Friday, February 04, 2005

Column 19 - Tax Cap

More often than you might think, Jim Clark and I agree on local issues. Given that, I suppose it should not surprise me when Jim’s stand on a local issue seems at odds with his usual Conservative Libertarian position, but I do find it curious when at the same time uses the opportunity to rail at supposed Liberal positions as he did in his column on the state tax cap proposals (Bonanza, January 14th). Given the Conservative anti-big government and anti-tax positions, I would expect Jim to favor tax caps and cuts, but that he is advocating a Prop 13 type of solution amazes me.

Contrary to Jim’s assertion, Prop 13 is not a mystery to any Liberals I've talked to. Many of us lived in California at the time it was passed, and more of us saw its effects in California and Oregon. Jim says “California and Oregon are surviving with annual property tax limitations of 2 percent,” but both states are struggling with massive deficits and services cutbacks, and the Governator will succeed or fail to the extent that he keeps his campaign promises to solve California’s economic woes. Call me a Liberal, but I actually think that, under our system, the government needs to do more than just survive. Conservatives have advocated that the government should be run like a business – if a business were just “surviving,” would you buy stock or sell?

Jim also trots out the Bush party line that “it's people who pay taxes who are entitled to tax relief.” It’s hard to argue with that until you remember that it’s an incomplete quote – what the President said was that the people who pay the most taxes are entitled to the most relief. I guess if you grew up rich, got your first real job from someone who was doing your Daddy a favor, and then were given your own personal baseball team to play with, this makes sense. To me as a business man it does not. If I had a business with a division that was highly profitable and another that was only marginal, I would take a larger share of the first division’s profits and use them to build up the second so that it could become profitable. Our biblically selective President seems to have missed Luke 12:48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

As to the Government “tightening its belt…when the rest of us are suffering,” I guess this is some of that Compassionate Conservatism we don’t hear so much about any more, but I’m not sure who’s suffering, and what exactly Jim wants the Government to do about it. I guess if you're a Conservative and believe the Government shouldn’t do anything (except export democracy to anyplace that doesn’t have it whether they want it or not) then somehow the Government having less money will mean that somehow magically things will get better for those sufferers, but I don’t get it.

Now before my legion of critics rush in to call me names, let me say I agree with Jim’s column last week that we should be hopping mad about the tax situation, and we should do something about it. I am for tax relief and a tax cap. I would even consider a Prop 13 solution if someone could show me how it could work without bankrupting the state and making things worse rather than better, and I think that the Incline Tax Revolt is doing a great job of getting these issues up in front to the Legislature and the Public. I just think that what Jim calls “economic drivel” is exactly the sort of balanced, rational thinking the Legislature needs to be doing. Knee-jerk Conservative solutions of regressive taxes will, in the long run, do more harm than good.

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