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Columbia Missourian

DAVID ROSMAN: What's the matter with Missouri?

By David Rosman
February 6, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Oh, cool. A child is telling the citizens of the great state of Missouri that we are going to lose businesses to Kansas because we have a state income tax. Lovely child. Stupid message.

Watch carefully. The commercial tells the viewer that the “0%” income tax affects business owners only, not the employees or those on fixed incomes. And most small-business owners do not take a salary anyway.

The potential of a financial border war was silly enough that Forbes Magazine took up the issue last summer. The magazine's analysis? If you reduce the income tax and replace it with nothing, just where is the money going to come from to operate, let’s say, the Kansas Highway Patrol, the highway department, the schools and universities, the… I could use the entire column here.

Forbes’ Janet Novack wrote that “Kansas slashed the tax rate for the better off and exempted huge chunks of business, farm and self-employment income from its individual income tax, while increasing the burden on some of the state’s poorest residents by eliminating a rebate they now get to offset the state’s sales tax on food.”

Novack continued that these cuts "will reduce state revenues by $4.5 billion — or about 13 percent — in fiscal 2014 through 2018." Based on currently approved spending, Bloomberg reported that such cuts will produce a "$2.5 billion revenue hole through fiscal 2018."

In 1896, William Allen Wright wrote an editorial in The Emporia Daily Gazette titled “What’s the matter with Kansas?” His concern was the stalled growth of population, that the state only gained 2,000 new souls in eight years. He also noted that “every moneyed man in the state who could get out without a great loss has gone.” Kansas suffered from the loss of revenue. Kansas will see the same fiscal disaster more than a century later.

What does this have to do with Missouri? It is clear that the Missouri “veto proof” Republican legislature will attempt to fracture the state’s fiscal foundation by reducing or eliminating the Missouri tax base with no plan to replace the money.

I can only repeat what the former Missouri budget director Jim Moody told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the Kansas actions. “To emulate that is kinda like, if somebody jumps off a cliff in front of you, are you just gonna follow them?” Go GOP Lemmings!

It’s been a while since I took economics in college, but I am sure the basic rules have not changed. In business, if there is a deficit, if profits are nil, the solution is simple – reduce costs and raise revenue.

That is what the late New York City mayor Ed Koch did and the city rose from the ashes. Bill Clinton did the same and left office with a fiscal gain. Yet Missouri Tea Party legislators think all taxes are bad. Get rid of taxes and more businesses will move into Missouri? That has not proven to be true in the past, why now? How will Missouri provide education, maintain the infrastructure and safety and provide the other needs required by her citizens and businesses with no revenue?

If you really want a low flat-rate income tax, 13 percent on all income, and still have all of the state services, move to Moscow – not the one in Kansas but in Russia. You know, the land of those godless commies.

Not surprisingly, it appears that one person is running the no-tax parade in Missouri, billionaire philanthropist Rex Sinquefield of St. Louis. Bloomberg titled him the “American oligarch,” a tyrannical leader who holds all of the power over a small band of very rich right-wing right-wingers. His mantra appears to be — more money, more power. (Insert Vincent Price evil laugh.)

There are a slew of tax cut proposals in the Missouri chambers, all seemingly aimed at the wealthy and big business owners. One, SB31, suggests any tax increase, but the net result would be a loss in revenue. If all three proposals pass, that loss would be about $2.4 billion.

It’s time our legislators do a refresher course in economics and government, to forget their party affiliation and start thinking about the people who voted them into office. As far as I know, billionaire or hundredaire, it remains one vote per person, and corporations do not vote. Nor do children.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.