Long Memories for Taxes

November 6, 2007 local voters did what politicians always said we could do (as their excuse for not legislating term limits) but never did: we “voted the bums out”. It didn’t seem to matter what party folks were, the incumbents had to go. Anyone even remotely connected to the property taxes debacle had to go. And now the politicians are running scared because while they can schedule tax day as far away from elections as possible, property taxes come due awfully close to election time. Oops!

Suddenly our legislature has gotten bipartisan fever as they try to come up with solutions to the property taxes imbroglio, I mean, relief. They don’t necessarily want to push to raise income taxes, because we’d “see” that too painfully. An increase in sales tax wouldn’t be felt quite so acutely. The last thing they want to do is further penalize homeowners.

We live in the land of opportunity, seeking prosperity for ourselves and a legacy for our family. The lure of home ownership is part of what we’ve defined as the American Dream. Ownership means folks have a stake in the community. Higher taxes may seem like uptown problems, but—as Indiana faces a skyrocketing foreclosure (and bankruptcy) rate—we risk knocking the legs out of the housing market once folks realize they can’t afford the tax on their dream.

Many of us were clutching to middle class by our fingertips. I know that when I opened up my property tax bill, essentially our government was asking an extra three months mortgage payment out of me; or, to put it another way, an entire month of my wife and I’s combined salaries. I didn’t (and don’t) mind making sacrifices and paying my fair share, however, there is a tipping point.

There’s an old folk saying about how if you throw a frog into hot water it will immediately hop out; but if you put it in cold water and slowly raise the temperature, it will eventually allow itself to be cooked to death. While, this folk doesn’t match the reality for frogs, it does match the reality for tax payers. You increase our taxes all at once, you’ll get a revolt. Apparently if you raise them by degrees, we’ll allow you keep raising them.

All I’m saying is that it’s time to break out the thermometers people.

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Get Off My Property!

Homeowners through-out Indiana will face increases in their property taxes as local assessors hike values for the first time in several years. The amount of your increase depends upon tax rates set by your local units of government.

Then comes the government speak that translates into some homeowners seeing their property taxes increase as much as 300-400 percent. This in turn led to “hundreds of people pinched by soaring property tax bills boosted turnout Wednesday at a holiday tax protest.” Had I received our bill by then, I’d have been one of them. And folks want to ask “am I angry?”

We live in the land of opportunity, seeking prosperity for ourselves and a legacy for our family. The lure of home ownership is part of what we’ve defined as the American Dream. Ownership means folks have a stake in the community. Higher taxes may seem like uptown problems, but—as Indiana faces a skyrocketing foreclosure (and bankruptcy) rate—we risk knocking the legs out of the housing market once folks realize they can’t afford the tax on their dream.

I don’t mind making sacrifices and paying my fair share, however, there is a tipping point. We’re told that we need to do all this stuff to attract business, such as abolish the inventory tax; but I’m here and I work. Putting it all on the backs of your base is ridiculous. We’re taught that spending our money renting is a waste of our money, that ownership is the first step in the accumulation of wealth; but all of a sudden it seems downright affordable. Well, until you think that someone is paying the taxes on that property, too; and those costs will only be passed along to the renters. And folks want to ask “am I angry?”

The idea of home ownership strikes a special cord with me. Many leaders from Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Malcolm X have been encouraging people to parlay land ownership into self-sufficiency and economic power. One of the American values is self-determination and economic empowerment is a pivotal part of that equation. We’re told to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps when many folks don’t even have boots. Some of us are still trying to make sure the shoes fit because it’s difficult enough to run a race when one’s shoes are tied.

Many folks are clutching to middle class by our fingertips. Essentially our government is asking an extra three months mortgage payment out of me; or, to put it another way, an entire month of my wife and I’s combined salaries. Everyone in office, regardless of party, when this went through needs to go. It’s not that long until November. And folks want to ask “am I angry?” Yeah, I’m ready to throw some tea into Eagle Creek.

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I Love Sin Taxes …

… as long as you aren’t taxing my sins of choice. There is an old saying that, “if you want less of something, tax it.” That is the rationale for “sin taxes,” high taxes on things like cigarettes and booze, although there are “sins” we like, such as gambling. So why the rant today?

The Republican governor’s plan calls for covering at least 120,000 low-income adults by hiking cigarette taxes by at least 25 cents per pack. It is one of six or more proposals being considered by the Democrat-controlled House as it wrestles with how to provide insurance to the estimated 850,000 Indiana residents who now lack it.

Our governor is attempting to push through his version of an “extort Peter to pay for Peter’s eventual costs on society” tax scheme. On the surface it seems like we’re trying to kill two (good) birds with one (questionable) stone: find a way to fund an insurance for those who don’t have it (good) and lower the amount of folks who smoke (good). As a way of changing people’s behavior, it’s a start, I guess. We’ve been waging our war on smokers for a long time. You can tell it’s a real war because we haven’t “officially” declared war on them. They just woke up one day under siege and treated like second class citizens. They can no longer smoke in restaurants (because we apparently decided that restaurants were making too much money). But like I said, just don’t attack MY sins. I’m not a smoker and I appreciate being able to breathe free in restaurants, so I’m not complaining too loudly. The government hasn’t come for me. Yet.

Actually, we might as well raise the price of cigarettes a dollar a pack. A quarter isn’t going to deter anyone, not even that fifteen year old who is thinking about picking up the habit (and isn’t that who we do these things for? The children?). The smokers I know would pay the extra dollar, because they’re addicted. And it’s the state’s role to exploit the addicted and the ignorant (need I mention the lottery thing again?)

It becomes harder and harder to call myself a Republican because I’m not seeing any clear delineation between the parties much anymore. If we’re against taxes, we should want to see taxes go down across the board wherever we can. What happened to “the desire to return power and control of our economic resources to the grass roots people of this country. THAT is our agenda. It is not a money agenda. It is the moral agenda of self-government.”? What happened to seeing taxes as a moral issue, governmental racketeering and money laundering with tax cuts merely the State giving us back the money we’ve earned?

At this rate, and by this rationale, I’m surprised that the government hasn’t legalized “soft” drugs, like marijuana, and prostitution if only to tax them. Those would seem to be consistent with this line of thinking. I’m sure it won’t stop there. Frankly, I keep waiting on the transfat tax, especially in the land of State Fairs. Come on, right now there are redneck scientists in their basements trying to deep fry something new to debut this year (we’ve had deep fried Twinkies, chocolate covered strawberries, moon pies. However, I’m here to testify, deep fried Snicker bars will be served in heaven.)

However, in the final analysis, nothing is free. Not health care, not education, not any of the things that government has to do. And the money has to come from somewhere. In the ideal system, everyone would pay their fair share. In our world, we seem to want more from those who have more (the rich) and those who “benefit” more from the system (the poor). Nothing about that seems particularly fair to me. But hey, I’m in the middle somewhere and you aren’t taxing my sins. Yet.

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.