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State income tax or not?
August 16, 2002 3:55 AM   Subscribe

State income tax or not? Massachusetts voters get to decide on Nov. 5th. Is this a real possibility or just a publicity stunt for Carla Howell and the Libertarian party?
posted by Hall (48 comments total)

 
As a Massachusetts resident, I know I pay high taxes, but this is just a total publicity stunt. If this became law, I don't see how the government of this state could function in a manner anywhere close to what I would like it to.

Should voters approve the proposal, it would become law on Jan. 1. But it could be repealed by the Legislature.

And, seeing how both houses of the state congress are controlled by the Democratic party, this has less than a snowball's chance of becoming reality.

It would be quite a shock to the system if the referendum passed, but I really hope people here are smarter than that. If anything, the government here doesn't do enough for the citizenry, and eviscerating the budget ain't gonna help.

**Waits patiently for insomnyuk/dagny to show up and explain why this proposal is the best thing, ever**
posted by thewittyname at 5:20 AM on August 16, 2002


I also am a resident of Mass. While being a popular concept, not paying taxes, this state in no way could ever pull it off.
Everyone is always full of their own ideas on how to run things. This woman is no different. It is just a big publicity stunt to gain some of the spotlight.

After all, there is the big dig to pay for.
posted by a3matrix at 5:31 AM on August 16, 2002


There is no state income tax in Texas.
posted by goneill at 6:15 AM on August 16, 2002


I used to live in Boston and I moved to Atlanta Georgia about a year ago. I can say from personally comparing the "quality of life" factors that Boston is a much better place to live and almost every one of those reasons has to do with the high taxes that I paid while there.

The Boston public libraries are amazing. The ones in Atlanta are only passable.

The bike paths along the Charles are better maintained than the roadways in the city of Atlanta. Much better. And Atlanta does not even have bike paths along many roads.

Public transportation is for everybody in Boston. It's only for the poor in Atlanta. Which means that MARTA (atlanta)continually loses money and loses ridership and therefore can't be proactive or forward thinking but instead must be protective and reactive. True, the Boston T might have a smaller footprint (I bet it does), but the system is being "designed" on a constant basis.

This is not to mention social services, which are near the top in the country in Boston. Services for the poor. Services for those with AIDS. Here in Atlanta, the public hospitals are overwhelmed and underfunded (along with being understaffed of course).

Let's not even start with education. Where would you rather go to school. A random school in Massachusetts or a random school in Georgia. I thought so.

Newsflash to Libertarians: We pay taxes for a reason.

Everybody saving $3,000 is quite different than all of us deciding how to spend $9,000,000,000 on stuff we all want and need.
posted by zpousman at 6:24 AM on August 16, 2002


Where would you rather go to school question mark. Gah!

Regarding Goneil: Ok, folks, now you've got three choices from which to pick: Texas, Georgia, and Mass. Which would you choose to school your children?

P.S. -- I know that most school systems are paid for by local property taxes. And I know that this is why schools on Chicago's southside prepare students so much less than schools on Chicago's northside. This is something else that surely sucks about our current striated system of goverment funding. However, MA for one, pays lots of extra monies to school districts for enrichment and other special programs.
posted by zpousman at 6:31 AM on August 16, 2002


We just went through all this in Tennessee.

Facing budget shortcomings on the scale of hundreds of millions, Republican Governor Don Sundquist proposed a state income tax and committed political suicide.

Speaker of the House James Naifeh proposed a flat 4.5% above $15,000 and became public enemy #1. It's ridiculous.

People will do anything as long as they can think that they are bringing home more money. Meanwhile, a 1% sales tax increase (bringing Metro-Nashville up to 9.25%, with a statewide average of 9.35%, the highest in the nation!) and 5-7% hike on "Sin Taxes" covers the funding gap.

I live in East Nashville (aka the Ghetto) across the street from a liquor store sandwiched between two cigarette stores. I see where our tax moneys are coming from.

Sorry. Still a sore subject. What were we talking about?
posted by mikrophon at 6:49 AM on August 16, 2002


**Waits patiently for insomnyuk/dagny to show up and explain why this proposal is the best thing, ever**

Taxes bad, freedom good, and the more taxes, the more government, the less freedom. But the two are not always mutually exclusive, especially when the taxes come in more subtle forms, like high minimum wage laws and increased regulations (which are so nice for big companies that can hire the attorneys to beat the regs and can afford high wages, while the small comanies get pushed out of business because they can't deal with all the costs)

Thanks for the props thewittyname :)

Newsflash to Libertarians: We pay taxes for a reason.

