’s McCarthy when you need him – I think there are some Stalinists up north.

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There really is something hypocritical, or least self-deceptive, going on in Salt Lake county. These employees are being asked to foot a disproportionate piece of the bill to govern a much larger polity, even though they are the very people doing the actual down and dirty work of making a government operate.

Are we so averse to taxes in this state that we are willing to punish the few people who least deserve to be punished in order to save the rest of us from a minor increase in our own contribution?
These employees are not the richest of the rich, who you might think would be the ones to single out for financial punishment if you had to choose. They are middle class workers, the very kind of people one might think are extremely important to a functioning local economy.

In ancient Greece when something terrible happened, a famine or a plague or a bad harvest, it was sometimes the case that a city state would choose a citizen, called a pharmakos, send them off into the wilderness, and either leave them to die, or actively seek to kill them. This was done in order to purge and cleanse the city of the problem that had beset it. Is the County Council not treating its employees, in a way, like just such a pharmakos? That’s bitter medicine.
In our own county and at our own university, we ought to consider this example when faced, as we undoubtedly will be, with similar choices. Even if we are against “sharing the wealth,” we ought to be in favor of sharing the burden of paying for local government instead of dumping it on the very people who make it work for us.