The Advocate Goes Full MSNBC In Defense Of The Income Tax

Maybe the word has gotten out that John Georges will conduct a purge of its staff once he takes over ownership, and the editorial board are auditioning for gigs at Slate or Think Progress. Or maybe Georges intends to turn the paper into a full-on Democrat Party vehicle.

Or maybe the Advocate’s editorial staff is just this bad.

For whatever reason, there is no longer any pretense that Baton Rouge’s daily newspaper is run by objective journalists. Today’s editorial is a snarling, frothing assault on the idea of eliminating Louisiana’s state income tax that Mike Stagg and Stephen Handwerk would have shied away from.

It reads like the transcript of a Martin Bashir or Ed Schultz screed…

With all the complexities of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s unpopular tax plan, who knew that his Plan B would be even worse than his Plan A?

At the opening of the 2013 Legislature, Jindal pulled his difficult-to-pass swap of higher sales taxes for elimination of the state’s corporate and personal income taxes. That was a hard sale, in large part because it is such a bad idea for small merchants and working families.

The administration was having difficulty persuading lawmakers that the swap could be made in a “revenue neutral” fashion that would allow the state to get enough revenue to offset the giant loss of income tax revenues in the budget. The governor recognized that the votes just aren’t there for Plan A.

Jindal said the state should repeal income taxes, and he offered no guidance to the Legislature about how to do so. Nor did he utter the words “revenue neutral,” nor did he promise to sign into law revenue-raisers to offset the cost of income tax repeal — about $3 billion a year.

“Let’s get rid of the income tax once and for all in the state of Louisiana,” Jindal told legislators. “Send me that bill to get rid of those taxes. Send me that bill and make Louisiana the best state in the country to create jobs, to raise a family.”

That Plan B would yield a potentially disastrous outcome.

The hackery at work here makes a joke of journalism.

First, the Advocate categorizes Jindal’s plan as a “bad idea for small merchants and working families,” without explaining why that is. There’s a reason the editors didn’t go there, because to do so would expose the fact they believe this because the Soros-funded socialists at the Louisiana Budget Project told them so.

Small merchants probably do make out badly from Jindal’s plan – but not because it gets rid of the income tax. You’ll struggle to find any small merchants who don’t want the income tax done away with.

That fact never makes it into the Advocate’s piece. If this shocks you, get over it.

Then, the editors indict Jindal for the sin of not offering guidance to the Legislature on how to dump the income tax. Don’t these same people make a practice of screaming bloody murder about the lack of legislative independence while Jindal is on the 4th Floor? When Jindal asks for a general policy direction out of the legislature and then gives the leges the freedom to explore that direction, this is somehow a lack of leadership on his part?

The fact is, Jindal should have taken this approach from the start rather than go on the hook for a detailed plan that couldn’t survive being picked apart by interest groups and hostile media hacks like the Advocate’s editorial board.

But then we’re told eliminating state income taxes invites disaster.

Why, pray tell?

Several bills would phase in repeal of personal income taxes over 10 years. If lawmakers seize upon the governor’s idea and send him that bill, the first year’s cost in forgone taxes would be substantial. However, that first year’s loss might be offset by some revenue-raisers that were elements of Jindal’s Plan A — if those bills can get a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, and if Jindal then agrees to sign them.

These might include a tobacco tax increase or some small adjustment of today’s business tax exemptions, to raise more in taxes.

That might suffice for one year, but what about Year 2 of the repeal, and the years after that?

One of the pillars of state finance would not be knocked over, but would be cut into year after year. The chronic budget crises that have been a characteristic of Jindal’s financial mismanagement would be made exponentially worse, particularly for lawmakers facing the budgets after Jindal leaves office in January 2016.

This sure sounds like an indictment of the Obama administration. How else to explain why the Advocate’s editors don’t believe a cut in income taxes wouldn’t produce economic growth? They obviously think, and perhaps not without reason, that nothing Jindal or the state legislature can do will grow the state’s economy while Obama’s economic policies are in place at the federal level.

Because if that’s not what they believe, then the explanation must be that the Advocate’s editors are economic illiterates who can’t foresee growth in government revenues along with growth of an economy. That the current four percent sales tax would yield higher revenues when more sales are made. Or that growing population would make for higher real estate values and therefore more property tax revenue.

Or there’s a third explanation, which is that the Advocate’s editors are simply dyed-in-the-wool leftists who refuse to budge on income taxes. The income tax is a sacred cow of the Left, after all; without an income tax there is no possibility of wealth redistribution by government.

And proposing to eliminate it would naturally send leftists to snarling. Which, of course, the Advocate’s editors are currently doing.

The point of eliminating the state income tax is economic growth. States which don’t have income taxes grow more than states which don’t – that’s a fact none of the Soros crowd have been able to explain away, and believe us they’ve tried.

The Advocate isn’t even trying, from what it sounds like. Their editors are simply going to ignore the experience of states which don’t have income taxes, and then hurl invective like spoiled children.

We’re anxious to hear the Advocate’s editorial staff explain how Jindal might better promote economic growth in Louisiana than to improve tax policy. Perhaps a better idea would be to ask the staff at the Louisiana Democrat Party or the Louisiana Budget Project to put forth a plan so the Advocate’s editors can simply parrot that. The “objective journalists” at  Louisiana’s largest remaining daily paper don’t seem to have much else to offer.

Does Georges know what he’s buying? Does he care?



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