Everybody saving $3,000 is quite different than all of us deciding how to spend $9,000,000,000 on stuff we all want and need.


Really? We? I don't want to pay for the police fighting the Holy War on Drugs, or wasting their time arresting people at a live sex show, or confiscating adule material, when they could be fighting violent crime and property damage. I don't want my money paying for the nepotism and cronyism of local politicians (where the problem can be blatant and widespread, but no one seems to care). I don't want to pay for the awarding of government contractors to businesses that literally just cut and run, providing little or nothing of value. Contractor fraud happens less, but often 30% of the cost of a government contract is spent to investigate and make sure there is no fraud or quid pro quo taking place (anecdotal information from my experience with the USAF).

Massachusetts: As the state implements tax hikes to cover a deepening fiscal crisis

How did they get into this fiscal crisis? Was the state really that badly off when the state did not spend so much? I propose that states not be allowed to spend the money until they have it in the treasury, for one thing. Our glorious Republican governor Bob Taft is probably going to raise taxes here in Ohio because he and the legislature couldn't keep their grubby little hands out of the cookie jar during the boom. Imagine how many more votes they got to buy during that time, brilliant.

We pay taxes for a reason.

I like this one. Of course you do: so politicians can buy votes with your money, and occasionally do something nice for other people with it. I agree that if you want roads, or healthcare, or bike paths, it needs to be paid for. I just don't think taxes necessarily are the best vehicle for providing these sorts of things (as I have argued in the past). And you KEEP paying taxes for the Big Dig, Ted Kennedy's pet vote-buying project. I saw him once say it would cost 2 billion dollars, and the project has gone past the finish date and is costing several billion more than the initial projections. Personally, I wouldn't give a damn except that federal tax dollars, and hence my money, is going to help give Bostonians a shiny new bridge/tunnel. If Massachusetts wants to pay for it, fine, but Kennedy shouldn't be allowed to drag the rest of the country into paying for his scams. This is why I am for true federalism: if you want to live in a taxpayer funded society, fine, we can live in different states (you in your taxpaying paradise and me in my tax free paradise) and not force our way of lives on eachother. We lost that system thanks to people like Henry Clay and Abe Lincoln (proponents of the American system. Clay, a slaveowner in Kentucky, got federal money to build a road to his plantation) and the U.S. has never recovered the federalist system this nation was founded upon.

Ok, folks, now you've got three choices from which to pick: Texas, Georgia, and Mass. Which would you choose to school your children?

I would probably choose the one that leaves me the most free income, so that I could send my kids to a decent private school or hire them private tutors. If someone decides to have 13 children, I don't want to be forced to pay for the education of their kids. I know, I'm a bastard. Or maybe that's just the vicodin talking.
posted by insomnyuk at 7:14 AM on August 16, 2002


Must be the vicodin.
posted by MaddCutty at 7:40 AM on August 16, 2002


I would probably choose the one that leaves me the most free income, so that I could send my kids to a decent private school or hire them private tutors.

And those that can't afford to pay for private school and tutors? Screw 'em. As long as you and yours are taken care of, that's all that matters, right?

We all agree that there are problems with the current system. But pulling the financial rug out from under important, existent programs is not a solution.

Unless you're rich. In the mean time, I look forward to seeing you teach our kids, filling our potholes, maintaining our parks, etc.

Please pass the vicodin.
posted by mikrophon at 8:01 AM on August 16, 2002


The Boston public libraries are amazing.

The main library is amazing. The branches are utterly worthless and are frequently closed when they ought to be open.

The bike paths along the Charles are better maintained than the roadways in the city of Atlanta.

Yes. But the actual roads in Boston are dreadfully pitted and poorly maintained. Oh, except for the toll roads. Those are fine. No sense wasting money making the free roads pleasant when people will pay extra for the Pike.

How did they get into this fiscal crisis? Was the state really that badly off when the state did not spend so much?

The financial situation is bad because Boston is controlled by crooks and the Big-Dig is a giant money pit. Why, you ask? Because the crooked politicians made crooked deals with the crooked construction industry which employs mostly honest laborers who are supplied by a thoroughly crooked union. The contractor submits a low bid and wins the contract, then digs a big ugly hole through the city, then demands more money to finish the job. Fucking thieves!
posted by plaino at 8:08 AM on August 16, 2002


The public schools on the south side of Chicago receive more funding than most schools on the north side. They get the same basic city and state tax funding (it is the same city, after all), and considerably more city, state, and federal poverty and underprivileged student based aid, as well as bilingual (more on the west side than the southside) though.

