'Tax, Expand, Forever' - Three political laws which fly in the face of Constitutional limits
TRACKSIDE © by John DíAloia Jr.
December 24, 2002
Somewhere, far from human eyes, maybe alongside the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, at a location known only to Indiana Jones, there is a tablet bearing three immutable political laws of the dark side, laws that through some mysterious force control the minds of politicians afflicted with the political gene even though they do not know the tablet exists. They are simple laws, each but one word. Putting them into practice requires no brain power, no effort: "Tax, Expand, Forever." The tabletís emanations have reached Topeka. What are our legislators saying in response to the governor hacking away at state budgets to bring them in line with revenues for this fiscal year? When faced with cabals holding out palms to be greased, factions demanding that their power be undiminished, and vocal protestors in their offices, they are saying "Tax, Expand, Forever."
A December 14 Topeka Capital-Journal article related how a Republican state senator reacted to the demands of the Kansas Arts Commission that its tax dollar plunder not be reduced. Did the senator question whether or not it was a proper function of state government to force citizens to support the arts? Did the senator show the commission the budget spread sheets and tell them to tighten their belt? You know the answer, no way. The laws on the mystical tablet were invoked - "Tax, Expand, Forever." The good senator wants to enact an excise tax on the rentals of video games, movies, and DVDs so that the commission can continue to be a sugar daddy to its favored friends. How much of a tax? The article said two percent, but later the commissionís Executive Director was quoted as saying that the percentage of tax was "being explored."
The senator said that the excise tax was "most palatable and the easiest..." Choke, gasp. Palatable for whom? Certainly not Joe Six Pack who loads up with rental movies for the weekend. Certainly not the businessmen who would have to deal with another tax in their role of state tax collector. Certainly not those who are offended by what government art commissions believe is art. The only people to whom it would be palatable are legislators who can continue to fund largesse and use tax dollars to buy power, and those who receive the forced transfer of citizen assets. The senator was quoted as saying people should recognize that money generated from the excise tax would go back to the communities and benefit them culturally and economically. The senator apparently believes that it is governmentís function to jam government-blessed culture down peopleís throats and that when government taxes and spends, it is benefiting the economy. What the senator conveniently forgets is that every dollar extracted from a citizen is a dollar that the citizen cannot spend to benefit himself and the economy. When government is involved, it is a zero-sum game - in fact it is a losing situation because of the cut government takes to cover shipping and handling.
The senator and the commission are demonstrating that they are Guardians, that they believe that they know better than do taxpayers what is good for them and how their money should be spent. Support of the arts is not a legitimate function of government - unless of course one is a socialist and believes that there are no limits on what government can do. The senator certainly does not believe the 5th Stanza of "I Am a Republican Because:" in the party's handbook which reads: "I believe that the proper role of government is to provide for the people only those critical functions that cannot be performed by individuals or private organizations and that the best government is that which governs least." (Letís hear it, one more time, for good old TJ.) If the senator believed this statement of belief, she would be calling for the repeal of the 1966 legislation that established the Arts Commission, not trying to reduce their fiscal pain. Senator, put them out of their misery, period. Tell the commissioners to find a productive job, and stop welching off taxpayers.
Subsidizing artists with tax dollars is not a "critical function that cannot be performed by individuals or private organizations." Down through the ages, patrons, angels, and common citizens have provided the fiscal incentive for artists to be artists. The market place, in fact, provides a discipline and judge of worth that The Guardians cannot provide. No matter how poor their decisions, they can always extract more tax dollars from citizensí pockets. If an artist cannot make it in the market place, the public has delivered a message about the worth of the artistís product.
Somebody, please develop a widget to jam the "Tax, Expand, Forever" signal.
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