Vail Daily letter: Tilted tables
The youngest among us may never have heard the slogan “There’s a sucker born every minute.” That ignorance is a testament to today’s sanitized commercial environment, at least at the retail level.
Lenders must give borrowers Truth-in-Lending papers before they sign. Home sellers are required to disclose flaws before they can sell. Mutual funds must disclose fees, risks and past performance publicly. There are problems in the commercial world but nonetheless informed consent is an accepted principle of consumer life.
However, PT Barnum and his ancient forefather, Caveat Emptor, still rule the world of tax increase proposals. Sales points are polished till they gleam. Negatives are airbrushed out.
When making their pitches, tax sponsors will not talk much about the rates of return society should expect. They will not talk much about competing needs, or other ways of doing the same job.
They will not talk much about past performance. Nor will they talk much about the special sting that sales taxes inflict on the have-lesses. Nor how real estate taxes drive up the price of milk. Nor how bonds make society more brittle.
They will not talk much about who has responsibility. When they mess up, you pay, not them. They will not spotlight that bad programs are harder to unwind than a bad marriage.
They will not talk much about how they commandeer the equivalent of a new Mercedes from the average family every year. Realists suggest that gaining control of this colossal cash flow drives organizations to seek more money, not less.
So tax increase proposals sprout like dandelions on dirt. Each proposal may be among the very most effective and progressive of all possible programs. Maybe not, too.
The largest of at least five proposals to hit the valley this year is a state-wide request for an eye-watering $12,000 annual increase per family. For health care.
The people pushing these projects are fine people, competent people. They are only doing what the smart execs at Ford or Pfizer or Google would do with that kind of power: Expanding their organizations.
Like people everywhere, they are following the path of least resistance. That path is not cluttered by the mandatory disclosures that even a lowly citizen homeowner must make to her buyer.
Vote. Urge your friends to vote. If you are happy with how they are spending your money, and happy committing others to do the same, by all means, vote “yes” on the tax increases.
If you want local governments to up their game, if you want to hold them to the same standards they hold you, vote “no.”
Make them make an honest case.
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