Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Abolish the income tax

By John Glaser, Collegian Columnist

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A recent New York Times article on the coming Massachusetts ballot initiative to repeal the state income tax quoted the Massachusetts secretary of administration and finance as saying, “These are tough times for everyone as it is, and if Question 1 (the income tax repeal) passes, things will become exponentially more difficult.”

This staggeringly foolish argument belies the facts and is based upon the premise that the Mass. state government is the singular reason any citizen is on their feet at all.

It presumes that the state is one of the leaders of the nation in prosperity and progress due only to the beloved, beneficent governing institution presiding over it. The idea that excessive and increasing government revenue is what keeps the citizens of Massachusetts afloat is simply unsupported by the evidence.

The annual revenue from the state income tax is about $12.5 billion and the passing of this initiative would ostensibly eliminate that amount of the annual budget. Many in opposition to this repeal say it would be a devastating loss in essential governmental services, but these claims are far from realistic.

While the official budgetary documents claim the annual budget is currently $28.5 billion, that number is inaccurate. State government expenditures also include non-budgeted spending, capital spending, expendable trust spending and others that are excluded from the statutory budget.

With these taken into account, the budget elevates to about $47.3 billion. The repeal would thus leave $34.8 billion in the annual budget, which is comparable to what it was in 1999 (that chaotic era of medieval anarchy). Which essential governmental services can’t be taken care of with $34.8 billion?

On the other hand, the repeal would leave the average Massachusetts taxpayer with an average $3,700 of their own money left in their own pockets; a potentially dramatic difference in yearly income at a time when people are strapped for cash.

But even this is a distraction from the overall point. The notion that higher government spending is a causal factor in a stable and well-serviced public is fundamentally flawed. It can easily be exposed as such with an objective surveillance of the hindrances that excessive government intervention confers on the people.

With an overly interventionist state government driving the cost of living up with programs like urban rent control, which the overwhelming majority of economists agree is harmful and drives up costs, and the monopolization of the inner-city schools, which leaves the youth in a dreadful state of educational underachievement, cutting spending can only help.

Additionally, a 2007 Census Bureau revealed that between 2000 and 2007 the rate of poverty in Massachusetts remained virtually flat, despite the broader declining economic circumstances on a national scale.

Interestingly, 2000 was the very year that voters approved a reduction in the state income tax from 5.75 percent to five percent (although the state legislature halted it at 5.3 percent). Evidently, a decrease in the state income tax does not correlate with declining conditions of the citizenry and services.

It takes only a brief mention of infamous examples of government waste like the Big Dig, excessive pensions for government employees and the multitude of bloated bureaucracies in the Commonwealth to see how dispensable the state income tax is.

Police details at construction sites (Mass. being the only state in the Union that has deemed this an essential governmental service) cost $94.3 million annually. Cut the fat, and we can comfortably afford the elimination of the income tax.

The budget is not taken up with money spent on essential government services, but rather an impressive amount of pork.

Aside from wasteful spending, a more precise understanding of the system would lead people to realize that the government rarely has “the children” and “the needy” as high priorities.

Rather, government employees, lobbyists, special interests groups and the like subsume the bulk of budget allocation, despite the idea of many that the state government is wholly a manifestation of charitable public endeavors.

Seven other states in the Union have no income tax and two apply the tax only to interest and dividends. And, while the naysayers in Massachusetts would have you believe otherwise, those states are not struggling to get by. Schools, hospitals and police are in the same conditions as before the income levy was eliminated, except, perhaps, with less waste and counterproductive programs. Massachusetts should follow suit this November.

An elimination of the state income tax in Massachusetts is not only the logical, pragmatic thing to aim for, but it is the moral, just thing. Help minimize the adverse effects of the heavy hand of government and give the people back what they earn each year. Vote Yes on No. 1.

John Glaser is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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