The reason why the public schools on the North Side perform better is that there are more parents (because far fewer single parent families), those parents are more committed to education and engaged with the schools, and the children are better disciplined and conduct themselves more in a manner conducive to learning. This makes it a better place to teach and hence attracts the better and more senior teachers, which further improves performance.

The parochial schools on the southside, which have a disproprotionate share of the intact families and committed parents, perform vastly beter than their public school neighbors and comparably in many cases with north side public schools, with far less money per student than the public schools either on the north and the south.
posted by MattD at 8:21 AM on August 16, 2002


I propose that states not be allowed to spend the money until they have it in the treasury, for one thing.

I propose you take a couple of economics classes. In the meantime, I'll have some of that vicodin while you suck on the parental teat some more.
posted by riviera at 8:24 AM on August 16, 2002


anyway - yeah - that's the point I was making; I lived in Texas.

goneill has two ls... (ie. gone ill)
posted by goneill at 8:24 AM on August 16, 2002


I propose you take a couple of economics classes. In the meantime, I'll have some of that vicodin while you suck on the parental teat some more.

Could you clarify the relevance of that one for me, riviera, or should I just chalk it up as your regularly ignored jocularity?
posted by insomnyuk at 8:30 AM on August 16, 2002


>>Everybody saving $3,000 is quite different than all of us deciding how to spend $9,000,000,000 on stuff we all want and need.

Really? We? I don't want to pay for the police fighting the Holy War on Drugs, or wasting their time arresting people at a live sex show, or confiscating adule material, when they could be fighting violent crime and property damage. I don't want my money paying for the nepotism and cronyism of local politicians...

I agree insomyuk. I don't want to pay for that crap either. And so I'm voting in the election to change the way we do some things here in Georgia. But I believe in the fundamental principle that governments are instituted among men to provide for the things we can't provide for ourselves -- the common defense, the social saftey net for the poor, transportation and communication infrastructure (including all the things from roads to librariries to Internet2), and for scientific research. Things aren't perfect, but I have never been convinced that there is a better way to provide for these needs and wants of ours.
posted by zpousman at 9:10 AM on August 16, 2002


MattD: ...and the children are better disciplined and conduct themselves more in a manner conducive to learning.

Right. Blame the children for their own educational failures.

I'm looking for "per pupil expenditure" statistics right now but have to go to class. I'll post the data here when I find it.
posted by zpousman at 9:19 AM on August 16, 2002


Zpousman: make sure your statistics for good schools are CPS (Chicago Public Schools) on the northside, not schools in Wilmette, Evanston, etc.
posted by MattD at 9:39 AM on August 16, 2002


I'm certainly not averse to paying less in taxes (though as a Massachusetts resident I'll be voting against this initiative) but I have a point and a question:

Point: While we can discuss the relative merits of private enterprise taking over services previously run by the state, the fact remains that there's no system (whether state or privately based) in place to enact and manage such a change. To simply abolish $9 billion in revenue and say the private sector will "take care of things" is grossly reckless, and I'd believe that even if I supported this initiative.

Question: Libertarians are always saying private enterprise can manage a given governmental function more efficiently. Can anyone point me toward something that is now private that was once run by the state that functions better in its newer incarnation? I'm not trying to be wise, I'm just really not aware of anything that fits the bill. Certainly I can look at, say, Amtrak and think, "boy that could only get better privatized", but until that happens, it's pure conjecture. I just want to see something that backs up the blanket assertion that private ownership/management functions better than the state (which is not to say I think the government does a spectacular job, but rather I doubt the ability of private enterprise to be consistently better).
posted by jalexei at 10:33 AM on August 16, 2002


It must be a publicity stunt--or at least I hope it is.

While some states, like Texas and Florida, eschew income taxes and rely on sales and other regressive, consumption-based taxes to fund their budgets (Texas taxes a wide array of services, and Florida relies on heavy tourism taxes such as hotel occupancy taxes), Massachusetts is a state that traditionally has provided its residents with top-notch public education, public libraries, and the like.

This kind of reduced funding deal a huge blow to the state economy at a time when the vast majority of states are already scrambling to balance their budgets in the face of tax revenue shortfalls and the economic downturn.

States are already raising taxes behind the scenes. Most states have implemented cigarette tax increases. But the popular approach of raising cigarette taxes to balance budgets is pure folly, not least because of collection problems due to Internet sales.

