Corin Anderson (magellanic) wrote,
Corin Anderson
magellanic

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What makes me angry at election time

Party politics doesn't bother me at all -- I don't follow it much. What does really get me angry are things like California Prop. 82. The good part: preschool for all 4-year-olds in the state. The bad part: paid for by taxing "high-income" earners 1.7% per year. It's not right that the state should lean on the high-income earners for every public initiative that comes to light. Why not? Let's suppose there were an initiative that taxed only the most physically attractive people, the 0.1% most beautiful people. That won't cost you or I anything, because neither I nor any of my friends are 1-in-1000 beautiful (well, I know a *few* of you are, but not everyone). So, let's tax them -- after all, they're enjoying the best things in life as it is (I mean, hey, they're beautiful, how bad could that be?). And it's only 2%, they can afford it. They'll complain, but hey, there's not many of them, and it doesn't cost you or me anything.

In actuality, I don't mind having such a tax levied, but it's the particulars of these initiatives that irritate me (November 2004 Proposition 63 passed that levied 1% tax on income over $1M to direct it to mental health work). Particular #1: the tax base and the cause are unrelated. We tax gas to pay for roads. We tax property in cities to pay for schools and services in cities. We tax income in California for general California needs. I don't expect to enjoy the benefits of every last service that feeds on the general fund, but I *do* expect that for line-item taxes. I wouldn't mind nearly as much if the proposition was to just change the base tax rate to 11% and feed into the general fund. I object it going to *this particular* cause (or any particular cause).

Particular objection #2 is the tactic of trying to pass a law by observing (albeit correctly) that "Prop. 82 has no cost for 99.4% of California taxpayers." Ah, success - it's free for me, I should vote for it! And besides, those rich people can afford it. Hell, what else are they going to do with that money? ... I, I just can't put into words how this logic infuriates me. Yes, I know that progressive tax systems employ this exact plan, and yes, they bother me, too, but not nearly so badly. I think it's just the tactic of playing up to the voters that this will be absolutely free to them that bothers me. Truth be told, though, it won't be free. Because, at some point, and this may well be it, all those high-income people will actually _leave_ California. The voters pamphlet notes that one-third of California's personal income tax comes from this 0.6% of voters (fewer than 100,000 invididuals). That's a lot of money coming from a few people. A law like Prop. 82 may be enough for them to finally decide to leave California, or to find some way to shelter their income, and California loses out way more than the possible gain of some free preschools. I'm reminded, although only obliquely, of Atlas shrugged.

*grump*

Well, for what it's worth, I'll cast my No on Prop. 82 ballot tomorrow. I much doubt that anything different will happen with it than with Prop 63, though. *sigh*
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