Saturday, November 07, 2009

A better South - with higher taxes?

Reminder: I'm at the conference, "Setting An Agenda for a Better South," sponsored by the Center for a Better South, based in Charleston.

We've just taken about 30 minutes to do a budget-setting exercise, based on the S.C. state budget. The assignment: Decide which programs you might want to give more money, which ones less, find new revenue if you can.

The room is over-represented with Democats, so we all raised taxes - the S.C. cigarette tax is nation's lowest, 7-cents a pack, so we all raised that. I was tempted to defund the S.C. governor's office completely. (Gov. Sanford, hello?). But it would be wrong.

Instead I, and plenty of others, reduced some sales tax loopholes, such as removing the $300 cap on sales taxes for cars.

But now we're talking about how unrealistic the exercise is, since only two of us here are elected officials (and a third is hoping to become one), and noting also that we took 30 minutes, when really you'd want to learn a lot more about which programs really did what.

But the point we're supposed to notice, I think, is that tax structures are in need of reform (not to raise taxes so much as to make them more fair), and that you really have to think about targeting your new spending in the areas you think are important. Most states have tax structures designed in the pre-World War II era, we were told this morning.

Jay Barth of Hendrix College is pointing out that many states, also, need revisions to state constitutions. SC constitution, e.g., says students need "minimally adequate education" says Adolphus Belk of Winthrop College. Thank goodness for NC's "sound basic education" clause. Maybe Judge Manning (Leandro case) needs to start riding a circuit through the South?


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
consultant said...

Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.

I'm against high taxes. I'm against funding programs and projects that don't work or have outlived their original purpose (ie. old style welfare, farm subsidies for corporate farms, defense projects that don't work but still get funded year after year).

We need to move on to do what we need to do to fix the country. But that's the rub. What's left of the Republican Party wants to cut taxes, but only the rich get their taxes cut under their plan. And the modern Republican Party doesn't want small govt., it just wants to spend tax money on the things they want. Like privatizing everything in sight, and of course, have the tax payers pay the bill.

The modern Democratic Party. Lord help them. They are a mess. On taxes, they don't quite know what they want to do, which is why there has been so much back and forth within the Party on health care.

Both Parties have failed the American people. Both of them. They're servants to powerful people and corporate interests.

If we can ever free most of our representatives from being captured by big money interests, we might have a chance to fashion sensible tax policies that reflect the needs of a nation.

Cato said...

Taxes are the price we pay for civilization. Maybe, but only a government with its priorities in order ensures that citizens get what they pay for.

If we're truly thinking about civilization as a priced good, the more important question is what is the shape of the supply curve for civilization (let's assume amount of civilization is the x-axis and amount of taxes collected is the y-axis)?

I would suspect that, after sufficient taxes have been raised (and allocated towards) a sound criminal justice system, basic education and infrastructure, then the amount of "civilization" purchased with the next dollar of taxation begins to drop, and the supply curve begins to grow more inelastic. And, if taxes get high enough, then civilization actually begins to break down (as businesses and people flee to lesser taxed jurisdictions, etc.), which would result in the supply curve bending back towards the Y axis. In this case, every dollar of taxation between this point in the supply curve and the one directly below it on the x-axis is pure waste.

If this is true (and maybe it's just absurd to consider tradeoffs between civilization and taxation), then that such an outcome is possible in the real world tells us about some fundamental shortcomings in our methods of public finance.


Anonymous said...


That cliche was coined when taxes were 3%. Now taxes exceed 50%. Are we 15x more civilized? No.

So ditch the BS cliches and engage in reality.

Anonymous said...


Please name a society that has taxed itself into prosperity.


rick barton said...

Why not put a tax on newspaper ads of 25%. Our landfills are overflowing with newspapers, we need to urge people to use more green forms of media, then dead tree media.

consultant said...


Please take the time to get a Google Identity. Okay?

I know you don't have go to all that trouble when you listen to Rush all day. But you know, blogging should require a little more effort.

How do you feel about the Bush/Cheney plunge into 2 irresponsible wars that have cost us money we don't have and will not be able to repay in you and your kid's lifetimes? Too much for you?

Let me make it easy. If you want low or no taxes, why don't you move to some place like Mexico or other parts of Central America where the taxes are low or the tax collections are a joke.

Most of the the places in the world where there are low taxes are places we call "3rd World".

Which, ironically, is where Bush, Cheney, Rush, Beck, and the modern Republican Party wants to take us. You know, the good old days in the 19th century (1800s) when life was so good on the plantation. We didn't have to worry about civil rights, women's rights, casual days on Friday, happy hours, listening to scientists and personal income taxes. Man, don't we miss those days!

So get a Google Identify (translation-sign up).

Thanks, and have a good day :-).

Anonymous said...

