Thursday, March 08, 2007

The tyranny of taxation

Governor Phil Bredesen's Finance Commissioner has come out swinging (or so he thinks) to tell Tennesseans that eliminating the tax on groceries will bring a shortfall to the budget of over 600 million dollars. At last count, our surplus-and this is before the Governor begins his proposed spending spree-stood at nearly that amount. If eliminating just the grocery tax (while leaving all other taxes in place) is going to put us $600 million in the hole, then the State of Tennessee is simply spending too much money and is apparently not living within its means.The Governor does not like the idea that he will not have money to burn, since he is in his second term, after all, and is no longer answerable to the people of Tennessee. I have no trouble believing that Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz' "study" is politically tainted to suit the Governor's agenda. Now that the Governor has his second term, he is free to tax Tennesseans to his hearts' content.

I do not think for a second that any State Finance Commissioner of either Party is going to be hot on any reduction in taxes, and truth be told the Finance Commissioner would have a field day with an income tax. If the average Tennessee voter thinks for one piddling second that Bredesen is really anti-income tax, they are truly deceived. The Democrats' dream political scenario is to have an income tax enacted, and done so in such a way that the Republicans can be blamed.

We could afford to give the people this break, and it would effect people who need the relief the most. Of couse, Bredesen is unwilling to consider a tax swap-the status quo is fine with him.

One mistaken notion I have heard over the last few days from the pro-tax cut camp is that "Ohio has no tax on food, and they seem to be doing just fine." While it is true that Ohio has no grocery tax, they are not doing fine, and I would not want to emulate Ohio. Tennessee should never be compared with Ohio because the fiscal and political realities are completely different:

1. Ohio has an extremely high and very tyrannical income tax.

2. Ohio is the third-highest taxed State in the Union-the fact that they pay no tax on groceries is the ONLY relief they get, and it is minor...because everything else (and I mean everything) gets taxed.

Yes, Tennessee can stand to eliminate the grocery tax-despite what the Governor says, we can afford it-but Tennessee should never be compared to a State with not only an income tax but such an ungodly tax rate. The dynamic is completely different. When Nicole and I lived in Cincinnati, want to know how we used our federal tax return? Did we buy a newer vehicle? Perhaps pay down some debts? Did we use it to buy a new wardrobe, or invest it in a bond or a CD? No, we used our federal tax return to pay our state and local taxes, because had we not done so, we would not have been able to afford to pay them.

Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Peter Bronson used to have a saying-he said that the State should just put a sign on the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge that says "you are now leaving Ohio, will the last one out please turn out the lights." The State is rapidly becoming a social, economic, and political sewer because of high taxes and it only stands to worsen.

If you ever wonder why Nicole begged me to return to Tennessee, and why I am anti-tax to the tune of the
Boston Tea Party, there's a look into the window of my world-taxes kill people who are trying to make something of their life. They almost did that to us. The only taxes that ought to be paid are the taxes the government needs in order to function. If the government does not absolutely need it, the government ought not take it. Merely taking my money and doling it out to others (performing my charity for me) without my consent is wrong. There is a commandment that speaks against that sort of thing: "Thou shalt not steal."

No, Tennessee ought not emulate Ohio, but we can afford to cut out the grocery tax and help some people who need it. If the Finance Director thinks we cannot, then the State is spending entirely too much money that does not belong to them.

The money is the people's-let them decide how much they are willing to cough up to the State, and let the State live within those means.



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