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The $500 flag pole permit & the fiscal cliff
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Betsy Ross would be stunned.

It costs $300 for those wanting to display Old Glory on a 15-foot flag pole in front of their home.

No, that’s not for the price of the flag pole. That’s an $800 item. The $300 covers the cost of the required City of Manteca building permit.

If you want to add a light the materials will cost you about another $400. Don’t put away the checkbook yet. Adding a light requires an electrical permit from the city that runs right around $200.

Eagle Scout David Lehman discovered that one just doesn’t put up a flag pole at a church or elsewhere as a good deed without paying the bureaucratic piper. It’s a good lesson to learn although most teens usually learn about taxation and government fees when they get their first paycheck and discover they are working for 3 entities - their employer, the state and Uncle Sam.

Paul Revere - if he were around today - probably wouldn’t be galloping off into the night yelling, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” assuming he could still afford a horse after paying for a city animal license plus fees to the Environmental Protection Agency for all of the natural pollution an equestrian produces. He’d probably be yelling instead, “The Bureaucrats are Coming! The Bureaucrats are Coming!”

It’s funny - if you think about it. Our wallets are being scared half out of our pockets by the latest mother of all phrases in the form of the approaching fiscal cliff.  And while falling off that baby could cost a typical Manteca household easily $2,000 or so a year in increased taxes, it is nothing compared to the cost of the ever-expanding bureaucracy that makes the British of the 1770s look like rank amateurs.

No one is going to argue that we benefit from most regulations.

Making sure a flag pole is anchored and supported properly is essential. A falling flag pole whether it is steel or wood could cause a lot of damage to property and people. And while $500 in permit fees just to put up a flag pole seems excessive policy wonks will simply say they are covering the cost of the permitting process.

Government has a price.

And that’s the real question we should be debating and not whether President Barrack Obama, House speaker John Boehner, Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, or liberals are driving us toward the fiscal cliff. The reality is all of the aforementioned have done a pretty good job of driving us to the edge. Sooner or later we’re going to have to take the plunge and pay the price for the government that we have either been saddled with oftentimes not by someone else’s doing but by our own demands.

All of us at one time or another is guilty of demanding certain service levels but then declining to pay for them through increased taxes. Many of us also keep insisting the government do things that would probably have Benjamin Franklin and his peers taking up arms against the government they helped create.

We have traded the philosophy of “don’t tread on me” to “don’t tax or regulate me but give me all of the government services I demand and regulate and tax the heck out of everyone else.”

In reality, the $500 permit for a flagpole isn’t excessive. What is excessive is what we demand and expect of government.

That is why government costs keep rising.

If we want the absolute 100 percent certainty of knowing that an engineer has signed off on a 15-foot flag pole then we should expect to pay $500 in government fees.

The fiscal cliff waits not because of obstructionism but because of where we have taken our expectations of government along with our unwillingness to live within our means.

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.