Monday, April 07, 2008

The Opiate of Tax Cuts

Nothing feels as good as a hit of taxcut.

In 2000, for the first time in a long while, the US government enjoyed a true surplus of revenue. Presidential candidate George W. Bush assured Americans that, under the circumstances, it was their Right to take a hit of taxcut now. They had earned it. And Americans agreed.

In 2001, the US economy started sagging. Now George W. Bush and the Republicans declared that we Needed a hit of taxcut. The nation could not agree more. The US government would lose income it needed to support itself and share with state and local governments, but each hit of taxcut would feel sOooo gOOood!

So why stop at the Federal level? Florida Republicans knew they had a good product to offer. Give Floridians hits of state taxcuts and they would be happy, and they would vote to keep Republicans in power. Sure the State of Florida would have less money to support itself and contribute to local governments and schools. But each hit of taxcut would feel very, very good.

So why stop there? How can you stop there? We still had the taxes for local governments and school districts. Sure the local governments and school districts needed this money to support themselves, especially given the reduced contributions from the State and Federal governments…but we could still get a hit of taxcut out of them! So a cry went up, especially from rich property owners in Florida, that we needed yet another hit of taxcut, this time out of local revenue.

Florida’s Republican governor and legislators heard those cries, especially the cries from the wealthy property owners. With “Amendment 1” and other measures they moved to ensure that Floridians, particularly rich property owners, could get a hit of taxcut out of local government revenue. And it felt so pleasant to get another hit of taxcut.

Unfortunately, the Federal government can no longer fully support itself. The State of Florida can’t support itself, either, and has to continuously slash departments, staff, and services. Now the local governments and school districts have to do the same. We’re going to feel the hurt from lack of services, and soon. And when that happens, people are going to remember who was pushing taxcut after taxcut. I’m betting that the taxcut pushers will be run out of government.

Postscript: Taxes are the “maintenance fees” for governments, like the maintenance fees for condominium associations. Maintenance fees should be set, raised and lowered in a pragmatic manner, according to needs and capacities determined by the community. To lower them for other reasons is irresponsible.

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