Commentary
9:02 am
Tue March 8, 2011

Taxing Credibility

Two plus two equals four. Simple, right? That’s math even a journalist can understand. Unfortunately, the legislature and a large section of the general public doesn’t quite seem to get it.

State government is currently on course to run a huge deficit for the next fiscal year. State budget deficits are illegal, under Michigan’s Constitution. That budget has to be balanced by September 30.

Four months ago, we elected a ton of Republicans to the legislature who pledged they wouldn’t vote for any new taxes, no matter what. We elected a Republican governor who said he was going to deeply cut taxes on business, because he believed that was the only way to attract new jobs and industry to this state.

So we voted for no new taxes of any kind, less taxes on business, and we‘ve got a big budget deficit to start. And now we are shocked, shocked, that the governor is insisting on making huge cuts in state spending.

Well, we shouldn‘t be.

We voted for this. And, we tolerated the last governor, and several different past legislatures, refusing to deal with our problems. We put things off till we couldn‘t do it any more.

And now, we have to fix it. What‘s worse, we have to do this when we are still mired in the effects of the worst recession since World War II. Yes, I know the recession is officially over.

The economists say so, anyway. But hard times are not even close to over in Michigan. The auto industry is never coming back the way it was, and we need a new economy.

That doesn‘t mean I approve of the governor‘s approach. But we voted for it, and now we are whining, Protestors are thronging the state capital every day protesting some cut or other.

They have a right to do that. But the first rule of Management 101 is that if you complain about a problem, you should have a proposed solution. Ask the people protesting the budget cuts what they would do instead, and you mainly get a blank stare.

That, or some other answer that betrays fundamental ignorance of  fourth grade arithmetic. The governor’s most unpopular proposal is taxing pension income.  The AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, is fighting this tooth and nail. They don’t think a retired teacher who gets combined social security and pension income of $90,000 a year should pay taxes on what she makes. However, they don’t have any problem with the single mother who works part -time in my local dry cleaners paying state taxes on her eight dollar an hour job.

Does that sound fair? Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville noted yesterday that if the proposal to tax pensions is defeated, they’ve got to come up with another nine hundred million more in budget cuts.

I could say show me the money, but there isn’t any, and that’s the problem. For the last decade, we’ve pretended that there was such a thing as a free lunch, and we could make it last forever.

Except that the bill is now due, and the policeman is on the next stool. Two plus two is still four. If you have a better way to add up the numbers, I‘m all ears.