Back to Work

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A loathsome story out of Greenburgh, N.Y., where the property taxes have risen so high that elderly widows on fixed incomes can no longer afford to pay the amounts due on the houses they own free and clear.

Now, the idea of a “property tax” has always rankled in me. Why should anyone have to pay for the continued privilege of owning something already paid for in full? It’s renting one’s own property from the government. And it’s especially pernicious when such rents are demanded from those least able to pay. It’s a situation tailor-made for some smug town politician to announce his compassionate plan to ease their

tax burden, invariably by raising slightly the taxes on every- one else because God knows the budget isn’t going to get cut. Thus was I surprised to see Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner offer an equally smug but far more patronizing solution to the problem: put those widows to work! Says an article in the Lower Hudson Valley Journal-News (Dec. 31, 2007), “Under the plan, seniors could work in Town Hall and other municipal departments for $7 an hour, and earn up to $700.” Feiner has appropriated $25,000 to give the program a trial sit. And besides, it’s not like the elderly do anything in those houses their husbands worked for decades to buy; as the article points out, “the proposal may have beneficial side effects, including the structure that a part-time job can provide to those who may find the days of retirement too long to fill and too isolating to enjoy.”

At this point in my life, I can’t imagine what retirement would be like. Could it really be so bad that some would welcome working in a municipal department, just to fill the hours? If so, I swear I’m working till the maintenance crew hauls my carcass away from the desk over which I’ve keeled.

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