Many elected Texas Republicans love to use the masquerade of fiscal conservatism and the promise of austerity to justify denying providing services to the most vulnerable Texans (I am speaking about Texas children in poverty; kids with crap parents shouldn’t suffer because their parents suck. I will concede that the number of those kids in need has been greatly exacerbated by the complete failure of the federal government to stymie illegal immigration that has strained Texas’ social services to a breaking point, but that is a screed for another day). But these very same Republicans refuse to practice what they preach if it means denying pork and public largesse to their pet special interests across the Great State or opening the public coffers to “generous” constituents that they deem deserving of other taxpayers’ dollars.
The end result: Governor Greg Abbot, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen all lined up yesterday to announce their support for raising Texas sales tax to 7.25%. Let us, additionally (I hate math), not forget that local entities CAN and WILL tack on another 2% which will result in a 9.25% tax on the cost of almost everything you purchase. No. I am not joking. Those that were elected because they assured us of a smaller government and no new taxation gathered around the microphones to sound the death knell of economic liberty in the Lone Star State.
This proposal exemplifies the primary issue with our Nation’s newfound love affair with the proposed socialization of services and industries: local, federal and state governments all fail to incentivize cost cutting and fiscal innovation. Governmental agencies find ways to spend their allotted budget in an annual effort to justify requested budgetary increases. There is no upside for public servants to reduce spending or cut costs. The promise of austerity and no increase in the tax burden is the central reason why a great number of hard-working Texans caucus under the Republican banner. But, per usual, it appears they were again lied to by those who promised to protect us and place our interests over the interests of lobbyists and the bloated bureaucracy.
Finally, the worst part about this proposal is that any student of basic economics understands that a sales taxes is insidious in that it is a regressive tax. Sales tax is defined as regressive because it seizes a greater percentage of earnings from low- and middle-income citizens than those with higher incomes. In plain language: it unfairly burdens the poor and middle class who spend more of their money on essential (and non-essential expenditures that we all feel are essential) than wealthy people do. By “wealthy people”, I am referring to the very same “conservative” millionaires who stood before the microphones pontificating on a need for this unprecedented increase (which, if passed, would be the first increase in thirty years) and their well-heeled political benefactors who routinely purchase access and legislation in the ever-increasingly “for sale” elected officials in Austin.
The rejoinder by some is that a sales tax effectively allows the government to tax those who are part of Texas’ massive shadow economy created by the millions of illegal entrants who reside here and work outside of our system of taxation. This is nonsense for several reasons. (1) Instead of increasing our tax burden, the government could enforce the law and punish illegal entrants and those that illegally employ non-citizens. (2) All illegal entrants who reside in Texas either directly or indirectly pay property tax. (3) The impact to citizens greatly outweighs the impact to aliens.
At the end of the day, the Texas Republican leadership stood before us and disingenuously proposed to increase our individual tax burden by thousands of dollars every year in exchange for the empty promise of not raising another type of tax by hundreds of dollars a year. As aforementioned, I hate math, but even I can recognize a bum deal when I see it. If Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick get their way we will become the State of bluebonnets, pecans, longhorns, horny toads and the highest sales tax rate in the United States. Every single elected official supporting this effort should face a primary opponent in his or her next election and a subsequent ejection from office. And let me guarantee one final thing: if the Republicans achieve this tax increase without any electoral consequence, they will be seeking a property tax increase shortly thereafter. And that is the truth.