Monday, July 30, 2007

Chuck You Farley

Yes, it's time once again for the Strib's latest free advertisement for Growth -n- Justice (child-friendly version): that super groovy "Think" tank whose only "thought" is that you're not taxed enough:

If we've heard it once, we've heard the antitax zinger a zillion times: "You can spend your money better than the government can spend your money."

The premise, of course, is that government is wasteful and profligate, while you are prudent and frugal.

Ooooooooooooooooo. You can almost smell the fetid condescension dripping from those words. Perhaps the authors (one of which is a former Stribber, and the other is a "consultant," who, as far as I can tell, spends almost all of his time thinking up ways to extract even more money from the citizenry) should at least make an attempt to apprehend their opponents' arguments. While I will not attempt to help them out explicitly in this regard, I will mention that a) government bureaucracies count as an additional transaction cost that would not be present in more free market approaches and 2) unlike government, when your typical family sees that they are running under their budget for the year, they generally do not go out on a spending binge to ensure that their employers pay them the same or higher salary the following year.

Now comes a July 14 Star Tribune report with some fun facts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Twin Cities households ranked first among 24 metropolitan areas in household spending on home furnishings and entertainment, third in eating out, third in alcohol consumption, and sixth in personal-care items. One retailer in the article observed that upscale consumers are increasingly demanding not just premium vodka, but "super ultra premium vodka."

I will note here in passing that folks who buy the higher-priced super ultra premium vodka tend to be poseurs who probably can't afford it anyway and are probably just trying to impress the chicks. Super dooper ultra premium vodka tastes like gasoline, just like the cheap stuff.

But, more to the point, when people spend money on furniture and entertainment and super dooper high priced gasoline flavored booze, that money doesn't just evaporate into the ether. It goes to pay wages of those who provided the good or service, and a return on the investment someone made to make the commodity possible.

And, oh yeah, some of the money goes to taxes to - both on the sales transaction, the wages, and the dividend.

Of course, the way G&J and the others who are Happy to Make Someone Else Pay More to Make them Feel Philanthropical will continue to couch the debate in terms that insinuate that we aren't taxed at all...

Let's just quickly review and compare how state and local governments have been squandering "your" money. Almost all public-sector spending goes for these frivolities: public schools and colleges, health care for the elderly and for poor families with children, roads and mass transit, libraries, environmental protection, parks, police and fire protection, courts and corrections. (Some might argue that government officials and the Legislature do provide entertainment, but this is basically a free sideshow, not a budget line item.)

But, again. We are getting taxed. A lot. So if you can't find a way to pay for all those things, perhaps you should look at your budgeting techniques first.

Earlier this summer, we learned from another federal report that Minnesota had sunk to a modern-era low, 23rd among the states, in state and local government taxes as a percent of income, and to 31st in government expenditures as a percent of income. By these measures, our government is significantly smaller than in the mid-1990s, before some of the largest state income tax cuts in the nation were pushed through in 1999 and 2002. (Advocates of those cuts said they would spur economic growth.)

And there's that bogus statistic again. It doesn't matter that you've already given quite a bit as measured in real dollars. These leeches see that there's still a margin to be exploited. They want to suck out every drop that they believe they're entitled to. And they're trying to make you forget that in addition to the (glancing at my 2006 state and federal returns) income taxes at 2 levels of government, you are taxed almost every time you by a consumer good, buy booze, renew your license tabs, renew your driver license ($22.25), play a round of golf, pay your gas, electric, cable/dish and phone bills (cellular and landline). Then you've got the property tax, which don't cover sewer, water and the street lights, so then you get a monthly bill from your city which runs between $35 and $60 depending on the level of drought you experienced the previous month.

And these cornholes would have you believe that there isn't enough money to run the government.

Blow me.

Next comes a troubling report in the July 18 Star Tribune: "Since 2004, Minnesota's growth in jobs, per-capita personal income and output of goods and services has risen at a lower pace than the national average."

High consumer spending on luxuries, proportionately less government spending and slower-than-average overall economic growth. Could there be a connection?

No. Ever heard of the housing slump? Think about how many different industries are affected when people aren't buying real estate. Lumber, labor, furniture, household goods, agent commissions, consumer electronics...

So obviously, the recent slowing of growth means that we aren't being taxed enough.

What color is the sky in your world?

Blow me.

As pointed out in the July 14 story, our high rankings on nearly every consumer-spending category are explained in large part by the fact that our incomes were third-highest of the 24 metropolitan areas. But the dramatic growth in Minnesota's wealth and income over the past three decades actually occurred when taxes were higher than they are now and when "we" were spending more on "us." And our economy has stagnated since we cut government and taxes, giving "you" more money to spend on "you."

CORRELATION: Hi! It's nice to finally meet my long lost twin!


Deep down, Minnesotans know that the good life is not all fine wine and skin-care products.

No, it's also a vast, self-perpetuating bureaucracy!

That seems as good a place as any to stop. I think you get my point. Go read the rest if you have a strong stomach for patrician bullshit. So in conclusion:

Blow me.

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