LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Increased sales tax is not the answer for funding services

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | 12:17 p.m. CDT

I thank Mary Hussmann and Grass Roots Organizing for speaking out against the imposition of another sales tax here in Boone County. They have rightly pointed out that sales taxes are regressive, meaning that they impose more upon the poor and working class than upon the well-to-do.

I am among those who spend nearly 100 percent of income each year, meaning that sales tax subtracts from almost every dollar of income I receive. This is not the way to fund government programs. Yet with continuing efforts by the Republican Party to bar any other form of revenue increase for state and local government, this is the kind of tax we are left with to support essential programs like mental health and our 911 call center.

It's time for citizens to say no to more sales taxes and demand that our government use more equitable means to fund the programs we all support. And that means fair taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

Jean A. Blackwood is a Columbia resident.

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Jimmy Bearfield March 20, 2013 | 12:46 p.m.

But the vast majority of taxes are paid by the wealthy, and the vast majority of government spending goes to people who make less than $50K. Instead of urging the government to raise taxes on the rich, you should humble yourself before those who are carrying your load.

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hank ottinger March 20, 2013 | 1:34 p.m.

Ah yes, kneel and humble yourself before those plutocrats, and kiss their golden rings. And don't forget to bestow upon them your first-born child.

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Jimmy Bearfield March 20, 2013 | 2:00 p.m.

Speaking of paying one's fair share, maybe the next Old SW neighborhood meeting could include a frank discussion of all those basement apartments whose income doesn't get reported to the IRS. You know, the ones that help fund those vacation homes on the shore or in the mountains that a prof making $60K otherwise couldn't afford.

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Tony Black March 20, 2013 | 2:27 p.m.


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Mark Foecking March 21, 2013 | 4:10 a.m.

"This is not the way to fund government programs."

Actually it is, because of where these funds go. They support many of the local projects that everybody uses every day, like roads and public safety services. It's fair in that everyone pays in for what they use. If it's a higher percentage of your income, well, that's too bad. You're still using these services (or have the option to).

If a loaf of bread is $2.00, it's a lot more of a poor person's income than a richer person's. But the benefit of that loaf is the same to either person. That's fair. What isn't fair is saying someone who can pay $4.00 for that same loaf should do so.

Practically, I feel high income people should pay more at the federal level for simple fiscal responsibility. We can't come close to balancing the budget by cuts alone and the wealthy can afford to pay more. But at the local level, a sales tax is an eminently fair way to pay for services that everyone uses.


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Jimmy Bearfield March 21, 2013 | 7:49 a.m.

People who make $1M aren't using a greater amount of government services than people who make $20K. They're actually using less, according to government spending received by income level. Why should the rich pay more? Because they can? That's not a compelling or rational reason.

No wonder Bill Maher said the other day: "You know what? Rich people actually do pay the freight in this country. I just saw these statistics. I mean, something like 70 percent. And here in California, I just want to say liberals - you could actually lose me. It's outrageous what we're paying - over 50 percent. I'm willing to pay my share, but yeah, it's ridiculous."

So those of you who use more services than you pay for, it's time for you to humble yourselves before Maher and the others who are carrying your load.

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Derrick Fogle March 21, 2013 | 7:49 a.m.

When Jimmy agrees to house, feed, and pay the salaries of all the additional personnel it would take to implement new regulations he wants to monitor poor people, punish them for their mistakes, and make it that much harder for them to do what we already have trouble getting them to do, we can talk.

Until then, he's no different than the rest of us, wanting to spend other people's money to further his own agenda.

In the meantime, the pound of cure is, and will remain, a real and tangible liability if the ounce of prevention is not given, no matter how righteous you feel about it.

As an on-topic follow-up to DK's post, I would love to see some data correlating income levels, and placement of 911 calls.

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Jimmy Bearfield March 21, 2013 | 8:30 a.m.

How am I wanting to spend other people's money? I pay plenty of taxes, more than enough to cover the services that I use. I expect other people to do likewise.

No new programs would be necessary. Just implement a single, flat income tax rate at the state and federal levels. No deductions. Everyone pays. That actually would save money because the states and feds no longer would need armies of people to create and monitor loopholes.

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Steve Simmons March 21, 2013 | 9:46 a.m.

