Taxing Logic

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Last week, Osama bin Laden said one way to get al Qaeda to cease hostilities against the United States would be for all Americans to convert to Islam.

We don't see it happening, but he did offer an incentive to the anti-tax types on the right.

“There are no taxes in Islam, but rather there is a limited Zakaat (alms) totaling 2.5 percent,” Osama said, according to the Fox News translation.

That’s got to have folks like Tom Jenney of the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers wondering what direction Mecca is in.

Last week, Jenney’s organization released a survey of county and local governments throughout Arizona regarding tax burdens. Turns out most local officials are Allies and Friends of Big Government and very few are Allies and Friends of the Taxpayer.

We have to admit that Jenney and his crew have done a lot of research into governments across the state. Too bad it’s basically a useless measuring stick because there’s no corresponding analysis of how those tax dollars are being spent.

Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll got the organization’s Local Hero award for blocking a half-cent sales tax. Carroll’s fellow Republican, Ann Day, was also honored by the organization as a Champion of the taxpayer, while the Democrats on the board—Sharon Bronson, Richard Elias and Ramon Valadez—were called Champions of Big Government.

Of course, Day actually supported the half-cent sales tax, agreeing with Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s proposal that enacting a sales tax could allow the county to reduce its property tax burden while allowing the county to collect taxes from tourists and residents of outlying counties who shop in Pima County but don't pay property taxes. But again, that’s a detail that’s too complicated for the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers to work into its analysis.

That's the problem with an analysis that only gives you half the picture--the taxing, not the spending. Here in Tucson, Mayor Bob Walkup and the Democrats on the City Council all got labeled Allies of Big Government. And what’s that big, bad government doing with those spending increases? Well, it’s hiring cops and firefighters and paving neighborhood streets for the first time in too long. Does that mean government is out of control? Your mileage may vary, but we'd argue no.

Bottom line: Under AFT's standards, Osama is a Champion of the Taxpayer.

Jonathan Chait has a new book, The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics, that examines how this whole "taxes = bad" zeitgeist came to rule the Republican Party. The New Republic has an excerpt, along with a lively debate between Chait and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist.

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