Sunday, December 6, 2009

Oblique Journalism

The Journal Sentinel has an inanely meandering editorial - Not a tax hell, but state still needs better revenue mix - pushing for decreased taxes, service maintenance, alongside "innovation and entrepreneurial spirit," hinging on increased educational outcomes. Many good talking-points and topics-of-the-moment, but the editorial is quite sparse on actual numbers, comparisons, evidence, or needed actions.

The editorial incorrectly opines, " the state's taxpayer base ages, the ability of these citizens to pay for the increased services they will need will be limited even as the number of workers supporting them will be fewer." This is the same reasoning used by those selling the Social Security crisis. As I've noted previously, tax issues are primarily problems of incidence not burden.

Should we remove our manufacturing machinery and equipment tax exemption? Should we discontinue funding projects like the Moderne and Miller Park? Should we raise taxes on the wealthiest? Should we increase capital gains and corporate taxation? Or should we continue to cut programs and services, to lower our quality of life?

People expect services, coinciding with an increasing standard-of-living (paid for with taxes). To simply state property and income taxes are too high (a nebulous statement unless some type of comparison or operationalization is provided), may sell papers, but it does not explain or contribute anything to the discussion.

And, to throw in the (paraphrasing) Education Will Save Everything slogan is pointless. "A smarter, better-prepared workforce, after all, would be better able to compete and command higher wages." The problem is not a lack of skills, it's a lack of jobs.

To keep pushing the "Wisconsin taxes are a major deterrent to businesses locating here" mantra also conflicts with reality. And, as I've stated before, "If, as a nation, we are so concerned with taxation, then we need federally standardized tax rules, equally written and applied to all states. Not our current hodge-podge of individually state-controlled breaks, bribery, and favoritism." If these are crucial matters to the progress and growth of our local and national economy shouldn't we be cooperating on a more federal level, rather than continuing to operate under beggar-thy-neighbor policies?

The Journal also implies years of arduous taxation, in general, has been holding Wisconsin back. Nowhere is there mention of Wisconsin's lack of a modern transportation infrastructure as a hindrance to business location decisions. Newsflash: Infrastructure matters to business.

But then the editors offer a stunning conclusion, "Political leadership should work to keep taxes in check and to put the property tax on a diet. More important, they should ensure that schools and other essential state services are able to meet their obligations." There you have it; circular logic at is best. No real point, no real insight. The Fourth Estate has no clothes.

For Further Reading:
America's Granny Bashers
Hands Off Social Security
Obama Suggests Defaulting on National Debt
State Comparisons

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