The states will need to raise income taxes, not lower or abolish them. And undoing the huge corporate income tax breaks and incentives enacted in the last ten years would be the best place to start.
posted by maud at 10:53 AM on August 16, 2002


Zpousman: I live in the Atlanta area, but in Cobb County. We have lower property taxes, lower sales taxes (lowest in the state), and the benefit of a generally low income tax for Georgia. My daughter just finished an amazingly good year in public school elementary, and is going to one of the best public middle schools in the state. I have the choice to use a private school, but as an interested parent I supplement her knowledge and try to make sure she is well rounded. The roads here are pretty good, and there are really good bike paths, where they exist. Lots of sidewalks, too.

The problem with Atlanta is not the tax base, but the last few mayors and a very strong city workers union. Privatize the airport (easily done, and legal) and Atlanta would have a massive influx of money that could be used on roads, and schools, and the really good library (I used the Boston library, and have to agree with plaino -- main branch good, all else is bad). I love the city enough that I take my kids in at least once a week (High Museum, Fernbank Center, SciTrek Science Center, Center for Puppetry Arts, and Sunday Brunch at Fado), but so much more could be done with a frugal and reasonable expenditure of money.... maybe the new mayor will make that difference.

Boston has similar problems, especially with the Big Dig, and as it goes on you'll see it being more and more like Atlanta. In fact, just get away from the MassPike and you'll find it's a lot worse....
posted by dwivian at 11:00 AM on August 16, 2002


jalexei: Can anyone point me toward something that is now private that was once run by the state that functions better in its newer incarnation?

Well, I can point you outside the U.S. to a couple of major airports, and inside the U.S. to some government functions, but it's not really been tested on more than a case-study basis. The problem is, as soon as the state dumps money into a private enterprise, there is so much potential for graft and corruption that it takes a while for the enterprise to shake out and just do the job. Sad, but true. Only in heavily regulated and monitored places, like the airports, do we see it turn around quickly.
posted by dwivian at 11:04 AM on August 16, 2002


Perhaps our friends from the UK could discuss how privatization has improved formerly government-run services?
posted by thomas j wise at 11:56 AM on August 16, 2002


I just don't think taxes necessarily are the best vehicle for providing these sorts of things (as I have argued in the past).

Right. More Libertarian swill.

Why, let's get WorldCom to take over the FCC, Enron to take over the Department of Energy, Firestone Tires to take over the Department of Transportation, and Philip-Morris to take over the Department of Health.

No thanks. Greedy businessmen and those who swoon and gush over "property rights" are the least trustworthy folks on this planet.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 12:14 PM on August 16, 2002


F_A_M: As always, you undersee....

The reason WorldCom and Enron had such a fall is because the government came in and prevented the CEO from getting a flat salary (thus the use of stock options, and the work by executives to improve stock position, not company quality). Firestone Tires....well, most of their tires are good equipment. Not sure about one product, on a vehicle that shouldn't exist (SUV). Phillip-Morris would be much more interesting without all those government subsidies, and may have collapsed years ago.

Seems all that government involvement is what is least trustworthy.... Even the Romans and Greeks figured that out.
posted by dwivian at 12:19 PM on August 16, 2002


"Why, let's get WorldCom to take over the FCC, Enron to take over the Department of Energy, Firestone Tires to take over the Department of Transportation, and Philip-Morris to take over the Department of Health."

Ins't that called the Bush Administration?





posted by JKevinKing at 12:37 PM on August 16, 2002


No thanks. Greedy businessmen and those who swoon and gush over "property rights" are the least trustworthy folks on this planet.

No thanks, greedy politicians who use the police power of the state to take away people's rights to life, liberty, and property are the least trustworthy folks on this planet.

Why, let's get WorldCom to take over the FCC, Enron to take over the Department of Energy, Firestone Tires to take over the Department of Transportation, and Philip-Morris to take over the Department of Health.

Actually, I agree that it would be bad to let those companies take control of those departments. No one is proposing that, not by any means. That would just be transferring the monopoly the government already has from one group to another. I think there should be NO department of energy, health, transportation, et. al., because they are too prone to abuse. You did a great job of lopping that straw man's head off, though. Bravo.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:42 PM on August 16, 2002


jalexei: Can anyone point me toward something that is now private that was once run by the state that functions better in its newer incarnation?

There's Parcel Delivery, for one. And there would be letter delivery, had Congress not forbidden it.

Or look a few miles north of the big dig, add some private enterprise, subtract some cronyism, and find an efficient, ahead of schedule highway expansion, with excellent public communication.

Mikrophon: I look forward to seeing you teach our kids, filling our potholes, maintaining our parks, etc.

I won't teach your kids if you promise not to teach mine. I pay over 40 cents a gallon in gas taxes. Fix the roads with that. I don't expect you to pay for my drinking habit, and it's not my job to see to it that you can play in the park for free, when millions of Americans have bought homes with yards in which to play.

