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State budget shortfalls in Minnesota have squeezed school districts, nursing homes and local governments in a vise. The higher-ups in St. Paul don't have an easy job, but the officials at the bottom of the food chain have it worse.

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Pretty soon, the townships are going to have to hold bake sales to grade the gravel roads. How about a charity auction to raise funds for next winter's snow removal?

It is a wholesome community event when people rally around and sell cookies to raise money for a sick neighbor or a local playground, but it is getting to the point where charity dollars will be needed for bare necessities.

Frankly, I think we get good return for our tax dollars in Minnesota. We have good roads, nursing homes and schools. I'll gladly pay extra to keep it that way.

In fact, pretty soon I am going to scream and say, "Raise my taxes, please!"

Why? Because I am sick of knocks at the door from cute little munchkins selling chocolate bars to raise money for textbooks!

I used to like children, but now every time I see a kid I wonder what they're going to sell me.

As I get old and cranky, telling adult salesmen to take a hike gets easier and easier. But turning down a kid who is trying to raise money to go on a band trip is something I haven't mastered.

Oh, how they can turn on the cute. The ruthless little twerps don't let up until you have a cupboard full of decorator soup mixes, ribbons and all.

Carmel popcorn. Stationery. Baked hams. Milk Duds. Beef jerky. Pizzas. You almost feel guilty buying groceries anymore lest it take money away from the children.

Perhaps the story of the Little Match Girl traumatized me permanently, but whenever a kid comes to my door, I figure if I don't buy something that their wretched stepfather will beat them and they will die in the cold.

Here is my argument for raising taxes to fund schools:

I would rather pay a flat fee on April 15, or get nickel-and-dimed all year with sales tax than to deal with children begging me to buy their matchsticks!

Same goes for nursing homes.

I once had a deep philosophical discussion with a libertarian we'll call Elmer, an anti-tax man who was admirably consistent in his beliefs.

"When I get old," he said, "I only want the care I can pay for myself. If I don't have the foresight to save up money for the nursing home, I should be thrown out on the street and left to suffer the consequences of my laziness."

Suddenly, it all made sense to me.

If in twenty years Elmer is out on the street begging for food because he ran out of money to pay for his nursing home care, what would happen?

I know darn well. I would have to take him in to my house and feed him some hot soup. If I didn't, somebody else would.

But Elmer wouldn't just stay for soup. I would have to let him stay in the spare bedroom, because you can't very well let an old man sleep out in the street in freezing weather!

Pretty soon, I would be stuck taking care of this old man I barely know and probably don't even like, just because my conscience wouldn't allow me to do any differently.

How much easier it is to pay a little tax and let those nice people at the nursing home do the dirty work!

And, it is more efficient. If I am not putting up people in my home that got kicked out of the nursing home, I have more time to run my business. I will then pay more taxes.

Same goes for the children. Let's raise some tax somewhere and buy them new uniforms once every 15 years so they can quit roaming the streets selling stuff.

There are people who say charity is better than a government handout. It creates a bond between giver and recipient. It nurtures neighborliness.

That is pure bunk.

Get the roving kids off the streets with their sales charts and envelopes of cash. Get them back in the classroom during the day and in front of the television at night where they're supposed to be.

I want peace and a quiet conscience, and I am willing to pay for it.

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