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Politics, taxes and the death of reason

We don’t endorse candidates, but we do discuss issues. A big one, circling like a vulture over many races this year, is the notion than any politician who votes to raise taxes somehow breaks faith with the voters.

Politicians aren’t to blame for raising taxes amid recession. We voters are.

We’re the ones who refuse to support dedicated levies for long-term improvements, forcing government to borrow against uncertain year-to-year revenue instead.

We’re the ones who oppose nearly every move to trim the cost of government because every program is a pet project to someone.

We’re the ones who insist government shift away from taxes based on wealth, which doesn’t vary much in downturns, to taxes based on consumption and income, which do.

Raising the sales tax rate was one of the stupidest things Kansas ever did.

The only thing stupider would have been not increasing taxes to pay spiraling bills incurred long before the downturn — all without any thought for what might happen when a downturn came.

The sales tax is a lousy tax, nickel-and-diming us to death without us ever seeing the total cost. Big-ticket items become much more expensive. Worse yet, the tax hits hardest those least able to pay.

The richest person in Kansas doesn’t spend much more on consumer goods than does the poorest, yet both pay roughly the same. The sales tax is the only legal tax that takes a greater percentage of income from poor people than it does from rich people.

Kansas could have fixed this, as many other states did, by exempting essentials like food. Republican gubernatorial nominee Morris Kay campaigned on that platform in 1972. He lost. So did Kansas.

We could cut spending instead.

In 1972, the City of Marion had three police officers who shared a single squad car. The county — with 3,000 more people than today — had only a sheriff, an undersheriff, three dispatchers and a sheriff’s wife, who cooked for jail inmates.

The average class size in grade school was 30 or more students. There were at most two teachers per grade.

Not only was there not a secretary, shared or otherwise, at the senior center; there was no senior center.

The county rarely hired special prosecutors or outside attorneys, and the county engineer did much of the engineering work in house.

Which of these are government waste and which are public improvements? You tell us.

Are there inefficiencies in government? Absolutely. They can and should be trimmed. But simply sitting around, sipping tea, and insisting that any politician who votes to raise any tax, regardless of the circumstance, accomplishes nothing except to display cowardly ignorance.

— Eric Meyer

Last modified July 15, 2010

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