Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Who’s Smiling Now?

A chastened Governor Jodi Rell appeared on a radio talk show program while Democrats in the legislature were attempting to pass a “more progressive” income tax and said she would not sign the Democrat tax plan.

Once the governor discovered that Connecticut would be awash in revenue for the next few years, she pulled off the bargaining table her plan to raise the income tax, a reversal that Democrat leaders are not likely to let her forget.

The Democrat tax plan cannot be called a budget, because a budget shows outlays for taxing and spending. In previous years, it was thought necessary to present to the legislature budgets that detailed both taxing and spending ledgers. Democrats this year want to get their tax plan passed before they unveil their spending plan. Once the two are put together, Connecticut will have a budget.

Since the only reason offered by Democrat leaders for the unorthodox process was force majeure – We did it because we could do it – one can only speculate why the architects of this year’s progressive Democrat budget plan did not trust their troops enough to present the whole plan to them.

Progressive taxes create animosities between wealthy and less wealthy towns – between those who pay the more progressive tax and those pay a lesser tax, and also between those who receive more and lesser services.

If fact, the class war began even while Democrat leader President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams was trying to convince Sen. Edward Meyer, a Democrat from one of Connecticut’s plucked and plundered districts, to vote for half a budget plan.

"We're being asked to vote for a revenue package without knowing how those revenues would be spent,” Meyer said, something that I understand has not been done. You're buying a pig in a poke.''

A good soldier, Mayer bought the pig in a poke anyway, on the strength of William’s assurance that those who dispense the goodies would sweeten the pot in tony Guilford and Madison, two tony in Mayer's district towns that expect their senator to bring home the bacon.

Unless some adjustments in outlays are made by Williams and Speaker of the House Jim Amann, once thought to be a fiscal conservative, the rich towns will get hit up twice: once when the pay more in taxes, and again when they receive less in state services.

Amann was said to be surprised when, having failed to coral enough votes to override a predictable gubernatorial veto on the more progressive income tax, Williams announced on Memorial Day that he intended to push through his plan anyway. The Democrats had enough votes to pass their tax plan but not enough to override a Rell veto – probably because other Democrats with a foothold in wealthier towns were not willing to buy pigs in pokes.

William’s best laid plan was torn asunder in the end, because he was not able to command enough votes to override Rell’s veto. But should the bill pass in the future, all Democrats, both in the state legislature and in the towns, and all Republicans had better get used to attending legislative sessions with tin cups in their hands. For the beauty of the progressive income tax is not only that it provides a means of transferring wealth from those according to their means to those according to their needs; it also provides those who dispense the goodies with life and death power over other legislators. The progressive income tax empowers the needy by making the Democrat leadership all powerful -- which ought to put smiles on the faces of Williams and Amann.

So far, the Republicans have not been able to answer
with a short and pity response that will fit on a bumper sticker Democrat claims that their progressive tax is fair-minded. The best they could do this time was to question why Democrats felt they needed extra taxes when revenue projections show a surplus of, in round figures, a bilion dollars.

When you say to the middle class “We’re going to lower your taxes and raise the taxes of those who are better able than you to pay for our improvident spending,” workers in Connecticut who make less than $250,000 a year will receive the message with a smile. Everyone loves to consume state services and charge the bill to someone else. The progressive tax enlarges the pool of citizens who consume services without paying for them. It is an enticing message, but one in the end that is simply too good to be true.

Because ultimately there is no such thing as a free lunch.
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