Jimmy Bearfield is probably the only poster I have seen who actually seems to envy the poor since he obviously views them all as freeloaders who get stuff at his expense.

In a purely Darwinian sense, a single flat income tax at both state and federal levels, with elimination of all deductions, would indeed be "fair". Let's see how that might work though, assuming a flat federal tax of 20% and a state tax of 5%.

Family #1: married couple with no dependents, making $1 million dollars a year would get to "keep" $750,000.

Family #2: married couple with 3 children, making $40,000 a year would get to "keep" $30,000.

Since there are now no deductions for mortgage interest etc, and no child tax credits, which family fares best in this scenario?

Correct me if I am wrong Mr Bearfield but I bet you are against any form of government-sponsored health care, and I will also bet you oppose the idea of employers being forced to provide health insurance, so family #2, as well as having to pay for accommodation (forget home ownership), food, clothing and perhaps eventually education for their 3 offspring, also have to come up with monthly health insurance premiums for 5.

I know you will respond by saying that family #2 should simply increase their income. Many in this sort of situation will; however, many will not for a variety of reasons, not least being that an economy cannot support everyone earning, say $100,000 per year and there will always be a significant proportion of citizens living near or below the poverty level. Service industries rely on such a workforce. Another typical response might also be "well if they just gave up their flat-screen TVs or their cell phones they could afford, say, health insurance", a blatant falsehood given the cost of privately obtained health insurance.

To get back to the original point, you can argue all you like for flat, fair or other regressive taxes. In fact I hope you do, because then the political side I support will keep on winning, and yours will continue to lose. And incidentally, unlike the writer of the letter, I do tend to support locally raised sales taxes as I believe they have benefitted this community immensely.

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frank christian March 21, 2013 | 10:02 a.m.

J.B. - Imo, D.F.'s comment contained the only retort he could think of to promote the disasters of the tax and spend liberals, in this country. That it contained no semblance of truth or sense can be of no consequence to him.

"I would love to see some data correlating income levels, and placement of 911 calls." My bet would be that those calls honestly requesting help in emergency would come from all levels. Those wanting to know start time of the big game, would come from Derricks protected few.

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Jimmy Bearfield March 21, 2013 | 10:08 a.m.

Let's say that family No. 2 owns a $200K home. In Columbia, that would mean they're paying about $1,500 annually to the school district via property taxes. The district is spending more than $9K on average to educate each child, so the receive $27K worth of government services for $1,500 in taxes paid. Must be nice. And that's just one example of the free ride.

If family No. 2 has such limited income prospects, why did the parents choose to have multiple kids?

You see, Steve, I used to make minimum wage. I worked two jobs while going to college and saved as much as possible -- rather than having a cell phone or HBO and other unnecessary stuff -- and didn't have kids I couldn't afford. Now I'm financially comfortable. I practice what I preach.

For those who unwilling to do likewise, can they look you up for a handout or a place to say when the government bennies aren't enough? You would open your home and wallet to them, wouldn't you? After all, they can't go to Bill Maher anymore.

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Steve Simmons March 21, 2013 | 10:35 a.m.

Mr Bearfield...I also worked for a pittance when I was younger. Fortunately I had no major responsibilities then.

I didn't take into account your obvious hatred of the public school system. In your ideal world family #2 would also have to pay out-of-pocket to educate their 3 children from kindergarten onwards, out of a total of $30,000 per annum.

Your words "free ride" when commenting on public education sum up your worldview quite nicely. I had no problem whatsoever supporting the public school system before I even knew that I would have kids, indeed before I even got married. When my kids are out of school I will be happy to continue to support the system.

"If family No. 2 has such limited income prospects, why did the parents choose to have multiple kids?" Therein lies your misunderstanding of human nature, or the biological clock. Kudos to you for being responsible in providing for yourself admirably and for any kids you might have had. I assume then that those who do not have the financial means to support children should either abort them or give them up for adoption? Presumably you're in favor of funding for the minimal cost of providing contraception to those who are not responsible enough to buy their own? Or are you just going to tell anyone not earning a certain amount to just abstain, because that's what you did?

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Ellis Smith March 21, 2013 | 10:35 a.m.

1- Hasn't this topic surfaced before (he said, pretending to be naive).

