Government ‘help’ comes from taxpayers

The government has an insidious way of helping.

First it hurts you. Then it benevolently rushes in to relieve a little of the pain. Then, it takes credit for being so nice.

Taxpayers experience this every payday when the government takes money from their earnings. Later, the government may deign to return some of your money to you as a tax refund — money it didn’t have a right to in the first place.

Taxpayers have become so accustomed to this swindle they often are grateful for the refund, as if it were an undeserved windfall instead of their own hard-earned money.

In the meantime, government prospered with their money, and the interest earned from it. And the taxpayer did without.

This sleight-of-hand “benevolence” occurs in much of what government does: first inflicting pain, then providing a modicum of relief, then patting itself on the back for having been so helpful.

California’s Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took a bow recently for a new state law to provide $8 million of “help” to independent gasoline station owners. What kind of help did owners need? Help conforming to costly new vapor-recovery systems — state-mandated systems, of course.

California station owners were up in arms earlier this year when a state board imposed arbitrary requirements that they equip their stations with gear to capture a scant amount more of escaping vapors than they already capture.

Industry spokesmen said the bottom-line difference was to increase emission-capture rates from 95 percent to 98 percent. But the unelected air police insisted it was necessary.

Within a month of going into effect, 149 California gas stations were fined $943,815 for noncompliance. Three thousand other owners faced more penalties if they didn’t install the equipment. There were reports of dozens of stations shutting down, rather than risking daily fines, or spending thousands of dollars to convert.

That’s when politicians rushed to the rescue — sort of — with a bill that provides small gas station operators with $8 million in grants and loans as they attempt to comply with the state mandate.

Once again, government rushed to rescue some taxpayers for problems it caused, and then congratulated itself for being so nice.

For perspective, it’s worth remembering the money provided the gas-station owners comes from taxpayers.

Government, some tend to forget, has no money of its own.