CLINE: Bitter pills don't need added guilt

Todd Cline

Todd Cline

How do you like to take your medicine? Not literally, but figuratively.

Do you like some sweetener to help that hard-to-digest news go down? Or do you prefer to take it straight, disregarding the bitter taste it will leave behind?

Me? I'm from the school of "you can make me take my medicine, but you can't make me like it." We all have to do things in life that we'd rather not, be it for work or family or whatever, and I've always preferred people who give it to me straight.

The same goes for politicians. Identify the ailment, tell me what medicine you're going to use and write the prescription. But please don't tell me that the bad taste in my mouth is really good. And please don't tell me that it's up to me if I want to take the medicine before reminding me of all the sickness I might incur if I decline your remedy.

And more than anything, please don't tell me that taking my medicine will make you feel better.

We've reached the point in Gwinnett's ongoing tax millage rate debate where I'm leaning toward taking (but not liking) my medicine in the form of a tax increase. Of course we've gotten to this point by being told that serious ailments (i.e., loss of police and fire services, library time, etc.) will come if we forgo the treatment we've been prescribed (i.e., a tax increase).

But just when I was leaning in that direction, I got what might best be described as a medicinal chaser in the form of Commissioner Kevin Kenerly's comments:

"I'm asking everyone ... to sacrifice for the county on (a) movie ticket and one Diet Coke (a month) to protect every citizen of the county," Kenerly said last week. "To me, I think that's a minimum price to ask to get us to where we need to be. ... People have to get their head out of the sand and not just think about themselves all the time."

Now I'm not only being told to take my medicine and like it, but that I should be happy it's not a bigger dose. It's the least I can do, after all.

When I first read those words, I anticipated the backlash that would come with them. People in this county and across the country are taking their medicine in the form of pay cuts, furloughs, 401(k) losses and lost jobs. It's tough stuff, but they're dealing with it.

Just don't tell them that they should like it. And please don't tell them that it's the least they can do.

I received some letters about the subject and more comments were posted on our Web site. One — from a poster who goes by "Lisa" — seems to sum up the county's growing sentiment:

"Mr. Kenerly, there are those of us who have not paid for a movie or diet coke for months due to the loss of a job and/or forced furloughs. We do not mind paying our fair share of the costs to keep this county running.

"However, I would beseech you and the commissioners to think about what you're asking of your constituents. The state removed the exemption from one of its taxes this year, which essentially raised our property taxes from last year's level. For those of us struggling to make ends meet, that wasn't the easiest pill to swallow."

Raising taxes is a pill that will never go down easy. The least we can ask is for the doctor not to ask us to smile while we take our medicine.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.