Two wrongs don't make a right

We all know that two wrongs don't make a right. You don't compound your error by repeating it, nor do you willfully make another error with the excuse of the first.

This lesson has been lost on many of our political leaders and voters. Here are three current examples.

In Syria, our president has made a complete mess of the whole situation from start to finish. The media keeps saying that Obama is doing things because he wants to secure his legacy. Of that, he has no worries; his legacy as the worst president in history is quite secure already. But I guess perhaps he wants to make absolutely sure no one takes his title in the future, because he keeps compounding his errors.

Let's say for the sake of argument that former President Bush was wrong to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. With the mostly poor record of the "Arab Spring" revolts, and how disorganization and power vacuums have created lots of misery and no better cases of democracy, perhaps our policies should have been to keep these strongmen-dictators in place until we were pretty sure of a better solution for the region and its people.

But when Obama took office, all that was water under the bridge. He ran for and accepted the job as it was. Continually blaming former president Bush for his perceived mistakes is simply crying over spilt milk.

So whether Obama likes it or not, the U.S. has taken on a responsibility for stability in that region, and deciding to basically withdraw and allow the Soviets (shouldn't we start calling them that again, as they rebuild their empire?) to come in and start running the region is completely wrong on just about every level. But this is what happens when you put a community organizer in charge of foreign policy.

If we assume that Bush was wrong to go in, Obama is just as wrong to pull out.

Example number two concerns a bunch of the Republican candidates for President. There are several requirements for being a credible candidate. At a minimum, you should have good executive experience, you should have some government experience, you should have some integrity and be as honest as a politician can be. Of course, your track record is also an issue.

Candidate Donald Trump is not a real Republican, but that should not disqualify him to run as one, so long as he can get the support of Republican primary voters. Excluding credible candidates from the mainstream political process produces independent runs (see: Ross Perot) which skews our results in unforeseen ways, and which gives us illegitimate results if candidates end up winning election as president with less than majority support from voters.

But as someone who plans on voting in the Republican primary, Trump's history and statements do not mirror my positions well enough for me to support him, even as I agree with several of his positions. His lack of government experience and not having a political track record to know what his positions really are is problematic.

Candidates like Ben Carson are excellent, and it is great to see new faces who can run credible campaigns. Let him win a Senate election and then run again with some government experience. Same with Carly Fiorina.

I have heard some say that candidates like Trump or Carson or Fiorina have more experience overall than candidate Obama had when he ran, having been a community organizer and then serving less than a full term in the U.S. Senate. That is true, but that doesn't mean we should give a pass to candidates who simply don't have the breadth of quality experience for the job.

Finally, in Acton, we have our new Senior Center building committee, which has recently been affirmed by the Board of Selectmen (BOS) to focus their efforts on building a new Senior Center and not pursuing a "community center" component for the project.

The argument that I have heard repeatedly is that seniors are being neglected in Acton. Our taxes are very high and seniors don't get much benefit from this, and that may be one reason they leave town. Maybe if they had a new senior center, things would be fairer for them.

But if a new senior center is going to require an increase in taxes, then that negates the whole argument for the proposal. Seniors are already very sensitive to higher property taxes, so to raise them for this project is probably going to push out as many people as it may attract. You can't raise taxes to build things for people who are moving out because taxes are already too high; it makes no sense and it simply won't work.

Instead, if the need is proven that the current senior center is now or soon will be inadequate for Acton's senior population, how about we redistribute some of the funds from our huge town and school budgets towards more senior services and keep taxes where they are? Surely there is room in the budgets when inflation is going up about 1% per year but taxes are going up 3-5% per year? Surely we can spare half of next year's potential 5% spending increase to pay the debt service on a new building, rather than increasing taxes to pay for even more spending?

The School budget is clearly bloated, with huge annual salary increases, paying people for not working, and spending tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees to prevent disclosure of public documents. I could cut $1 million from the school budget without a single layoff. All you'd have to do is tie individual staff salary increases to the annual inflation rate and you'd save a million dollars or so every single year, if not more.

If you wanted to save even more money, increase the percentage that town and school employees pay for health insurance to the average paid in the private sector. Right now, taxpayers are paying 75% of the cost, which is much higher than what employers pay in the private sector. Let's knock that down to 50% or 60% and that will save a bundle every year.

We could freeze taxes where they are today and still build a new senior center and maybe that would actually encourage older people to consider staying in town a little longer. Or maybe Acton's taxes are already so high that a few band-aids are not going to change that fundamental equation very much for most seniors contemplating a $10,000 or $15,000 annual property tax bill with no kids in our school system.

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