Archived Story

Make rich pay fair share

Published 1:53pm Tuesday, August 26, 2014

We just got back from a trip to Massachusetts, by way of Philadelphia and New York State. Philadelphia was terrific.

The food was good, the people were nice, especially the National Park staff who care for and display the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. It was inspiring to see folks from all over the world stand in awe at the displays of American freedom and progress toward equality in the rotunda that leads to the Bell.

If you haven’t been there, I really recommend it. Other highlights included touring the inside of a submarine in the harbor, as well as The Olympia, flagship of President Theodore Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet.”

Down inside the sub, and its tiny, cramped quarters, one really appreciates the service of our Navy’s sailors.

But New Jersey’s toll roads are really annoying and expensive. New York roads are rough. Their roadside rests, worse. Yet on the TV, you see commercials saying, come to New York, start a business, and you won’t have to pay any taxes.

Yeah. Makes you wonder who’s going to pick up the difference in the taxes that would be paid by businesses — or are they just going to let public services continue downward.

This whole idea that cutting state taxes will create jobs should have been discredited long ago. In Ohio, Gov. Jim Rhodes got elected four times on the slogan “No new taxes.”

The gimmick was that cutting taxes would attract business and stimulate sales. It never really worked. Since that time, the income of the average Ohioan has gone down pretty steadily. Industries have folded, and cities collapsed. Schools have been funded less and less well.

Cutting taxes is not usually enough to lure a company from one state to another, or to start one up. For one thing, state taxes can usually be written off on federal taxes. And studies of business location decisions show quality-of-life factors as more important to business leaders than a small break in taxes.

Business people want to locate and work where it’s pleasant to live, and where their staffs can send their kids to good schools and have good public services, like parks, police and fire protection — otherwise it’s hard to recruit top staff to the enterprise. But cutting taxes undercuts the effort to provide good communities. It’s counterproductive.

In Ohio, our public services are still pretty good, thanks in part to Democratic Governor Gilligan pushing through an income tax, which is the fairest form of tax, and is still benefiting public services and schools in Ohio.

Our parks are excellent — and still without admission fees — thanks in part to Republican Governor Rhodes, who pushed for good parks open to all. But Governor Kasich has vowed to eliminate the income tax, a move that won’t provide much of a break for you and me, but will for the very wealthy.

And, it will continue to undercut the effort to provide good public schools and other public services. On the road, we feel one of the results of earlier cuts by Kasich, Taft, and Voinovich, as they’ve eliminated many of our roadside rests, a problem for travelers. Cuts to Ohio cities have made it hard, especially in southern Ohio, to maintain the police and fire protection we need, keep our park restrooms open and clean, and open the public pools, and so on.

It has forced city councils and township trustees to go to the ballot and ask residents to pay more in local taxes.

The Republican program is not tax cutting, so much, as shifting the tax burden from the state to the local, and from the wealthy to the rest of us.

I love Ohio. I’ve traveled in most of the other states, but I’m always glad to come home. I hope I always will be. I wish somebody in Columbus would vigorously defend good public services and the need for the wealthy to pay their fair share.

Politicians are naturally reluctant to defend taxes, but it should be noted that Democratic Governor Celeste raised taxes as needed and was re-elected handily. Same for Senators Glenn and Metzenbaum.

Ohioans are not fools. They know we can’t get something for nothing.


Southern Ohio writer Jack Burgess is a retired teacher.


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