NO! To Quality of Life Tax Increase, Part Three

NO! To Quality of Life Tax Increase, Part Three by Peter Burrows

There are tried and true arguments politicians always use to justify higher taxes.  There must be a  manual somewhere, Tax Increases for Dummies (that’s you and me), because we see the same list over and over. Very predictable, and being used right now, right here in Grant County to push a tax increase.

1) The tax isn’t very much. In our case, only .25% or only $1 extra sales tax for $400 of purchases.   This argument is used to take our eyes off the ball, to avoid the real question, which is: What will the extra tax money be used for? If it’s only $1 out of $1,000,000 but it’s being wasted, the tax is TOO MUCH.

2) Even after the tax increase, taxes will still be below what other dumm—oops! taxpayers elsewhere pay. In our case, what taxpayers in Ruidoso and Santa Fe pay. Well, frankly, most of us don‘t give a damn what they pay in Ruidoso or Santa Fe. Maybe their taxes are too high, and, more importantly, their taxes may be lower than ours on an ability to pay comparison, meaning they have higher incomes (which they do.)

3) We need to spend more money on our children because they have no place to play nothing to do are bored and getting into trouble and it’s all our fault for not providing them with something to do or some place to go like a new youth center or baseball league or swimming pool or bungee tower or blah blah blah blah.

When they pull out the “for the children” argument, you know they’re getting desperate. Lots of voters unquestioningly vote for anything if its “for the children”, even if it’s only a tiny portion of the overall spending plans, or only remotely connected to children. The Spaceport, for instance, was going to motivate New Mexico kids to take up math, engineering, physics, etc., and I wish I was making that up. People, God bless ‘em, by and large really do want to do something for children, and politicians shamelessly take advantage of that decent impulse.

Some of us curmudgeons, however, might suggest that if kids are getting into trouble during the summer, maybe we should add six weeks to the school year. Of course, we do such a great job of educating kids in New Mexico, other states would see that as really piling on, and besides, our underpaid teachers (aren’t they all?) would want more money, and the greenies might object because running school buses an extra six weeks will add more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, bringing closer the day when Global Warming (always capitalize the name of a religion) will kill us all.

It was just a thought.  Geez.

Another thought: Why not eliminate the minimum wage law for kids under 18? So typical of politicians: 1) raise the minimum wage. 2) This means more kids can’t get summer jobs. 3) Raise taxes to provide something for kids to do in the summer.  Sigh.

On a more Cosmic plane, intellectuals and other superior people will quote Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, “I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.”  This is one of those pithy little sayings that’s supposed to shut down all argument, when it really needs to be qualified.

It certainly does not justify taxes being spent on stupid or corrupt things. For instance, no one can defend the city manager in Bell, CA, paying himself a salary of over $700,000 a year, plus, his pension funding was $600,000 a year. Where was that money coming from, the Tooth Fairy? Gee, he must have been really civilized.

At the other end of the spectrum, libertarians have a cute little phrase of their own, almost as fatuous as the Justice Holmes quote, which is “Taxation is theft.”  That, too, needs to be qualified. Taxes have to be levied to pay for essential services, services which indeed buy civilization, such as police protection and courts of law. That’s hardly theft.

One of my favorite quotes cuts through the sophistry and verbiage and says it best: “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.” — Calvin Coolidge

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