Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The New Math, 2009

It's election season (again). Funny how one fantasy about people passing out free goodies follows right after another (Hallowe'en). Personally, I think it's more likely that the Great Pumpkin will rise out of a farmer's field than that the current crop of slick stooges will raise the country up out of the muck.

Here in New Jersey, we are currently being treated to the very real possibility that a man who has the following baggage may actually get re-elected:

1) zero charisma
2) arguably the worst performance in the history of the state
3) images of his political pals being frog-marched en masse off to prison for
money laundering
4) track record as head of Goldman Sachs, who recently were called a
"blood sucking vampire squid"

He's basically George W. Bush without the aw-shucks charm.

Given that the state is and has been run by a foul ad-mixture of corruption and incompetence perhaps only exceeded by the circus in California, one would expect his challenger would practically waltz into Trenton.

Think again. This is the Soprano State, where political bosses and public employee unions have power perhaps only matched by Johnny Sack. Add in that his main challenger, Chris Christie, is running perhaps the worst campaign in the history of politics, and it's a horse race.

But what's really galling is the impact of the mathematical sleight of hand of independent candidate Tim Daggett, who has slowly but surely undermined Mr Christie's campaign by simultaneously attacking his plan for tax reform, and proposing tax reform of his own through shifting New Jersey's infamously high property taxes to sales and other use taxes.

It's the same shell game one hears every few years. It has appeared before as the "flat tax," and the "fair tax."

The bottom line here is that no tax "reform" is going to work unless and until solid proposals to cut government spending are made. Put simply, think of a five foot bed sheet that must cover a six foot bed. You can pull it up to cover your neck, but you are going to expose your feet. Unless you get a smaller bed or a bigger sheet, something is going to get cold.

New Jersey has usurious property tax burdens - the highest in the country. The effect is that it is driving people out of the state. But if property taxes are reduced by 20 per cent, without cutting spending an equal mount, will require that the same amount be raised elsewhere. So, you'll save a few thousand a year in property taxes, but pay the same amount in sales tax or car tax, or other tax, is going to result in the same tax burden. And worse, these other taxes are going to be more difficult to itemise and deduct elsewhere.

Our state has a budget gap that is conservatively described as 'yawning.' The problem is because of spending; the liberal media (e.g., the NY Times) endorsed Mr Corzine, pointing out among other things that Mr Christie has no 'concrete' plan to fix this problem and laughably, on a few occasions exceeded the $400 per night hotel travel limit.

Mr Corzine not only has no concrete plan to fix the problem, but in fact has a defined record of exacerbating it; he is a hand puppet of the unions, and pensions, out-sized raises, and patronage (Mr Corzine once dated the head of the unions) alarms me far more than Mr Christie's hotel bills.

It remains to be seen if the people in this state are any better at maths than they are at civics.

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