By TOM HENRY as pubished in the Saturday, December 17, 2016 edition of the Blytheville Courier News
Benjamin Franklin is credited with once saying, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
He should have also added that politicians will always seek to implement “mission creep” at all levels of government in order to buy votes and expand their domain.
Every year we in Mississippi County find a mad dash by our leaders to raise taxes…all taxes — city taxes, county taxes, school taxes, hospital taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, tipping fees, licenses, permits, fines…and the list goes on and on and on and on.
I’m a pragmatist. I realize that you have to have money to pay for things. I also understand that the more local the government, the more it impacts you personally. Therefore, city government impacts you more than county government, and county government impacts you more than state and federal governments do. Therefore, tax rates should be like a pyramid with those closest to you being at the bottom and largest.
But I also understand that the job of all governments is limited to “protecting the general welfare” and not impeding the life, liberty and property of its citizens.
Now, we find ourselves in the current position of being taxed a quarter out of every ten-dollars by the state, 65 cents out of every ten-dollars to the county and only a dime to the city. That, by definition, is lopsided and bloated in the middle.
That is why Mayor Sanders is arguing, “We only get 1-percent” and we need more. That may be true. But, what our leaders need to know is that practicality that when combined (and the residents of Mississippi County can’t do anything about the state’s portion) we are being taxed in combination a total of 10 percent and to raise that, by any level of our government, places us into the stratosphere when it comes to combined tax rate.
In fact, taxfoundation.org, tracks this very issue and I could not find a single city with a higher combined tax rate than 10.25 in the entire nation (surely there might be). But that is not the entire point I wish to make. The point I wish to make is that our local officials seem to believe that taxation equates with progress. That simply is not true. Sales taxes are regressive!
I have heard local politicians speak at public hearing and in private conversations say that to progress we must tax more. The truth, however, is taxation is the opposite of progress. Taxation limits growth, jobs, investment, prosperity and all of the very things that we strive for to increase quality of life for our area.
I will directly say to our county leaders, go on a fiscal diet. You get too big a portion of the tax pie! I will say to all our leaders, get back to your mandate and stay away from the frills and extras that we can’t afford no matter how noble or nice the intentions. We simply can not afford it. I’ll also say, to all those proposing new or higher taxes, stop being so darned slick with how you package them. It is like a magician that tells you to look at his right hand while he pilfers your wallet with his left.
It is not your job to create every little feel good program, buy every shiny new piece of equipment, purchase unneeded properties or just plain ol’ “keeping up with the Joneses.” By the way, I am not just talking to the city here.
We have to promote the general welfare (but not all of everyone’s wants). We have to protect life, liberty and property (always and everyone’s). Nowhere are we mandated to entertain, impress, make convenient, pander, coddle, or duplicate services for our citizens. We can’t afford it.
Also cut out the waste! Stop rewarding cronies, overlooking thieves and forgiving incompetency. Stop using our government employment positions as a means to guarantee a sizeable voters bloc for reelection through good ol’ boy styled patronage. Do merit-based hiring, firing and raises. Stop being dictated to by the government employees. Raises are not automatic “Well, Billy got a raise/bonus so I want one.” That’s not real world and you know it.
Lastly, what our politicians do is a reflection of us. Politicians by definition pander to get votes. They change their principles and priorities, they make deals, promises and bargains and they reward those that are on their side for votes. We in Mississippi County, as a whole, have gotten addicted to those things that we can no longer afford. We, as a whole, refuse to give up our pet projects, but scream, kick and throw a childish fit over the money being spent on the pet projects of others.
I propose that we truly demand that our city and county government be trimmed down to what we can afford. As we do that, instead of just seeking new taxes, we will find a lot of waste and duplication. We will save money that has been squirreled away for the buddies of those in power. We will find that some salaries are just too darned high. If we ever learn the basic of economics that the lower the taxation and the less the regulation, the more jobs and investment we will find. If we take care of the problems and not just talk, talk, talk and talk about them, our quality of life will rise, jobs will come, the population will grow and the tax burden will become lighter for each of us.
We should be lowering taxes, not raising them. But to do that, we must really experience progress by cutting, growing and then investing. We simply MUST finally cut out the bloated vestiges of the good ol’ boy system in Blytheville and Mississippi County.