Thursday, February 24, 2011
An actual, nonsarcastic, long-term structural solution to Wisconsin's hypothetical budget woes (Publicus Proventus)
How much do Republicans like rich people? Almost as much as they like hypocrisy and not investigating the facts, judging by few recent examples.
Example number one, of course, is Gov. Patsy's willingness to take a phone call (and potentially a free trip to California) from a rich campaign contributor -- all the prank called had to do was pretend to be the man who bankrolled the counterprotests in Wisconsin and he got through to the Governor, who, if he wasn't raising campaign money on state time using state resources, was a hair away from doing just that. (On a side note, it's interesting to see that it's not just racism motivating the Tea Parties; it's also rich people. Rich white people, that is.)
Example number two of the love the GOP has for rich people -- combined with not checking the facts -- is Mike Nichols' hypocritical, biased page 2 piece in the comically-tiny Wisconsin State Journal on February 23. Nichols cites numbers without explanation -- a typical Republican tactic -- and repeatedly asks young people protesting at the Capitol "Who's gonna pay?", using the word gonna to indicate a commonality with reg'lar folks that doesn't exist.
Mike, a better question to ask is why didn't you pay? You've been supporting and voting for people for years that wrote checks without checking the balance first; can you find a time that you refused a government benefit because it wasn't funded? Did your kids go to school? Did you drive on the newly-plowed roads? Did you drink the municipal water supply that the GOP wants to now stop requiring be clean? You did those things without ever asking whether they were paid for, and now you say, hypocritically and without any examination of the facts, Who's gonna pay?
And Nichols' answer? Government employees, who already are paid less than the median in Wisconsin. That is, Nichols adopts Gov. Patsy's, and the Republicans', answer: The poor are gonna pay. Because they love the rich, whether or not they are the rich.
Example number three that the GOP belongs to the rich comes in the form of a Daily Beast/Newsweek poll that shows that Donald Trump -- Donald Trump-- would get anywhere from 8% to 41% of the vote from Republicans in a primary or general election; Trump's numbers on the poll show him taking votes exclusively from Republican candidates. So Republicans would rather nominate, and vote for, an unqualified rich white man than almost anyone else. (Still wondering how Ron Johnson got elected, Wisconsin? I'm not; I'm wondering where he went, him and Herb Kohl.)
Finally, here's a policy reason that proves that the GOP loves rich people and wants the poor and middle class to support their policies giving away the state: The GOP could fix the so-called budget crisis with a structural change in Wisconsin's government that wouldn't affect collective bargaining at all, and wouldn't hurt poor people or the middle class, and would be relatively simple to impose -- plus would put more money into the hands of local government.
Sounds good, right? It is, and it's simple-- but it's not considered at all, so far as I can tell, by the Gov. Patsy brain trust, maybe because no rich white guy has yet suggested it, and won't.
The solution: Amend the "Uniformity Clause" in the Wisconsin Constitution. That clause exists to protect the public from preferential treatment being given to wealthy landowners, which means it seems to be a good idea right now, when Gov. Patsy would almost certainly exempt rich white people's property from taxation, but it prohibits property from being taxed at different... progressive... rates.
Right now, states and the federal government tax income, and do so progressively. Taxing income is counterproductive: Income is useful money, money not sitting around in land or bank accounts, and a tax on income produces a disincentive to produce income. Taxing property -- the method used to fund schools, among other local projects -- would reduce that disincentive and put a tax on passive investments such as real estate.
But property taxes are regressive: they're applied a the same rate to all property in the state, by Constitutional rule. If the Uniformity Clause were amended to allow property to be taxed progressively with higher rates applied to more valuable property, the legislature (or local governments) could impose a higher tax rate on more valuable property.
In Wisconsin, the median value of owner-occupied homes was $112,000 at the last census. That means that 1/2 of all houses in Wisconsin are worth more than $112,000. If the Uniformity Clause were amended to allow a 0.5% increase in property taxes on homes worth 2 times the median value -- or homes worth more than $224,000 -- that would raise a lot of money, and would raise it mostly at the local level and from people who can afford to do it...
... and it would provide those people with a tax deduction at the federal level, allowing, in effect, Wisconsin residents to refuse to send tax money to Washington and keep it here at home. What's not good about that?
I'd support that plan -- and something more radical, an extra 2% surcharge imposed on homes worth more than $500,000, which would raise even more money. What schools we could get, roads we could build, sick people we could take care of, if we did that...
What things we could do, if we had state leaders who were actually interested in governing rather than punishing the poor and middle class to make rich white people happy.
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