Everyone should pay taxes. Even if you're "poor" you should have to pay something...$50-100/year.

According to CNN, 47% of wage earners in the US do NOT pay any income tax.

I think the flat tax is the way to go; let people have more of their own money they earn. You would see charity donations go up and politcal corrution go down.

I find it fascinating that the national media ignored Foxx's election while at the same time they ignored completely Kwame Kilpatrick's corruption during the '08 election cycle.

Maybe Charlotte should just be it's own town and forget trying to be Boston,SF or Seattle...

Anonymous said...


When I click on your Google identity, it says "The Blogger Profile you requested cannot be displayed. Many Blogger users have not yet elected to publicly share their Profile."

Many of us who post here as "Anonymous" feel the same.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

consultant said...

"When I click on your Google identity.."

It's not your 'profile', it's just your Google 'name'. You have to create one when you sign up. After that, when you post, you leave a distinctive name.

Try it. And welcome to the 21st century.

consultant said...

Your Google 'name' is different than your profile. Don't need or want to see your 'profile'.

Anonymous is like people who shout fire in a crowed theater (usually the first to get out).

The Google sign up is easy. I have to say though, that some of Google's help pages are less than helpful. Overall though, a great set of applications.

barkomomma said...

"The room is over-represented with Democats, so we all raised taxes..."

That is, without a doubt, the single most telling bit of information you've ever offered.

consultant said...


Based on your insightful response, I can infer you have the means to pay those taxes.

Good for you.

Anonymous said...

why are you not out protesting Obama over these 2 wars?

Anonymous said...

Consultant, if you don’t need or want to see my “profile”, why would you need to see a Google name? What if I just devised a new Google name every time I decided to post a comment? Wouldn’t that have the same result as just posting as “Anonymous”?

Instead of you directing one of your posts above to “barkomomma” (assuming he or she had made that into an actual Google name), couldn’t you have accomplished the same by simply posting it to “Anon @01:42 pm” (assuming he or she had posted as Anonymous at that time)?

The important thing is not who posts something. The important thing is the content of their post – the idea expressed. If you constantly post as “Consultant” or “Jumper” or “Cato” or whatever, readers tend to make a prejudicial judgment of your content before they carefully study it or comment upon it. Frankly that’s the reason why this nation is so polarized.

If Mary Newsom had started this blog as “Anonymous” and continued as such, I dare say she’d face such off-based criticism. Instead, we have folks who have erroneously associated her name with liberalism, and therefore pre-judge her topics as such, when anyone who reads them closely can see she is an independent thinker just tossing out food for thought and polite discussion.

Rebecca said...

Is that you Mary posting as Anonymous @3:58? But seriously, The Dems are going to kill the golden goose - I can tell you that I will absolutley quit/cut back on working if my taxes get any higher. My father closed his company b/c of the tax burden, putting 20 people out of work. He hated to do it but he did. I have a nieghbor who does not work AT ALL for two whole months in the summer b/c he figured out that 100% of his income goes to taxes after he works for 10 months. So don't think you can keep stickin it to us and we will just roll over. We are at the tipping point now.

consultant said...

"What if I just devised a new Google name every time I decided to post a comment?"

That's about as smart as voting for Bush-twice.

"why are you not out protesting Obama over these 2 wars?"

I am. Have been and will continue to do so until we get out of these 'wars'.

The fact is Bush/Cheney and all those who voted for them (along with many spineless Democrats in Congress) are the ones who started these wars, and they are ones who sustain them.

You want to look at your taxes, follow the war trail to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rick Barton said...

hi consultant. What do you think of the fact that the sec. of tres. is a tax cheat, as is the chairperson of the house ways and means commitee.. When the sec of tres worked at the IMF, they even paid is taxes for him on top of his salary.

Why don't you post under your own name. It is not hard, I always do

V. A. Sorkie said...


I can believe you have a neighbor who doesn’t work at all for two months in the summer. But you must be very na├»ve to think it is because “he figured out that 100% of his income goes to taxes after he works for 10 months.” Is his name Denny Dimwit?

First, if he’s a wage earner, or takes a salary from his self-owned corporation, the highest possible marginal federal income tax rate would be 35%, and that would only be the case if he made $379,950 or more in 2009. Yes, life is hard when you’re taxed at a 35% rate for making at LEAST $379,950. (That’s only 10% more than the marginal rate most middle class taxpayers pay, and a far cry from the 50% maximum rate that he would have paid not many years ago).

If he is a North Carolina resident in that high income bracket, he could pay about 7.75% in state income tax plus a 2 or 3 per cent surtax depending on income level. (Most middle class NC workers also pay a 7.75% rate, but with a lower or no surtax.)

