The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

16 December 2004

Won't somebody please tax us?

I don't normally pay much attention to the Tulsa World; they've never been known for having a surplus of clues anyway, and most of their really absurd statements end up dissected on BatesLine.

This morning's editorial page [link requires Adobe Reader], however, is silly enough to merit some pokes from my end of the turnpike. On the failure of a measure to issue bonds for the improvement of the Tulsa County library system, the World came up with this meaningless comparison:

The defeat of such a basic service as libraries came on the same day that Oklahoma City voters voted 10-1 to approve an increase in the city's hotel-motel tax from 2 percent to 5.5 percent. Oklahoma City is basking in the growth that has been prompted by more than $1 billion in tax increases to rebuild downtown and the school system in the capital city.

What, was the library system shutting down? Of course not. It's not even suffering. What was turned down was a bond issue to finance some improvements, the sort of thing they haven't seen in Tulsa since, oh, 1998 or so. Michael Bates explains:

No libraries will close, no librarians will be laid off as a result of the vote. The message of the library tax defeat wasn't "we hate taxes," or "we hate libraries," it was, "we love you, but you don't need any more money right now."

(In case you're curious, the library system accounts for 5.32 mills of the Tulsa County tax rate; it's 5.20 in Oklahoma County.)

But those crapheads in Oklahoma City — why, they've taxed themselves a whole lot more than that, says the World. Well, yes, we did. Mere taxation, though, didn't produce the growth we're enjoying. We put $360 million into MAPS, but the private sector has forked over more than a billion. The $700 million for MAPS for Kids won't produce that kind of private investment, but bringing city schools up to the quality level expected (if not always achieved) in suburban schools will help keep the city growing at nearly the same rate as the 'burbs, while other central cities stagnate or contract as families with children flee. (Yeah, I know: vouchers. We'll get to them some other time.)

In other words, taxation is just a means to an end, not an end in itself. The World doesn't seem to grasp that idea:

Perhaps the central lesson from Tuesday should be that tax questions should be thoroughly aired before a vote. One thing that can be taken for granted is that there are a number of voters who always vote against tax measures.

Conversely, the great number of voters who vote for taxes have to be persuaded to do that.

This is eerily reminiscent of the post-election Democratic mantra "We didn't get our message out." Does it not occur to the World, or for that matter to the Democratic establishment, that the problem wasn't the distribution of the message but the message itself?

Just for icing on the cake, here's a bit from the second editorial on the page, concerning the distribution of federal highway funds:

Of course because [Rep. Ernest] Istook represents the Oklahoma City area it is only natural that the lion's share of federal money he procures will be spent there. Once again the biggest piece of the pie — $51 million — will go for the Interstate 44 Crosstown Expressway in Oklahoma City, a $350 million project that is being done almost entirely with federal funds.

Um, the Crosstown Expressway is Interstate 40. And lions aren't generally inclined to share.

Posted at 10:27 AM to Soonerland


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