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Tax Them Not Me

There is a troubling trend I’m seeing during this economic crisis, and I guess the best way to sum it up is a “Tax Them Not Me” attitude that is prevalent throughout the state. I’ve never been one to say that we should have no taxes and no government.  Quite the opposite.  I believe that we should have limited taxes thereby limiting the size of government.

I firmly believe that our current tax structure, particularly during good economic times, is generating too much revenue, and in turn, needlessly growing the size of government. Unfortunately, the result of this is that when the economy turns south, the self-preservation tendencies of those in government is to raise taxes in order to protect their pet projects, and in many cases, irrelevant jobs (e.g. film museum director positions in non-existent film museums):

The film museum is perhaps New Mexico’s most unusual cultural property. It’s not in the phone book, and there are no exhibits, no visitors and no staff. In fact, there’s no museum.

What they do have, however, is an executive director. Last year, the governor put Maloof in charge of a staff of none at a nonexistent museum paying her $88,000 a year. Maloof became the highest-paid museum director in the state system administered by Cultural Affairs Secretary Stuart Ashman, a member of Richardson’s cabinet.

Now, historically my limited taxes / limited government stance has put me in the camp of the business community and those who have worked, saved and invested to accumulate wealth.  However, during this economic downturn, a surprising number of those same folks have now taken a stance that is truly troubling. Namely, rather than fighting and unneeded tax increases and pushing for a leaner, more productive government, they’ve become advocates of increasing taxes on the poor:

TERRI COLE, president and CEO, Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce:

Now, back to food. Yes. The Guv should sign the partial reinstatement of the food tax. Signing it gets us closer to the fact that it should never have been repealed in the first place. It was bad tax policy. We need broad based taxes so that they can be kept low and fair to all. We should, however, use effective programs like LICTR (Low Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate) to help New Mexicans neediest families.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce is not alone in taking this stance. Other special interest and business groups have also endorsed the idea of taxing starving families to protect their subsidies and keep their profit taxes in check.  Personally, I just can’t get behind that idea.

First, let’s deal with the obvious.  Like the Earned Income Tax Credit on the federal level, the neediest families don’t take advantage of things like LICTR because they can’t afford to have tax consultants  on a retainer to tell them how to get their money out of the system.  And, generally speaking, the way that the government communicates those credit opportunities is nonsensical even to the most educated amongst us. In fact, government and those pushing policies like these count on large numbers of people not taking advantage of what is available to them.

So, if an industry cluster is going to push for tax increases to balance the budget, they should adopt an attitude of tax me first, as opposed to tax them not me. Or, alternately, they could, like me, say enough is enough.  Get serious about reining in the spending and eliminating unnecessary jobs and programs before we consider raising taxes.