For the last couple days, I've been writing about the issue of taxes as it applies to the 24th District congressional race, and all the nonsense political babbling that usually goes along with it. Lucky me, yesterday a reader decided to supply me with a perfect example.
The reader complained that he (or she - the reader was courageously anonymous) never buys anything big locally because the Oneida County sales tax rate is almost ten percent. The reader wrote, "I bought a TV online... I paid no sales tax and the same TV cost nearly $300 more locally. If my county government and local vendors don't want to compete, let em die. I'm sick of being ripped off. If they are going to tax me to death here and ignore the skewed cost of utilities and other gouging tactics going on, then I am going to recoup my disposible income elsewhere."
My head spun listening to this complaining. Without knowing it, this person was illustrating my basic point for me. Taxes aren't the problem. It's systemic issues that truly threaten our local economies.
The plain mathematical fact is that you can't blame a $300 difference in price on a ten percent sales tax... unless... you're paying $3,000 for a television set.
If you're paying $3,000 for a television set, you're not being taxed to death. You're spending yourself to death.
Let's say, to be generous, that this person was not spending an obscene amount of money on a television set, and that this $300 difference in price was really there for other reasons.
Why could an online warehouse have a $300 lower price on a television set? Fewer workers, and fewer locations to maintain... meaning less support for economy... meaning more people looking for work and lower wages.
Why buy locally? You buy locally if you care about your neighbors and your community. You buy locally because if nobody buys locally, there will be hardly any local businesses anymore, and America will become little more than a bedroom community for Amazon.com warehouses and eBay.
If you don't buy locally, and you sniff at local businesses and say "let them die", you're shooting yourself in the foot.
Lack of local economic infrastructure is hurting us far more than a tax hike of a few hundred dollars per year ever could. Our kids are moving away because they can't get work here, and our communities are getting more and more of that desperate look of places that have been left behind.
Ah, but the Wal-Mart stores still glow on the edge of town, and are happy to send our cash off to Arkansas. And that Paris Hilton Inheritance Tax Break? It's not keeping money in our district, but we'll all be paying for it later, with interest.
The emotional hype about the burden of taxation does not have any relation to mathematical reality. Before we complain about a $300 tax bill, we ought to be looking at that credit card slip we're signing for $3,000 to get a plasma TV to watch the same old lame programming... from that cable TV service we pay $100 per month for.