2- I'm hardly Bearfield's biggest fan (in particular concerning an altogether different subject), but I seriously doubt that anyone who is himself or herself not poor envies those who are poor.

3- On the other hand, it seems difficult to read some of these polemics without getting the impression that "economic penis envy" is involved, far more so than true pity for those who are poor. [Thanks, Sigmund Freud, for coming up with "penis envy," even though in a different context.]

4- If one cannot be rich it is always safe and satisfying to be noble, particularly when you are asking someone else to pay more than you will pay for that "nobility."

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Jimmy Bearfield March 21, 2013 | 11:14 a.m.

Steve, you need to take some reading-comprehension classes. I never said that I hate the public school system. I have no problem paying taxes for schools. I think it's fair to expect family No. 2 to pay additional taxes -- beyond what a childless couple with a $200K home -- to cover the difference between their property taxes and what the district spends. After all, this is a free country, and with freedom -- in this case, to have as many kids as you want -- comes responsibility.

As for contraception, good grief. It can't much cheaper or more widely available than what it already is. If you're on Medicaid, you can get sterilized completely at taxpayer expense. Condoms are free at the health center at the corner of Clinkscales and Worley, among lots of other places. When people choose not to use what's available, they shouldn't get indignant because others refuse to pay for the consequences of their selfishness and irresponsibility.

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Steve Simmons March 21, 2013 | 1:45 p.m.

You're right Mr Bearfield, I should take some reading comprehension classes because I am having difficulty reconciling your statements regarding your support of public schools. I thought that the goal of public schools was to provide every child with a K-12 education IRRESPECTIVE of ability to pay. By definition this is of course pure socialism, since the cost of education is divided between the entire community. Some pay less (or nothing) while some pay more. Some get more out of the system, some get nothing if they don't have kids. Your suggestion that parents pay the full cost of public schooling changes the nature of the system entirely, to one of services based on a fee. That's NOT public schooling as we have come to know it. In your world, the children of those at the bottom financially would simply not attend school because the $9,000 per year per child would be quite obviously unaffordable.

I think you and I can agree that we will never agree on topics such as public education and its funding. I'm curious about one thing though. The Daniel Boone Regional Library is also paid for through our property taxes and is of course open to the general public. Should access to the library be restricted to those who own property and therefore support its costs? Should those who own million dollar homes and consequently pay more towards its running costs be allowed greater libary privileges?

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Michael Williams March 21, 2013 | 4:19 p.m.

SteveS: I know of no conservative who believes there should be no socialism. The Constitution even mandates some things that are socialized...beyond which, of course, I start to balk.

The problem is there seems no end to wish-list socialism. There is always something new that requires someone elses' money. There is no "Ok, that should about do it." This is one reason (among many) that I believe liberals do not wish for equal opportunity; rather, the wish is for an equal outcome. A benevolent, non-expansionist Communism, if you will.

As for public education, I do support it...but only if serious changes are made FIRST. I've outlined those changes before in this place. I feel like I've been duped with promises of change AFTER new money is infused, and I won't be duped again. "New money" has to be forced upon me 'cause I surely won't vote for it.

PS: Would someone PLEASE tell me the plural of "someone else"....complete with proper punctuation?

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Michael Williams March 21, 2013 | 4:22 p.m.

SteveS: PS: Libraries are doomed and the sooner we figure that out the better. They will go the way of the dinosaur and telephone operators.

Electronics will rule. Hardbound books are...uh...history.

And I don't like it one damn bit........

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Jimmy Bearfield March 21, 2013 | 4:23 p.m.

"Your suggestion that parents pay the full cost of public schooling changes the nature of the system entirely, to one of services based on a fee."

Again, take some reading-comprehension classes. I never suggested that parents pay the full cost. I said that property owners would continue to pay taxes to fund schools but that parents would be required to pay the difference between their property taxes and the cost of educating their child(ren). It's up to them to find the money. With freedom comes responsibility. Can I start sending you the bills for things I choose to do?

Or we could eliminate the use of property taxes to fund schools. A home's or office building's value has little relation to the amount of school district resources it uses. Maybe we should fund schools -- and libraries and everything else -- entirely with income taxes, sales taxes or both. One flat rate. Everyone pays.

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Steve Simmons March 21, 2013 | 4:35 p.m.

