Thursday, November 15, 2018


Democrats did well in the 2018 midterms, but as The New York Times reports, one Democratic idea didn't:
After a wave of teacher walkouts fired up people on both sides of the party line, the time seemed ripe for big investments in public schools.

In reality, the results for school funding after the midterm elections last week were mixed, and illustrate a paradox in how Americans view education.

Polls showed that the public supported the picketing teachers across the country who protested low pay and classroom funding.... But many voters ... were unwilling to open their wallets to send state tax dollars to educators and classrooms.
Coloradans, after seeing teachers walk out in April over school funding, rejected a ballot initiative last week to pay for schools by raising corporate taxes and personal income taxes on those earning over $150,000 a year....

Overall funding in the state is below the national average by more than $2,000 per student. Colorado has a teacher shortage and the nation’s largest gap between the salaries of teachers and those of other professionals with similar qualifications and hours, according to a report by the Education Law Center. But the state’s economy is booming, with an influx of jobs in the tech and marijuana industries.

... In Arizona, another state where teachers walked out, voters ... overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative that prohibits new state or local taxes on personal services, such as real estate sales and beauty treatments.

The initiative torpedoed a potential source of school funding in a state with some of the lowest corporate and income taxes in the nation.

... North Carolina, another walkout state, approved a ballot measure to lower the income tax cap allowed by the State Constitution. Voters in Florida passed a measure to require a two-thirds majority of the State Legislature to pass new taxes and fees or raise existing ones. Similar laws in other states have made it difficult to direct money to schools.
Conservatives believe a lot of things that aren't true, and develop new untrue beliefs every week, but one of the core conservative untruths -- one that spread to moderates and even some self-styled liberals decades ago -- is the belief that all tax money is poured down a rat hole, squandered by evil politicians, while needed government services are provided by the elves and fairies for free. (That's a slight exaggeration.) Because of this belief, while much of America wants nice things -- universal health coverage, good schools with well-paid teachers, good infrastructure -- most Americans don't seem to believe we need to raise taxes (on anyone, even rich people) to pay for those nice things. Americans largely believe the only impediment to having nice things is that tax money is frittered away by "waste, fraud, and abuse." In fact, we ought to be able to lower taxes and still have nice things.

This is why I have difficulty believing that America will ever manage the transition to single-payer health care. We like the idea, but it would signifcantly raise taxes (even though no one would be paying money to private insurance companies anymore, except for optional supplemental coverage). Tax increases simply aren't supposed to be necessary.

Republicans, of course, take advantage of this belief system by cutting taxes (mostly on the rich) every chance they get. Polls show that Americans are no longer impressed by these tax cuts, which don't amount to much for the average person, but the cutd still reduce government revenue signifcantly. As a result, any major new program, or expansion of an existing one, inevitably requires a tax increase. Can't have that!

As the Times story notes, some Americans don't think this way:
Voters did open their pocketbooks for local classrooms, if not for those statewide. In Miami; Toledo, Ohio; Charleston, W.Va.; and other cities, they raised or renewed municipal taxes to finance their own districts, demonstrating that the most popular school spending, unsurprisingly, happens closest to home.
No, that's not what these votes demonstrate. They demonstrate that people who live in cities get it -- if you want something from government, it needs to be paid for.

Waste, fraud, and abuse exist, and ordinary people are overtaxed relative to the rich when all taxes are taken into account. But good things cost money, and generally require tax adjustments. Most Americans simply don't understand that.

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