I recently got yet another copy of that stupid email story where the ten beer drinkers pay their collective tab of $100 in what is supposed to be "the same way we pay our taxes," i.e., the long-suffering rich guy gets stuck with the lion's share of the tab while four of his less affluent buddies drink for free. Although this misguided missive arrived a few days before the $50K-per-pop, "just-us-one-percenters" gala where the ol' Mittster bashed the freeloading 47 percenters who pay no federal income taxes whatsoever, as a friend of mine points out, this parable is not exactly applicable to Romney, who not only doesn't drink (even though he would probably benefit from it more than any teetotaler who ever lived), but wouldn't be caught dead in a place where the beer was that cheap even if he did.
The survival of this inane analogy, like the text of Mitt's sermon to his well-heeled choir of yea-sayers, is ample affirmation of what politicians have been counting on for centuries: People seldom challenge the accuracy or probe the deeper meaning of what they want to hear. In fact, I'd venture that it's never really occurred to some of my Republican-leaning fellow oldsters that they actually account for more than one in five of the nearly five in ten who pay no federal income taxes and thus are members in good standing of the "dependent" demographic that His Mittness was castigating. Beyond that, I wonder when he lit into those who feel "entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it," if Romney himself truly understood that he was effectively trashing a sizable segment of his own base. It stands to reason, after all, that if you serve up enough of what is essentially warmed-over political comfort food, your own palate will soon be no more discriminating than those of the folks who are happily wolfing it down.
The O.B. will say that since Mitt's most
recent muckup, he has heard more fact-based discussion of who actually pays
what than he ever expected. For example, several taxperts have pointed out that
effectively 60 percent of those who do not pay federal income taxes are paying
payroll taxes nonetheless while only 1 percent of the citizenry is truly making no contribution whatsoever to our revenue coffers.
In case you haven't noticed, the ol' Bloviator has
become something of a map/chart geek recently, and he is really smitten with
the following one, which compares percentages of total taxes (of any sort at any level)
paid with percentages of total income received across all income layers. Rather
than showing the rich guy shouldering a disproportionate share of the burden,
it reveals what strikes the O.B. as remarkable equity across the income quintiles.
The O.B. would like to think that Romney's over-the-top stereotyping has spurred a general determination to understand the facts behind taxation issues a little better, but he still sees way too many cases where we seem positively eager to be deceived about fiscal realities and possibilities, especially if we don't really feel that we personally have a pooch in a particular budgetary dogfight. As many of you know, such a dogfight erupted here in Georgia last week after our secretary of state, Brian Kemp, announced that in response to the governor's call for a 3 percent budget cut, he was ponying up the requisite $730K and change demanded of his office by simply shutting down our state archives as a public research facility. When the O.B. sought to show the shortsightedness of Kemp's move in a piece that appeared on the Hotlanta paper's web site, one of the first folks to comment wanted to know, "So where would you like your money to go--to the archives or to education?" The O.B. was sorely tempted to launch into a lengthy, high-minded philosophical explanation as to why closing its archives would amount to a sizable step back from any state's commitment to education. After several "get thee hence's" however, he focused on his astonishingly credulous critic's ready acceptance of our elected officialdom's boilerplate assurances that there was neither enough bureaucratic adipose left to excise elsewhere in the state budget nor more potential revenue sources sufficient to make such a Draconian cut unnecessary:
This move becomes even more embarrassing and difficult to justify in light of the fact that the $732,626 that shutting down the archives is supposed to save is less than half the annual cost of operating the "Go Fish Georgia Educational Center." This big-ticket facility was constructed at a reported cost of $14 million down in Perry, (quite coincidentally, I'm sure) on the home turf of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, and in its first twelve months of operation drew about 15,000 visitors, roughly 3 percent of the number served by the archives each year back when it was fully operational.
Defenders of the decision to padlock the archives claim it is preferable to cuts in other, more vital state services, but that scenario assumes that potential sources of additional revenue are not available. Very reasonable projections indicate that simply bringing Georgia's cigarette taxes up to the national average could raise an additional $500 million, not to mention the long-term savings in public and private health care costs. Two-tenths of 1 percent of that figure would keep the archives going, and obviously a lot more would be available to address other public needs. Although polls have shown a sizable majority of Georgians support raising the tax on cigarettes, efforts in this direction have been beaten back thus far by lobbying campaigns warning that such a move would destroy the "competitive advantage" enjoyed by convenience stores near the Georgia line that specialize in feeding the nicotine addictions out-of-state smokers.
Troubling as it might be to discover that the majority of our lawmakers have effectively chosen subsidizing the spread of lung cancer over supporting education, historical or otherwise, we should recognize that such decisions are no more than we can expect so long as we allow them to be made without our fully informed consent. In this case, if our elected officials cannot bestir themselves to find a way to restore our state archives to a reasonably operational level, truth in advertising requires at the very least that they should be issued special license plates proclaiming Georgia "Historically Ignorant, But a Great Place to Smoke!"