And while we're at it, I moved to MA from OH two years ago, trading an apartment where I paid $400 for 700 sq ft, for a 250 sq ft hovel at $1000 per month. And that's in Woburn-- not exactly Weston, mind you. Property taxes inflate property costs. And thanks to regulation, I can pay twice as much for car insurance too. Maybe, though, insurance is expensive because of all the damn potholes.

I dunno. But I won't live here forever.
posted by trharlan at 12:42 PM on August 16, 2002


Libertarians are always saying...

hey, i've never said that.


I think there should be NO department of ... health

so, no CDC? No FDA, NIH or IHS?
posted by tolkhan at 1:15 PM on August 16, 2002


Can anyone point me toward something that is now private that was once run by the state that functions better in its newer incarnation?

Do private schools count? It's not probably the best example, but on a whole, private schools perform better and cost less per pupil. Around here the average public school spends $5,500 (I think) per pupil and private schools are $4500. And there was a big brouhaha when they wouldn't increase the per pupil spending even more after many people questioned if the schools really needed all that money.

Of course public schools have all sorts of amenities that the private ones don't, like many have 2 theaters and 2-3 gyms, but is all that really needed?
posted by geoff. at 1:18 PM on August 16, 2002


This is totally off the original topic, but fits with the "taxes and government services in general" theme that has developed. Ok, fine, that I helped develop.

Trharlan: I pay over 40 cents a gallon in gas taxes.
Poor baby. Take the awesome public transport that exists in Boston and surrounds and stop yer bitching. In europe, I hear that they pay $2.00 a gallon in gasoline taxes. That's called being progressive.
posted by zpousman at 1:21 PM on August 16, 2002


Sounds good to me tolkhan. What does the FDA do except prevent alternative forms of medication from being prescribed to you?

In europe, I hear that they pay $2.00 a gallon in gasoline taxes. That's called being progressive.

So its progressive to gouge people for products you don't like (cigarettes, gasoline) but regressive to charge a sales tax on items like clothing or DVD's? I see how it works.

Take the awesome public transport that exists in Boston and surrounds and stop yer bitching.

In Ohio the tax on gasoline is about 44 cents per gallon, but it is futile to spend on public transportation since most of the population is decentralized. Solve that. Maybe he doesn't want to take public transit. I would consider a comfortable car a superior good when compared to sitting on a bus or subway with a bunch of people you don't know and who won't even make eye contact with you.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:25 PM on August 16, 2002


geoff: What about the Edison School's Project?

I think that there is a difference between local private schools that are non-profit and work more like universities and doing what libertarians always talk about "running the goverment like a business." That has turned out not to be so compelling.
posted by zpousman at 1:27 PM on August 16, 2002


And while we're at it, I moved to MA from OH two years ago, trading an apartment where I paid $400 for 700 sq ft, for a 250 sq ft hovel at $1000 per month. And that's in Woburn-- not exactly Weston, mind you.

I absolutely don't mean to be a jerk, and I say this partially tongue-in-cheek, but you could move back to Ohio... I happen to live in the town directly below Weston on the list you linked to, we rent, and we have no kids, so I'm certainly familiar with, shall we say, a tax burden. But I love it here, and I accept the high cost of living as, well, the cost of living where I choose to. I also feel that I enjoy (or at least rely on) a lot of services that my taxes contribute to. That doesn't mean I'd not welcome a chance to save some money, or improve the way things get done around here, but nobody's holding a gun to my head making me stay.
posted by jalexei at 1:30 PM on August 16, 2002


zpousman: see, that whole charter thing, along with privatization of social security, are not really honest. The fact is, government control is still in place, it is just being moved from the bureaucrat to the businessman in hopes of better efficiency. But even for Edison, income is guaranteed (because the whole thing is funded by taxes), and I don't think it is incentivized. Even still, Dayton Ohio's public schools have experienced moderate improvements since Edison took over a large part of the school system a few years ago.

In order to see how well the market and private institutions perform(for-profit and non-profit), things like public education and public retirement insurance (social security) should be purely optional and paid by the people that benefit directly from them.

