Taxing and Spending
It’s exasperating when Missouri politicians talk about taxing casinos to “pay for education.” They imply that there’s some kind of inherent link between casinos and schools, and that money from gambling revenue naturally flows to a classroom. In fact, gambling is just one of many activities that the state taxes, and schooling is one thing it pays for. There’s no connection between the two, until public officials create an arbitrary link to shore up support for a tax proposal. This tactic misleads voters by giving the impression that you have to support a certain tax in order to get a certain benefit. You never hear that the state should spend less on anything so they can free up resources for education, even though a reduction in some other part of the budget could fund public schools just as well as a new tax could.
How the government raises taxes and how it spends money are two separate questions, and they should be treated as such.
This phenomenon is not unique to Missouri politics. It appears in other states, and at the national level, as you can learn from John LaPlante’s State House Call post today. Follow his link to hear Marta Mossberg talk about soft drink taxes, which advocates claim will pay for state health care expenses and discourage unhealthy habits at the same time. (Mossberg says the tax can’t do both; either it raises a lot of revenue, or it curbs soft drink consumption. The government won’t bring in a lot of money if nobody’s buying the drinks.)
I find it interesting that politicians are setting up the issue the way casino taxes are framed in debates here: This one tax will pay for something good, and no other tax or spending cut could achieve the same results.
Speaking of soda taxes, here’s an unintentionally funny YouTube video of New York’s health commissioner explaining — complete with props — why he wants a soft drink tax. I understand the glasses of milk and the soda cans, but what is that thing he uses to represent fat? It looks like a headless teddy bear. Maybe someone could enlighten me in the comments?