Commentary by Chuck Muth: False choice – Raise taxes or cut education?
September 22, 2011
Polling results recently released by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of the Retail Association of Nevada have tax-and-spend liberals around the state doing the Snoopy dance. According to POS, “57 percent of Nevadans would rather raise taxes than cut spending.” But to put that figure in proper perspective, consider the horribly biased nature of the actual question:
“And, thinking some more about the budget shortfall, would you rather the Governor and State Legislature CUT SPENDING for government services such as education and health care, or RAISE YOUR TAXES to avoid these cuts?”
As if cutting education and health care were the only options. Good grief. Talk about a false choice.
I’m betting that if POS asked Nevadans whether they were willing to have their sales tax jacked up to 12 percent to maintain pay increases and retirement benefits for government employees, they’d be lucky to get 5 to 7 percent.
I wonder why they didn’t ask the question that way. Why, you’d almost think there was an agenda at play, wouldn’t you?
The fact remains, you don’t have to cut education and health care services to balance the state budget without tax increases. Here’s how to start:
First, we need to pay less for government services without cutting government services simply by reducing government employee pay – which makes up about 80 percent of the budget – by rolling back the 4 percent cost-of-living increase they shouldn’t have received in the first place back in the summer of 2008 at the start of the Great Recession.
We need to then further evaluate employee pay and make sure that government workers are paid about the same amount as workers in the private sector who are doing similar jobs. Ditto with benefits – especially paid vacations, holidays and sick days.
Then we go through the entire state payroll, one job at a time, and determine whether that position really is “essential” or not. And we start with the assumption that it’s not unless proved it is. If not, crank out a pink slip.
And then we take a microscope to what are deemed “essential” government services. Anyone who doesn’t think there’s waste, fraud, abuse and duplication in even the most essential of government services – including education and health care – is deluding themselves or lying to the public.
And finally, we need to take a serious new look at privatizing more and more government services, especially in education. Let’s see if we can get more bang for the buck by, say, giving parents $5,000 school vouchers to send their kids to the private schools of their choice instead of spending an average of $10,000 per kid to go to a public school.
NOW how many of you still think we should raise taxes instead of cutting spending?
• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.