Emmer: The left and taxes (column)
April 26, 2017
The sun has set on 2017's Tax Day. A new day has dawned yet the politics that drive taxes and deficits remain the same.
In Summit County, the three major parties break down like this: Democrats 30 percent, Republicans 23 percent and None-Of-The-Aboves 45 percent.
Depending on how you count them, non-lefties make up about 70 percent of registered voters. Democrats are proud of their record. Yet to non-lefties, the left has two long-standing weak spots. Security is one. We'll ignore that here.
Money is the other.
If success is defined as spending power, the left has won the political Olympics. Government budgets have grown three times faster than private budgets over the past 88 years. U.S. public spending now totals $42,000 per household per year.
With it, the left has built universal, basic public education; constructed and expanded the Social Security system; given heath care to the poor and elderly; given cash to people who have lost their jobs; and provided food and housing to millions.
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The non-left sees the good in all this. It also sees the other side. It sees that the Congressional Budget Office projects public finances to follow the same trajectory as the last flight of the Challenger space shuttle. The quality of social spending results is highly arguable. Meanwhile, the economy walks with a limp.
Certainly, the non-left shares responsibility for the wildly unbalanced public checkbook. Politicians and bureaucrats of all stripes live to spend money. Yet it is the left that has the bright neon reputation for free spending, deserved or not.
When the non-left looks at its family picture of the left side of the clan, it sees beaming teens in braces and t-shirts. It also sees an oxygen-huffing Social Security linked arm-in-arm with a terminal Medicare. Debt-drained Illinois and Puerto Rico are in the picture, too, looking gaunt and tense. LBJ's Great Society does not appear at all. He's passed away from self-inflicted wounds.
The non-left can't help but see Venezuela in the photo, too. The baby in her arms wears no diapers because the country is fresh out. Greece can be seen, too, looking sickly thin, with desperate eyes.
When the left looks at the same group photo, its gaze automatically falls on happier faces. It sees the multi-ethnic smiles. It sees women front and center and the grins on the gays. It highlights its environmental victories, too. The left rightly beams with pride.
To the non-left though, the left's money habits are an obstacle to greater support. It believes the left's economic policies are, uh, speculative.
Former senior finance officials of both large American parties point out that almost no federal expenditures are backed by solid analysis, rigorous review or sound data. Almost all public spending is gut-hunch stuff, log-rolling or just habit.
The state of Colorado is not much better. Take its nation-leading electric vehicle subsidies. It wants to put more electric cars on the road. It spends your money to do that. Yet, it does not separate the effect of Tesla's promotions, or press coverage of electric cars, or even gas prices from its own effort to electrify autos. Bottom line: The state spends your money, but it does not know if it does any good.
Our towns and counties, schools and special districts have a big, fat opportunity right under their noses. They can embarrass the feds. They can show the state how it's done. They can add real value to citizens' lives just by trying to prove they do so.
Vince Emmer is a financial analyst in Gypsum. He run Citizens Due Diligence after hours. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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