“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.”
Those are the words of Donald Gardner’s novelty Christmas song written in 1944 while he was teaching music to a second-grade class in Smithtown, N.Y. I’ve sung those words myself, with the usual “lisp” while awaiting new teeth to fill a gap in my smile. Today, in spite of the fact that I’m still missing a couple of teeth, my Christmas wish list is a bit more complex.
I know that this holiday season is a season for giving; however, the child in us all more often than not remains hopeful that Christmas and the New Year will be a time when some of our wishes come true. Every day, I wish and pray for peace on earth and goodwill among all mankind. Prosperity for all to include a roof overhead, enough to eat and drink, and continued good health will always be on my list. And, like my list of things I am thankful for (which were in my column the Sunday after Thanksgiving), I thought I’d tell you some things that are on my wish list.
Nationally, I wish for reason and sensibility to return to the Congress of the United States. Similar to the “Know Nothing Party” (their actual name was the American Party) of the 1850s, fringe groups as well as the traditional national parties have polarized their own members to the extent that significant necessary legislation cannot move forward. The Know Nothings of their time were bent on eliminating immigration, and their uncompromising approach fueled riots and demonstrations that looked a lot like the “occupy” movement today. A reasonable and sensible Congress — one that is focused on the American people, not re-election, and is willing to compromise on issues, not principles — working across party lines could return this nation to the greatness achieved over the past 200 years. If this wish comes true, then Congress might once again “know something.”
I wish for major tax reform, both nationally and within our state. Simply settling on one word to describe the act of paying for government would be a great start. Tax, fee and, most recently, surcharge all have the same core meaning. A friend of mine described “surcharge,” the latest politically correct term for how we pay for government, in terms of profiling: “Let’s add a surcharge to the rich” sounds like “let’s add strip searches to people who are not like us.”
Taxation should be fair and equitable (I could live with some degree of graduated tax). Instead of the current “some pay all,” let’s move to “all pay some.” Regardless of your feelings about Herman Cain — and let’s not argue about the specific percentages — his “nine-nine-nine” flat rate tax proposal made a great deal of sense. On the state level, Pennsylvania has had a generally flat-rate state personal income tax for years, and it seems to have worked.
In Maryland, I wish for significant tort reform and major changes in the way money from the transportation trust fund is allocated. Particularly in the health care arena, all three legs of the “proverbial health care stool” (provider, insurer and the tort system) need a makeover or health care costs will ultimately make affordable and available health care a thing of the past. As for transportation funding, we can no longer allow mass transit to suck up the majority of transportation dollars while local roads continue to degrade. In both cases — tort reform and transportation funding, I don’t have a solution; so, my wish is for someone who does to come forward.
Locally, I’ll continue to wish for consolidations of governmental services like police, fire and rescue, plans and permits, zoning, telephone service, information technology services, personnel services, vehicle maintenance and procurement services. Tradition and parochialism cost us thousands of dollars each year. In today’s technology-driven era, we have the capability to economically and efficiently provide services without the requirement for separate organizations, facilities and the inherent overhead such separation brings. Finally, I wish that local governments would simply implement more and study less.
I know that I might have been too political, so, my simple wish is for you to have a Merry Christmas and the happiest New Year. If that offends you for some religious or secular reason, then lift out the words merry and happy and wish for me, in your own way, the very best in this time of the year because that is what I wish for you.
Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.