The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

July 13, 2012

If it looks like a tax, smells like a tax, walks like a tax, it maybe a fee


— To most people other than war, tax is the worst three-letter word we have.

But most people are wrong. There is a worse word: fee.


I smell the hard-earned money of the common American person,

Be he or she alive, or be he or she dead,

I’ll raise your taxes or I’ll raise  your fees.

 That is how it goes. Don’t give them what they want and they will figure out a different way to pick our pockets.

One of the issues that is emerging so far in this rather dismal general election year is the notion fees are nothing more than masked taxes.

Well, they are worse than that. Bravo though for raising the issue. It is time the issue came to the forefront.

 In the past I have railed against fees because I have always felt they are nothing more than a tax. But I guess I am taking that back because you get at least one benefit from nearly all taxes, except the federal income tax. That benefit is to deduct those taxes from your income tax return.

Think about all the fees we have. To get married you  pay a  marriage license fee. To have a dog you have to pay a dog license fee.  To own a car or other motorized vehicle for on road use you have to pay a license plate fee. To drive those vehicles you have to pay a license fee. Some communities make you pay a license on your bicycle.

During the transfer of real estate from one person to another, a transfer fee is assessed.

If you challenge a speeding ticket in court and lose you pay court cost fees. I happen to believe speeding tickets are nothing more than making you pay a fee for any speed in excess of the posted limit. Communities have speed traps so they can find motorists to levy fees on.

Since many public school districts have failed to get their constituents to pass increases on their property taxes they have instituted new types of fees, such pay for play.

 For example, at Lakeside High School a student must pay a $200  fee to participate in a single sport.  If that were called a tax it would be considered a hefty tax increase.

People who we deem professionals, such as lawyers, doctors and teachers  must pay license fees.

Some fees probably make sense, such as water, sewer and trash pickup fees.

 But on the whole, most fees are bad. Also, we have many more than I have mentioned.

In football they call it an end around when turning what should be a tax into a fee.

An end around happens when a wide receiver starts on one side of the field and runs across to the opposite side. As he crosses the backfield the  quarterback hands him the ball.

Once the receiver has the ball he has a couple of options: He can either continue running the ball to the outside, or he can throw the football to another receiver, or perhaps hand it back to the quarterback.

 There are variations. It is all part of the deception. The quarterback may never hand it off to the receiver.

The play provides the quarterback with a fake option of either handing off the ball or continuing on to run,  pass or hand it off for someone else to run it. If it works, the defensive team so to say is “fleeced”, or hoodwinked or, picked apart.

You get the picture. Officeholders are the quarterback and receiver, and the other team — the one that is about to have its pockets picked — are the people.

 There are at least two reasons other than the deception, why fees are worse than taxes:

— They are  usually enacted by a governing body, such as a city council or school board, instead of a vote of the people. It amounts to taxation without representation.

— They cannot be deducted from your federal or state income tax returns.

The issue came to light this year when President Obama’s re-election campaign challenged Mitt Romney’s assumption he cut taxes while governor of Massachusetts (AKA Taxachusetts.) has been watchdogging politicians on what they say.  In regards to this challenge from the  Obama campaign, FactCheck said the Obama campaign exaggerated it claims.

 However,  FactCheck did say under Romney, Massachusetts increased  license fees for large commercial vehicles and motorcycles, but not drivers licenses. Fees also were increased for recreational hunting and gun ownership and for some types of fishing.

Romney also gave individual school districts the right to assess students with a transportation fee. Other fees he raised or instituted were 100 percent increases on a milk dealer licenses as well as a 100 percent increases on pasteurization plants. There were other fees raised during Romney’s  tenure in office as well.

 It is time to get rid of most fees. Drop them altogether or call them what they are: A Tax.

 Since our elected officeholders would not dare to do such as thing, a proposed constitutional amendment could be voted by the people that seeks to end all fees.

 Then, it would force officeholders to go before the voters and ask for a dog tax, an auto tax, a drivers tax, a football playing tax, a marriage tax, a birth tax, a death tax, right to sell milk tax, driving miles per hour tax, etc., etc., etc., etc.

For the record, FactCheck said Romney who worked with a Democratic legislature in Massachusetts never cut taxes.

Frieder is editor of the Star Beacon and can  be reached at