But we still do have evidence that private schools, while operating on often half the budget, outperform public schools quite often. Clearly, money is not always the problem, but administration, organization, and power. For example, most private schools are not beholden to powerful political groups like the NEA, and are free to create educational environments unique and appropriate for their local communities. Plus, it's a lot easier for them to fire bad teachers.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:39 PM on August 16, 2002


I absolutely don't mean to be a jerk, and I say this partially tongue-in-cheek, but you could move back to Ohio

That's not an unkind thing to say, and its not unreasonable, either. Ultimately, if a state becomes too difficult to live in for people with large families and low incomes (but not low enough to get welfare), they just may vote with their feet and leave.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:42 PM on August 16, 2002


the public v private school performance measure is not a good one to tout, insomnyuk.... private schools have the ability to remove underperforming students, and are often populated by people that can afford both taxes for public school and private tuition, thus are necessarily shifted towards higher performers....

That said, I've longed to write up a grant proposal to measure the real differences so that this common analysis can either gain or lose its teeth.
posted by dwivian at 2:18 PM on August 16, 2002


insomnyuk -- Ok.

I think that your take on Edison is right. Edison is just trying to squeeze efficiency from the same regulations and structures of public schools. They are not able to "reinvent" education in the same way that small schools are. I think we agree that Edison is fighting a losing battle. To me, it says that schools are not that inefficient and poorly run. To you, it says that teacher's unions and national standards suck.

I didn't mean to find an example that's totally flawed -- but I do think that this example, of an *industry* that is privatized instead of just a single outlet for a certain product. I wish congress had acted differently when they prevented FedEx from taking packages that could have gone by first class mail. Then we'd have a good case study to look at.

Another area to look at is private parks, which seem in large part OK to me FWIW.
posted by zpousman at 2:22 PM on August 16, 2002


Well I'd say that was a good first post for me.
posted by Hall at 2:36 PM on August 16, 2002


zpousman: private parks are a very interesting topic, and I can only provide anecdotal evidence, but I imagine the possibilities are endless.

I know that the Boy Scouts, in spite of how controversial they may be, are quite involved in private parks. Owasippe Scout Reservation in Michigan is home to the 2nd cleanest lake in the state of Michigan (at least when I was there in 98). Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico is thousands of acres in size, beautiful, and in pristine condition. In fact, north Dayton has undergone heavy suburban development in the last ten years, and one of the bastions of undeveloped campground and hiking is a small enclave called Cricket Holler. Unfortunately, I could see dozens houses from the edges of the site (it's only 45 acres in size, I think). Private organizations may indeed be better at conservation than the government, especially if the actions of my municipal government are any indication. About ten years ago they opened up for development several fields, now one of the biggest malls in the area is housed there, all for tax revenue purposes. No politician can resist more revenue. There is risk whether government or private citizen is in control, but there may be additional benefits to private citizens controlling the land (hell, they might be able to keep it from all burning to smithereens with sensible natural burning policies or debris removal, God forbid the U.S. Forest Service ever did that, they're too busy building roads all over the place, in fact)
posted by insomnyuk at 6:16 PM on August 16, 2002


in trharlan's defense, the "awesome public transportation system" isn't all that prevalant when you get further from the main city. i don't even know if the commuter rail runs to woburn.

this thread taught me a few interesting things on my particular position regarding taxes and what we should do with them.

i've lived in boston for 23 years (all my life), and i haven't been to a better city, imho.

however, there are things that need fixing, and just about every boston resident rolls their eyes when the big dig is brought up.

93 is the only highway i've been on for any long distance, where i had to worry about actually stopping, and sitting in traffic for an hour. and i drove to seattle.

but if no one paid any taxes, as insomnyuk seems to like, i think we'd find that the roads would simply degrade and cease to exist. i think that government, in it's most basic form, is there to keep roads, and power, and all that other daily-life jazz running. if no one paid any taxes and the state didn't get any of that money, then i'm sure everyone else would just be greedy as hell and keep it all to themselves.

i envision a post-apocalpytic type world where everyone's house is made out of lead to keep from getting shot in their sleep, and no one has running water. so i say, government is okay.

not great. not horrible. just okay.

but this whole country is supposed to be a work in progress anyway, isn't it? isn't that supposed to be the beauty of it all?
posted by christian at 11:07 PM on August 16, 2002


One of these days I'm going to write a thesis on how private firms can provide things like roads, healthcare, police protection, and the like, and do a better job....it might make some of you think, but many are simply going to hate it, but I'm going to love it, my precious. Yes.....

One day...

i think we'd find that the roads would simply degrade and cease to exist.

I don't think so. There is sufficient market demand for good roads. They could even operate on an automatic toll system. There are all kinds of creative solutions to every problem, and just because government is not there does not mean people won't get what they want and are more than willing to pay for.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:42 PM on August 16, 2002


One of these days I'm going to write a thesis on how private firms can provide things like roads, healthcare, police protection, and the like, and do a better job....

