mmmmmm…. a good rant…

Late this week, the Republicans in the House and Senate have passed their budget which they would typically submit to Governor Brewer for approval, but since she is widely expected to veto it, they are holding back from formally submitting it.  A leverage move under the guise of negotiating I would think.  The longer they can hold out, the closer to the June 30 deadline to get a deal done we get, and thus pressure is applied to get Brewer to cave, especially on her plans for a tax increase.  The next few weeks should provide both agony and entertainment to observers as the results unfold…

For the record, I’m okay with a tax increase because I don’t mind chipping in for a better Arizona.  I don’t use many of the services that my tax dollars go to, but then again I do get to drive on adequately maintained roads.  Somebody responds when I call the cops.  Somebody mows the grass and keeps up the park where I walk my dog.  I don’t believe there are people that aren’t getting something for their tax dollar.  Is it always efficiently spent?  Probably not, but then again the vast majority of us tend to find ourselves in a Circle K from time-to-time, even though you can get pretty much everything they sell somewhere else for less.

Yes, sales taxes are regressive, but the argument that increased taxes leads to reduced spending is a red herring.  In my life I’ve been both a poor college student and fairly well-to-do, and in neither situation have I delayed or eliminated a purchase over the tax rate.  Maybe I didn’t consume as much because I didn’t have the means or maybe I didn’t consume as much because the economy was poor and the prudent thing was to save, but my consumption has never been curbed by taxes.  As if in our materialistic consumer-driven culture people are going to hold off on that plasma TV because of taxes… this same culture that more or less lives on credit and has an insatiable need to keep up with the Jones’… is not going to let cash or available credit burn a hole in their pocket because of an increase in the tax rate?   I don’t buy it.  People are going to buy things if they have the means and have convinced themselves it’s a good idea.  

But… but… they’re gonna buy more stuff online and thus not pay taxes!  Sure, I suppose online spending could increase, but you’ve got to account for the “shipping tax” and lack of instant gratification that comes with the internet too… it may well be a better deal to pay the taxes.

Nobody gets excited about paying more taxes.  I get it.  But the issue isn’t black and white, it’s complex… as Arizona has grown, demand for services has as well.  State revenues are down because of unemployment and the economy, and long-term systemic problems with Arizona’s revenue generation mechanisms, so the budget looks bloated by comparison, but it was perfectly fine in better times.  Making the revenue stream more consistent would go a long way towards avoiding the budget mess Arizona is in… spending isn’t the issue.

Obviously, I’m interested in a budget that provides support to services such as food banks and others that make up what is commonly referred to as the social services safety net.  I believe that an advanced, modern society has a responsibility to provide for those who cannot or have severe troubles providing for themselves.  I believe that society as a whole benefits when neighbors are cared for.  This costs money.  This comes with an understanding that there are those who will purposely use the system for their benefit, and are in essense stealing money from the more honest and hard-working portion of society.  No system is perfect.   That said, I don’t believe a life based on scamming the system is all that glamorous; it isn’t something the vast majority of people aspire to have.  Honest people oftentimes make poor decisions that put them at economic disadvantages, perhaps because they were products of Arizona’s poorly funded public education system.  But flat out abandoning these people altogether because of a few bad apples?  I see those with a good education, upbringing and superior moral compass missed the lesson on high horses.

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