(Recent letter to the editors of my local newspapers)
I don’t think most people in New Jersey get it yet. When politicians tell us revenue collected for a better 911 system had to go for other law enforcement priorities, they aren’t being honest. Their “spending priorities” mask tax revenue lost to off budget deals for special interest tax breaks. These special tax breaks loosely translate into campaign donation or political clout for New Jersey politicians.
Special tax deals don’t show up as a liabilities on a budget line. They show up as holes in the budge that must be plugged. They show up as insufficient revenue to pay for state pensions, or daycare assistance, or NJ Transit funding, or the Transportation Trust Fund. Every time a dedicated funding stream is raided to plug a spending gap we should demand to know what created the revenue gap in the first place.
I believe we are intentionally distracted by dramatic spending conflicts to conceal the real action behind the revenue side of the ledger. It’s time to claw back all those special interest tax breaks and make the rich and powerful pay their fair share of taxes. Let’s require that all future budges contain a detailed accounting of all the tax breaks currently in effect.
Brian T. Lynch
Note: The readers of this blog are free to copy this letter or model their own letter after it to send to their own local newspapers.
A few other points that had to be left out:
- The tighter the state or municipal budget the greater the disparity between those who pay the taxes they owe and those who cheat on their taxes or get special interest tax breaks. Unfair taxation is at the root of revenue shortfalls.
- The article makes the point about wealthy corporations and the rich, because they have the means to make cheating on taxes legal (special interest tax loop holes). They also pay the least amout of taxes relative to their income and wealth. But the tax revenue drain also comes from a growing underground cash economy. Just the other day a buildings trade contractor told me he would lower an estimate if I paid cash (I declined).
- No matter where people fall on the wealth and income spectrum they feel cheated by a tax system that allows others to pay less than their fair share. Everyone feels entitled to cheat a little on their taxes. Today, cleaver manipulation of the tax code to avoid paying even massive amounts of federal taxes is admired. This is a far cry from when the current progressive tax code was first implemented 101 years ago. Paying taxes was considered a patriotic duty. Considering how strongly people voice their support for our military, coupled with the fact that nearly 50 cents of every federal income tax dollar goes to the military, you would think that it would still be patriotic to pay taxes today.