Sunday, March 02, 2003

Update to "Wonderland of Dishonesty"

If you're coming here from a link to the "Wonderland of Dishonesty" post, first of all I thank you. Second, if Blogger has screwed it up and dumped you at the top of the page, you can click here and see if that takes you straight to the post.

Since I posted that, Barry of Inn of the Last Home, a Knoxville blog, had an excellent response, which I'll quote the relevant part of here:
BUT...too many people who oppose the Income Tax seem to think there is an unholy quality to the idea. Somehow, if it were implemented the portal of the Abyss would be opened and the draconians from within would leap out to devour us and drag the citizenry back into the Abyss for torment by the Dark Queen Takhisis herself... Folks, it's a tax structure, that's all. It's a way of handling money. There are better ways of getting your points across regarding Taxation Methods than the righteous indignation I've seen from the majority of the Anti-Income-Tax laws.
He has a point.

There is something visceral to my reactions to the income tax, and yeah, I do tend to portray it in apocalyptic terms.

For an example of the first, I can point to my reaction to Bill Hobbs announcement on his blog that he supported an income tax, provided it was yoked to the TABOR. I was stunned; it nearly felt like betrayal. But, in discussion with Bill and in reading his later blog posts, it was clear the misunderstanding was mine. I had assumed he opposed all income taxes, but was wrong. The depth of my reaction, though, did surprise me.

It's been clear for the past four years that the hands that control the Legislature and the budget have little interest in fiscal responsibility. They have buddies and activists and social engineers to take care of; we foot the bill, with mouths closed. Bill and I both feared the same thing: giving the State an income tax would open up the firehose of uncontrolled spending. Bill sees the TABOR as the solution to that. I'm far less sure, but not closed to being persuaded on the matter.

It's fair to say that I don't trust our legislators. Not at all. They are people, just like you and me, subject to all the faults, temptations, misjudgments, blandishments, foibles, bribes, flatteries, etc. that you and I are. The present mess shows that they are, taken as a group, deep into a world insulated from concerns that you and I have -- like meeting a budget with limited resources, and making the sacrifices we have to when called for. Phil Williams' reports for Channel Five in Nashville prove that.

Frankly, I don't trust our legislators to implement a TABOR. I suspect that the IT and TABOR would be decoupled during the legislative process, with the IT coming first. Then the TABOR would be "held off on" for a time, to see how things go. We'll receive lots of solemn promises about the grave duty legislators now have, with the new income tax, and how they will be good stewards of the public trust.

And then it'll be business as usual. TABOR will become something "we can't afford." It'll be a good idea for others, but Tennessee will have "special circumstances" that exempt us from its logic. Things will plow on, the subject will fade and the folks still lobbying for a TABOR will become the next generation of "horn honkers." That's my fear.

Tell me that's not a plausible scenario.

I like a government that can't do everything it wants to. I like a government with limited resources. I like a Legislature that has to plead with the public to sell new ideas. I like elected officials with a healthy sense of fear of the public. It's the proper way for government to deal with the people they serve. It's the kind of government that best serves the whole of the body politic.

Some folks don't agree with this. Hell, some folks don't even understand thus kind of thinking. We're generations removed from the healthy skepticism of our founding generation. Government, in the view of too many today, should be able to do what it wants, when it wants, free of restraint. Especially when it's their agenda being served.

There is a reason for limited government. Study the history of our country and you'll understand that. Study the history of Tennessee and you'll understand that. Study the history of Memphis and you'll understand that.

Our Founding Fathers undertook a study of men and their governments and learned some lessons. They read widely and, in starting their own Republic from scratch, saw first-hand the truths of their study. Democracy, even in its representative republic form, is a fragile and easily broken thing. Start the government down the road of meeting every conceivable public need and it's very, very hard to stop. You end up with...well, what we have today: a bloated whale, a monstrosity that does a lot and poorly, inefficiently.

Show me the path that keeps Tennessee's government in check, gives it the income tax, and concurrently gets us a TABOR that can't be easily tampered with (as is starting to happen in Colorado, according to Bill Hobbs), and I'll think about it.

In the meantime, let the government stew. Hopefully, it'll break and we can start again on a better path, with better people. But I'm not holding my breath and I am hold my wallet. Tightly.

No comments: