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Apologists have no humility

| Monday, Dec. 29, 2003

The endemic sense of entitlement infecting Pittsburgh is why it is being rushed from the intensive care unit to fiscal life support. Symptoms include insatiable greed, hallucinations of moral superiority, and a condescending arrogance that manifests itself whenever city dwellers compare their value to suburbanites.

Some Pittsburgh politicians, the 'Burgh's businessmen and city scions are prescribing a quick quack cure. They want to stick it to suburbanites by getting another transfusion of money from suburbs to city.

The effect of the 1 percent piggyback sales tax in Allegheny County, for so-called "regional assets," is wearing off.

The only antidote for Grant Street is a mega-dose of humility. It is available over-the-counter, but it is a bitter pill to swallow.

Taxing suburbia

The apologists have a scheme for this latest bailout -- increasing the $10 occupation tax several hundred fold. It is paid by anyone who works within the city limits, the vast majority of whom happen to be suburbanites.

If the state allows this expansion of taxation without representation, Mayor Tom Murphy's $40 million budget deficit headache would be cured. However, this curing process will not save Murphy's bacon. It only delays the inevitable. Future deficits have been projected into the $100-million range.

Most Pittsburgh politicians, as well as many of the rich and famous, are pimping for increasing the occupation tax on suburban working families.

Pittsburgh's power lunchers use different arguments, but the premise always is the same. And few, if any, who oppose this latest taxation outrage call them on it.

Many Pittsburghers believe you owe them.

Their sense of entitlement is a chronic condition from decades of one-party rule that liberally promised everyone everything -- from saltboxes to stadiums, pools to pensions, and redevelopment to renaissances. Money was no object, until now that the overdue bills are piling up higher than unearthed corpses in Baghdad.

Biting the bullet

Grant Street believes that it can tax its way to prosperity, but only if suburbanites are taxed. Their insatiable greed prevents Pittsburghers from biting the bullet, such as the one proposed by City Councilman Sala Udin. He believes that if suburbanites cannot be taxed more, the city must raise property taxes by 40 percent and wage taxes by 50 percent. Works for me.

City residents can exhibit a smug moral superiority when they talk about their urban lifestyle -- that it somehow is more noble, or cooler, or whatever, compared to suburban living. To them, townhouses trump Tudors.

They say the suburbs cannot exist without the city. They do not care about the economic welfare of suburban families because, to city dwellers, the suburbs do not matter. That is, unless suburbanites can be milked dry by squeezing them with both hands in a death grip around their cash flow.

If the apologists had any humility, they would accept responsibility for decades of supporting the gross mismanagement of the city. Then, they would sell off city assets and cut costs -- or else raise their own taxes. Or a combination of those plans.

Unfortunately for most people in the region, save for the small percentage of those remaining in the city, affluent suburbs are just what the doctor ordered.

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