Add in the 6.20% that we all pay on social security, and you could say that about 52 per cent of his income goes to taxes, assuming he has earned at least $379,950 by October 31 and takes two months off. If earned much less, then of course his tax bite is relatively much less. (He would also pay the “Medicare” tax of 1.45% on his first $106,800, but any wages over that aren’t taxed, so the very richest wage earners in this nation do NOT pay 100% of their wages in taxes at any point of the earning process.)

If he owns a sole proprietorship, or a corporation in which his income is taxed on his Form 1040, there are oodles of tax deductions, credits and breaks that to which we peons aren’t entitled. If he is one of the unscrupulous who take distributions from their S-Corp but no salary in order to avoid the payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, the IRS will get him eventually.

Maybe your neighbor and your Dad, if indeed taxes were the real reason he went out of business, need to spend more time figuring out how to find a good CPA and less time trying to figure out their tax rate.

Meanwhile, I suspect that most of the folks who holler the loudest about Obama raising taxes on the productive MIDDLE class don’t know what they are talking about.

And if the reason for the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy was to stimulate the economy and create jobs, where are the jobs? The rate hasn’t changed in several years. Who is fooling whom?

consultant said...

"What do you think of the fact that the sec. of tres. is a tax cheat, as is the chairperson of the house ways and means commitee.."

Both of them need to go. I've been railing against Tim "Dr. Strangelove" Geithner since the day Obama picked him. He is a disciple of Bush/Clinton/Bush trickle down economics.

Larry Summers, Geithner and Atty. General Eric Holder all need to go. I want to see perp walks for many of the hundreds of thousands of people and companies who engaged, and in many cases are still engaging in fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud (see the entire housing Ponzi scheme).

This time next year, if Obama hasn't dramatically changed his economic and war focus, he's toast.

The rest of us, we're just burnt toast.

consultant said...

"Why don't you post under your own name. It is not hard, I always do"

I would, but my name is James Bond, so no one would believe it anyway.

Cato said...

Food for thought:

An article on taxation from the urban-oriented, but right-leaning City Journal states in part:

Besides Mississippi, every one of the 17 states with the lowest state and local tax levels had positive net internal migration from 2000 to 2007. Except for Wyoming, Maine, and Delaware, every one of the 17 highest-tax states had negative net internal migration over the same period.

Anonymous and proud of it said...

Well, there you go, Cato! That's the solution.

Raise our state income tax rate on the lowest brackets. Reduce it on the middle class and upper.

We'll have the same overall revenue, but all those dependent upon tax-funded welfare programs will head to Texas. The movers and shakers will head to NC.

Jumper said...

Not connected with this column, nevertheless readers will be amused

Anonymous said...


Please name a society that has taxed itself into prosperity.


rebecca said...

Sorkie - he is a Dr. and, to paraphrase you: And if the reason for the OBAMA STIMLULOUS(Bush tax cuts) FOR (on ) the wealthy was to stimulate the economy and create jobs, where are the jobs? The UNEMPLOYMENT rate (hasn’t )HAS changed EVERY (in several) MONTH(years.) Who is fooling whom?

One in five households now has at least one umemployed member. Keep on taxing...let's see how many jobs are created. After all, theft isn't theft if it is taken from those evil middle class and rich people.

consultant said...

I'll go you one better 'Anonymous'.

Here's a list of countries and parts of continents where you can find low taxes or inefficient (bad) govt.:

*the rest of Central America
*most of South America
*most of Africa and arguably South Africa too
*India and the rest of Southern & Central Asia
*Russia and most but not all of the old 'East bloc' countries
*America under George Bush/Cheney if you're rich
*America under Obama because he came after the most destructive President in US history

You can find far more countries with low taxes/bad govt.

The countries with higher taxes/more efficient governments are the one's where generally the electricity stays on 24/7 and you have clean drinking water.

So, for all the folks who don't travel overseas, don't read widely, don't know what the word selfish means, and don't understand the role good govt. plays in creating and sustaining the infrastructure many take for granted: if you think our taxes are way too high, there are many, many places in the world, some close by, where you can go and find your tax paradise.

So the question is, "What's keeping you at home?"

Scott F. Dadson said...

For the past ten years, local governments have watched state legislatures cap property tax, levy limits, limit assessed values and invoke other growth restrictions. The result is a changed balance of a locality’s capital structures from dependable streams of income to economically sensitive revenue streams. The weak property tax revenue coupled with slowed or stalled growth of economically sensitive taxes and fees, such as business licenses, hospitality taxes, sales taxes, and permits, has reached the point where we are in a perfect storm of fiscal shortfalls. The extent of the duration of this downturn in the business cycle has the makings of a long and deep trough.