While you're doing that I'll write my stories about corporations getting the freedom you want for them, and abusing it to the point where they basically go to war (literally) with each other in order to maximize profits.

You mention life, liberty and the pursuit of property. That's Locke speaking, but our founding father Jefferson saw fit to edit Locke to the "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Jefferson's shows a better grasp of the notions of inalienable rights. At birth, you definitely have the right of life, as you are alive. You definitely have freedom (liberty) bound only by the constraints of your person, and you have the right and ability to pursue your emotional gratification. In a cultural vacumn you could be born with each of these three rights, but in a vacumn, you can't be born with property.

In a way, property is antithesis to freedom, because the notion of property doesn't exist until fences are built around objects with the words "mine" or "yours." As such, property limits you to "your options" to "your property" instead of having a shared ownership of the world around you.

As for complaints of graft and corruption in politics. Ummm... It's in business too. But, in politics, there are several checks in place to ensure that it doesn't take hold.

Open records, sunshine laws and the Freedom of Information Act allow the press and public to see what the government is up to. These same laws don't apply to corporations. As such, oversight of government is far easier than oversight of corporations is.

To get back to the issue of income taxes though, please everyone, stop complaining about what your taxes go to pay for. Every time I hear the "I don't want my money going to pay for X" well, your money isn't going to pay for X. When you pay the federal government, your taxes (unless if you're Midas_Mulligan) go to A1, A2, A3, A4...C200, C300..., etc.

There are so many different projects that your money is spread over that you probably contributed maybe penny to any given program.

This general dislike of taxes in the US is so misplaced, as people who complain the most, are often those who benefit from taxes the most.

It would be useful, for pushing the debate forward, to have someone create breakdowns for people on exactly how their government benefitted them, what advantages tax dollars brought them, so people could better understand why it's not a bad thing to give money to the government each paycheck.
posted by drezdn at 1:00 AM on August 17, 2002


Perhaps our friends from the UK could discuss how privatization has improved formerly government-run services?

Well, the prospect of the Tube going the same way as the national rail network makes me glad I now cycle into work. As for the self-enrichment of management at the other privatised utilities, and the collapse in standards through competitive tendering (Crapita and friends, we salute you) you just need to read Private Eye for fortnightly examples.

And insomnyuk: the 'relevance' of my earlier point was towards your inane suggestion that 'states not be allowed to spend the money until they have it in the treasury'. Believe it or not, government finance doesn't work that way, and if you continue to think it does, I suggest that you don't buy a house until you have all the money in your bank account. (And no, getting daddy to pay for it doesn't count.)

Alternatively, why not build your private road based upon the tolls it will generate, and only build it once you've got sufficient money from those tolls. Arse-backwards? Business doesn't work that way? Well, that was your initial suggestion, so don't hold public funding to different standards from private enterprise.
posted by riviera at 2:42 AM on August 17, 2002


riveria: the problem with government is not that they buy a house without having money, but that they write a check for their house-payment before they have money. Let's not run past reality to fringes that make no sense, okay?

I'm with insomnyuk -- I want the government, if they insist on seizing taxes, to gather the tax base, THEN create a budget. We'd have no more surplus or shortfalls without government intent, which could be dealt with at the polls.
posted by dwivian at 5:56 AM on August 17, 2002


Perhaps our friends from the UK could discuss how privatization has improved formerly government-run services?

You are assuming that because a privatised system has turned out worse than a government run system, that privatisation is wrong.

Private enterprise works better than government in systems where government doesn't try to control the private companies.

Privatisation would have worked excellently, IF the new companies running the railways were allowed to control their own pricing. Sure, the price of a ticket from A to B might have jumped up 30%, but the trains would run on time, would be clean, and would work. If they didn't, people would jump in their cars.. just like they do now, in fact! The only people using the trains in the UK right now are those without any other choice!

Instead, the government, and society as a whole, forces the new privatised companies to run at the same prices as the government controlled system. Now.. the government has an almost infinite budget to throw into subsidising things like public transport.. but the newly privatised companies don't. Therefore.. the privatised companies have to cut corners, leading to a worse service.

If government would leave private enterprise well alone, we'd have great services and they might cost a bit more, but while the government tries to control their prices, there's no incentive for private enterprise to do any better than the old government-run systems.
posted by wackybrit at 6:15 AM on August 17, 2002


That's Locke speaking, but our founding father Jefferson saw fit to edit Locke to the "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

If you read any literature, such as the Federalist papers, or anything written by Patrick Henry, Benjamin Rush, et al, it is well understood that Jefferson's statement was a rhetorical device, and that property rights were the key to being able to secure life, liberty, and property. Of all people, Jefferson certainly believed in property rights (before you go worshipping him, remember, he owned slaves, property he held onto until his death).

