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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Friday, April 21, 2006

He noticed! He noticed! (More TABOR)

I'm as giddy as schoolgirl at an O-Town concert! After a solid year of my taking on his right-wing nuttery (May 1st is our anniversary!), Patrick McIlheran finally mentions me today on his blog!

Sadly, he's not apologetically abandoning his indefensible beliefs, but rather trying to tell me that I'm wrong:
[McIlheran's paraphrase of your humble folkbum's view] is, government’s costs ought to rise as fast as it costs to employ government workers, by his lights. Other than a suggestion that voters try to rebuild health care for lower costs (lower costs unlikely to emerge under the idee fixe of the left, a single-payer plan), Bullock feels the real route to happiness lies not in restraining taxes but changing who pays them.

Not to say his view is invalid, I do think it is revealing. For all the criticism of the Taxpayer Protection Amendment as overly complex (well, yes) or inflexible (good!), it is not the mechanism that grates on the left, it is the very idea that government’s growth can be restrained. It’s all about making the right people pay more.
Which is not exactly what I said. You, reader, pay a hefty property tax every year (and this year it will be even higher) in part because that's the way the state has historically paid for what it does. What I said, and what McIlheran hides behind ellipses, is that we here in Wisconsin need to have a discussion--among other things that might work to control costs--about whether we want to keep that up. That is a discussion we cannot have under current leadership and in a climate of gimmicky, movement-conservative pseudo-solutions--like the new one proposed today.

What I also said, and what McIlheran deliberately ignores (and Republican legislators fail to address), is that it is "the mechanism that grates on" me, and grates massively. See, any artificial tie between state and local spending (or revenue) and some unrelated data point (like inflation or the rate of new development in a community) is stupid. It's, like, stupid-and-a-half. I didn't use such plain language in my essay yesterday, and maybe if I had, McIlheran would have gotten the point. The point is, simply, that limiting how much government can do based on a measure unrelated to what government does is in-flippin'-sane, and will ultimately push the state into the same kind of death spiral Colorado is desperately trying to pull out of now.

If McIlheran is content to be so short-sighted, well, a year of plugging away at him hasn't changed his mind yet, so it's not bound to happen anytime soon.

Do I have all the answers to complex issues of state and local taxing and spending? No, of course not. I'm an English major, and a bad speller to boot. But I know BS when I see it--I teach high school, remember?--and TABOR, the Bride of TABOR, the Ugly Children of TABOR, the Downstairs Neighbor of TABOR, and all the other Republican-sponsored constitutional amendments we've seen in the last few years are BS of a very pure strain. They're transparent attempts to harness Wisconsinites' disatisfaction with high property taxes, not real solutions to why costs keep increasing and a greater share of those costs are borne by property owners and working stiffs.

I want this state to move beyond gimmicks. McIlheran, apparently, doesn't.

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