While local leaders discuss lack of revenues from the State, these same leaders rarely focus on what they do control: costs. We are not taking the cost structure, or expense and liability side, of our financials seriously enough. And until we do, no one will—or should—take us seriously. The only way out of this fiscal meltdown is not, as suggested in the movie “Jaws,” to get a bigger boat. Rather, the way out it is to recognize that our capital structure (revenues) is out of balance and in need of overhaul and that our response must be the prioritization of the cost of public services. Those services need full examination and response.

Any other response, such as recommendations to increase partnerships, decrease capital, eliminate travel, focus on strategic plans, institute furloughs, enact pay reductions, and the similar recommendations we’ve heard or read from other local leaders are, at best, short term fixes or, at worst, simply forestalling the inevitable. Short term fixes mask the real problems and the real solutions.

These solutions may work in a very limited sense, make us feel as if we are in this together, but, they ignore the extent and depth of this current crisis.

V.A. Sorkie said...


From whose ass are you pulling your ridiculous unemployment numbers? Your statement that “one in five households have at least one unemployed member” has absolutely no merit or relevance. Let’s see: my wife and I are a household. We are both retired. We don’t work. Therefore according to Rebecca Logic the unemployment rate in our household is 100%.

Our next-door neighbors have two kids. Neither works. So that household has a 50% unemployment rate according to you. Such BS.

The national unemployment rate as of October was 10.2%. The rate ranged from 4.2% to 15.3% by state. The rate is way too high, but it is not as high as “the sky is falling and it’s the Democrats’ fault” mantra of uninformed and politically biased folks like you.

The highest marginal income tax rate during the Clinton years – and as an investor I recall those as boom years – was 39.6%, 4.6% higher the marginal rate your wealthy doctor friend currently pays. If the economy can boom when we tax the ultra -wealthy by an additional 5%, I say bring it on. From Obama’s campaign promises, he is not going to raise taxes on the productive middle class.

Oh, and also, didn’t Bush have eight years to set things on an even keel for all America? Obama hasn’t been in office a year, and yet you’re claiming he caused everything from the mortgage market meltdown to the wars in the Middle East.

Please tell us what your plan is to lower unemployment. So far all I hear is that you don’t want to sacrifice any more of your wages – let the peons eat cake.

Jumper said...

Another community does an audacious party.

Anonymous said...

V.A. Sorkie,

To compare the current economy to the Great Depression, use the "Seasonally Adjusted U-6" unemployment rate, which is the measure used back then. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Seasonally Adjusted U-6 Unemployment Rate is 17.5%. Here is the BLS report:

Note that one year ago, U-6 was 12.0%. So unemployment has risen by nearly half since The Messiah was elected.

The only question remaining - will his "Mission Accomplished" banner be written in Arabic or Swahili?

Anonymous said...

"But the point we're supposed to notice, I think, is that tax structures are in need of reform (not to raise taxes so much as to make them more fair)"

Liberals love to tout increased "fairness" in taxes by raising sales taxes, which is the most regressive tax there is, and by increasing taxes on "rich" people, currently defined as anyone with $250K of income, which actually includes a lot of small businesses, who then don't have the money to hire more workers.

"According to CNN, 47% of wage earners in the US do NOT pay any income tax."

And yet you will still hear liberals say the rich don't pay their fair share of income taxes.

Does anyone remember that the income tax was installed as a temporary tax to fund a war?

The solution is to eliminate income taxes ENTIRELY. The Fair Tax, which would tax consumption instead of income, is the way to go.

V. A. Sorkie said...

Anonymous @ 10:21 am on 11/11 wrote:

“To compare the current economy to the Great Depression, use the "Seasonally Adjusted U-6" unemployment rate, which is the measure used back then.”

Fist off, the U-6 rate only goes back to 1994, not to the Great Depression of the 1930s. One economist recently noted that “It (the U-6 rate) likely isn’t as bad as it was in the 1980s, when the headline unemployment rate (the common measure I cited in my posting above) hit 10.8%”. Anonymous, do you know who held the White House through most of the 1980s? Probably not, since you apparently don’t know how to do homework, but I’ll help you with the answer: Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Secondly, according to your “blame it on the Democrats” theory, we have to believe that the Great Depression – triggered by the collapse of Wall Street during the latter years of the Republican Hoover administration – was the fault of the succeeding Roosevelt administration, which managed to get us out of it.

And now you’re claiming that the collapse of Wall Street and the resulting Great Recession that began during the latter years of the George W. Bush administration is the fault of Barack Obama.

I’m a moderate Republican who has been a part of the GOP since long before racially-prejudiced Dixiecrats like you – as evidenced in your slur against our President – snuck into the party. You and your buddies Rush and Glen need to form your own bed sheet-hooded “Conservative” political party and leave decent folks alone to work together to get us through this current economic crisis.

Anonymous said...

The AP s now reporting that millions will have to repay $ back to the Gov. because of Obama's glitch last spring.

Question is, will this story appear in the Observer?