In a way, property is antithesis to freedom, because the notion of property doesn't exist until fences are built around objects with the words "mine" or "yours." As such, property limits you to "your options" to "your property" instead of having a shared ownership of the world around you.

Actually, I agree that property does limit your freedom. However, property rights are a good thing, they establish boundaries which help keep people from abusing others. Property rights means you can only do what you please with what belongs to you (i.e., your body). Property rights are also negative, they set restrictions (those horrible fences) on what I can do to others, or things that belong to others. If there were no property rights, what justification would you have for complaining when someone takes your food, or takes you away? "Sharing" is too vague a system, it cannot be enforced, and human nature has proved time and time again that it doesn't work. Property limits the freedoms we ought not have, like the freedom to steal, vandalize, and abuse others and their property.

As for complaints of graft and corruption in politics. Ummm... It's in business too. But, in politics, there are several checks in place to ensure that it doesn't take hold.

I think history has proven that States ultimately will not regulate themselves, but they are so generous and willing to regulate every other aspect of life. In spite of the system of checks and balances, I think there is massive, low-level corruption in the entire system, nearly every representative runs on a platform of brining tax money back to his district. I like to call this "buying votes". This is why libertarians rarely win, the voters don't understand why they won't bring home the pork.

This general dislike of taxes in the US is so misplaced, as people who complain the most, are often those who benefit from taxes the most.

I don't know how you can prove this statement with numbers. Most of the people who complain about taxes are the middle class and wealthy, who in general would benefit from getting their money back and dropping the government services altogether. The poor receive many services from the government, but don't pay any income tax, for example.

riviera: the 'relevance' of my earlier point was towards your inane suggestion that 'states not be allowed to spend the money until they have it in the treasury'.

I don't care if private individuals do spending on credit. If they mess up, fine, they have to shoulder extra debt. But if (when) the government screws up, all citizens have to shoulder the burden of additional debt. I can cite a private school I attended for a few years which had a debt-free policy. They needed to build an auditorium, and spent a year or two raising money, and did not start construction until they had the cash. The government, when it cooks the books and plays games with surpluses, can justify buying anything on credit. It's a nasty habit and leads to lots of budget problems which they don't bother to foresee. Also, the politicos would have to do a lot better job of justifying their expenditures if they had to raise the money beforehand.

Alternatively, why not build your private road based upon the tolls it will generate, and only build it once you've got sufficient money from those tolls.

Generally, a business sells stock in order to acquire the capital to move forward with a project. This is a bit different from what the government does.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:56 AM on August 17, 2002


I want the government, if they insist on seizing taxes, to gather the tax base, THEN create a budget. We'd have no more surplus or shortfalls without government intent, which could be dealt with at the polls.

There are plenty of problems with that scenario: first of all, are you prepared to twiddle your thumbs while the tax base is 'gathered' and assessed? Secondly, do you live in a world where the unexpected never happens? In general terms, your theory seems to presume that government is dealing with a stable, predictable tax base. That usually doesn't happen: the point of 'fiscal policy' is to use state spending (or the lack of state spending) to alter its own foundations, whether it's through programmes to get people into work, or by reducing taxation. (Which is why insomnyuk's auditorium is a distraction here.) For instance, while the French government took on a 40-year debt to build the TGV extension to Marseille, the projection is that the economic benefits of that link will boost state revenues sufficiently to pay it off.

The government, when it cooks the books and plays games with surpluses, can justify buying anything on credit. It's a nasty habit and leads to lots of budget problems which they don't bother to foresee.

'Cook the books' is a loaded term, if ever I saw one, and the question's an open one: what would you have proposed, had you been in FDR's shoes in 1934? Trickle-down? Getting government out of the face of the unemployed? Giving back more of the taxes they didn't pay?

Generally, a business sells stock in order to acquire the capital to move forward with a project. This is a bit different from what the government does.

Well, stock is designed to share both the risk and the profit, governments being non-profit organisations, the dividend can be either collectivised in large projects for the public benefit, (though I'm sure that you'll argue that libraries and parks and whatnot are evil impositions on your liberty) or individuated in terms of tax cuts. Anyway, the sale of state debt in the form of bonds lies at the heart of capitalism itself: John Locke and the Bank of England were contemporaries.
posted by riviera at 1:01 PM on August 17, 2002


Late breaking comment about a state trying to shut down their library system. Cool.
posted by zpousman at 2:10 PM on August 20, 2002


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