It’s nice when major newspapers employ economic illiterates as columnists. We all profit from the wisdom such a practice produces.
An example of that wisdom shows up in today’s piece by Jarvis DeBerry, who serves as the Eugene Robinson of the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s editorial roster. Usually De Berry busies himself by bandying accusations of racism about or dredging up Bush-blew-the-levee dog whistles, but today he’s delving into a more universal subject – that of taxation, and the battles at the Louisiana legislature over the 4-cent cigarette tax renewal and the possible repeal of the state’s income tax.
And the upshot of his logic can be found here…
Jindal envisions a day, he said, when Louisiana follows the lead of nearby Texas and Florida and our residents don’t have to pay an income tax at all. We Louisianians would come close to living in a paradise: no taxes on what we make and — because of our sacrosanct homestead exemption — possibly no taxes on what we own.
At that point we could surely find a state lawmaker to write a bill establishing our official state meal: the free lunch.
Most of the piece is a scattershot defense of the current size and scope of state government, which virtually no one else in Louisiana is satisfied with. But the dripping sarcasm about low-tax paradises belies how bereft of economic understanding DeBerry really is – and illuminates the left-wing mindset that lack of understanding typically produces.
First of all, low taxes do make for prosperous economies. Texas has benefited substantially from not having a state income tax – and when we say substantially, we mean it. Over the past decade, in fact, the Lone Star State has created nearly three quarters of a million jobs. This at a time when the national economy has been soft at best and atrocious at worst. In fact, no other state is even in six figures when it comes to job creation (low-tax Arizona and Utah are second and third with about 90,000 each). Only 20 of the 50 states have even created a positive number of jobs on net in the past 10 years. And Louisiana, which the study says has gained some 25,000 jobs in the past year (a dubious figure given that the state’s unemployment rate has jumped two full points in the same time frame) is still down 5,700 jobs in that time frame.
DeBerry should answer why the concept of Louisiana’s seeking to create the same income tax environment as Texas, which has become the nation’s economic engine, is deserving of his mockery. His column merely offers this…
So should the idea of a well-functioning government. And to function well, that government must be funded adequately with taxes. Just because nobody likes paying them doesn’t mean we can survive if nobody does.
Which brings us to a second observation. More a line of questions, actually. Is DeBerry suggesting Louisiana has a well-functioning government? If not, is he suggesting that a state government with significantly more employees than the southern average lacks the resources to function well? And if that’s the case, does he believe that things have been improving over the last 15 years or so when the state’s budget has tripled in size?
But beyond that, DeBerry’s idea that low taxes equates to a “free lunch” is offensive. It indicates that people who earn money in the private sector – which is all but impossible without giving value to an employer, client or customer in exchange for those earnings – are somehow freeloading off the public fisc if they aren’t drained of what they make to support the public sector. This is the philosophy of the Left, and, like many of those who subscribe to it, it doesn’t work. It hasn’t in Louisiana, and it absolutely hasn’t worked in DeBerry’s New Orleans.
But DeBerry is blissfully ignorant of those lessons, as his column makes clear.