Just a quick one here as I am out all evening. Libraries are great repositories of electronic resources too, not to mention digital media etc. I think it will be awhile before hard-bound books are totally obsolete and I too don't like it one bit that they will likely cease to be produced some time in the not-too-distant future. At your recommendation Michael I did read Pavlov's Trout. Even though I am a total non-fisherman I enjoyed it immensely. The author does seem to lean toward being a democrat though......

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Ellis Smith March 21, 2013 | 5:02 p.m.

Simmons & Williams:

I assume both of you are familiar with Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451." They say that life immitates art; maybe it's actually more like life immitates science fiction.

I also highly recommend "Blade Runner," "1984," and especially Orwell's "Animal Farm." (The choice of pigs as the bad guys in "Animal Farm" was absolutely brilliant.)

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Michael Williams March 21, 2013 | 6:31 p.m.

SteveS: Yes, the author definitely leans liberal. See? Even a staunch conservative can find value in all things looked.

I've already read your last 3 in the list.

I hope you are right on the hardbound books, but once everyone has computers/tablets, libraries will not be worth the cost...if you absolutely HAVE to get out of the house, you'll take your tablet to the coffeeshop or park bench. Personally, I'm betting 1-1.5 generations, and perhaps even sooner. Newspapers will go quicker than that, even this one. Everyone will need a new sales model.

If you are into pure outdoor humor...absolute fun with no political overtones at all...try Joel Vance's "Grandma and the Buck Deer." He used to write for Missouri's Conservationist magazine. Absolutely excellent. And, of course, ANY Patrick McManus collection is always a good read.

For a different sort of read, try Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe". It's easier than Hawking's books, which is good. After 30-or-so aborted attempts (no lie) where each time I was able to get 5-10 more pages each time, I finally finished it. Took me 8 years and it's in tatters from being thrown across the room to the tune of several curses, self-flagellation, and intellectual sulking. Now I need to go back and try and understand the last 100-or-so pages, lol. Some things are intellectually worth the effort no matter how long it takes. Fascinating stuff, especially in light of the recent Higgs boson discovery and better resolution of universe microwave distribution and implications for the big bang.

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Michael Williams March 21, 2013 | 6:40 p.m.

Joel Vance's best friend, Foster Sadler (now deceased), was my 8th grade biology teacher. HE is THE teacher who turned me onto biology and, as events would eventually have it, biochemistry. As a little league plate umpire, Foster once called me out on an obviously low, outside pitch in the last inning with bases loaded and 2 outs and us behind by a run. Several years later once I met Joel, I complained of this and he asked Foster about it. Foster said "It caught the corner."

He always did need glasses.........

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Steve Simmons March 21, 2013 | 9:36 p.m.

Again Michael thanks for the recommendations. I will look them up. Ellis, I confess I have never read Fahrenheit 451 or Blade Runner though I am familiar with them (I LOVE Fahrenheit 911 though!). I have read Orwell however, and while we're on a literary theme, I would recommend delving deeper than 1984 and Animal Farm, both of which are obviously amongst the most important books of the 20th century. These two books, though undoubtedly masterpieces, do not give a complete picture of Orwell's political outlook. If you haven't already, read The Road to Wigan Pier. It offers a window into Orwell's complex political character and argues much in favor of socialism. I would also recommend Homage to Catalonia, which documents his experiences fighting for the International Brigade against fascism. Both Coming Up For Air and Keep The Aspidistra Flying are superb, sad and thought-provoking masterpieces from a man who is sadly often remembered for just two novels. The aforementioned books were written prior to World War II, while 1984 and Animal Farm were written after the conflagration, so obviously his outlook changed in the intervening decade or so. However, it is clear that Orwell wasn't just a man who hated communism!

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Ellis Smith March 22, 2013 | 12:43 a.m.

Steve Simmons:

Thanks for the references. I have read "Homage to Catalonia." I think Orwell was one of a number of idealistic persons who later believed they'd been mislead. The National Socialist-Communist non-aggression pact of 1939 caused much angst among idealists. It can be easy to be mislead.

I note that in my prior post I consistently incorrectly spelled "imitates," proof that spelling is a problem and spell check software isn't perfect either, but then only utopian concepts are perfect. :)

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