In New York, a different kind of tax protest

On Thursday, an estimated crowd of 50,000 marched through the streets of lower Manhattan to protest New York governor David Patterson’s proposed state budget cuts.

“Governor Paterson, I wish you could have an open heart that we are going to suffer if this budget cut goes through,” said China Lankford of Jamaica.

Paterson has proposed closing a $15 billion state budget gap by making cuts across the board, including $2.5 billion in education, $3.2 billion in health care and billions more in cuts to vital programs such as senior services, disability services, housing assistance and crisis intervention programs.

Protestors insisted Thursday that there’s a better way. They’re asking for what they call “fair tax reform” — raising state taxes for New Yorkers making $250,000 or more on top of the president’s proposed hikes.

“For those of you who prosper during boom time, we ask them pay a little bit more. Pay a little more so New York can avoid cutting the services that our most vulnerable need,” United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said.

“A little more.” It’s always just a little more. We could make such a big difference with just a little more. Problem is, the Federal government takes a little more of your income, then the state wants a little more, then the city wants a little more, then Social Security takes a little more, then property taxes are raised a little more, then sales taxes are raised a little more, then taxes on dividends and capital gains are raised a little more … and pretty soon we are all paying a lot more.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the people of New York City. They will certainly suffer because of these budget cuts. But at the same time, it’s not difficult to understand that their government is responsible for much of the suffering of its own people. Urban renewal programs packed the poor into run-down tenement houses in the 1950’s and 1960’s; rent controls made it impossible for landlords to earn enough money in rent to pay for maintenance and upkeep of their properties; over-regulation made the cost of government needlessly expensive, and when the cost of government continually rose, new fees and higher taxes were imposed on residents; as more people slipped into poverty, the government simply offered handouts instead of undoing policies that damaged commerce and personal income; and when neighborhoods began to decay, public services declined and police were ordered to keep away. (If you are interested in reading a harrowing and heart-rending account of life in the South Bronx during the early 1990’s – the nadir of New York’s big government liberalism – Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol is strongly recommended.)

Economically, New York City has been walking a tightrope for the last several decades as it depended on a relatively small number of individuals who created and earned an enormous amount of money to foot most of the bill for its operations and social services. Now that the bottom has fallen out of the financial industry and a significant number of its power players, mid-level managers, and workers are themselves jobless and struggling to stay afloat financially, both the city and the state are going to suffer.

And sadly, because both the city and state of New York are run by do-gooder liberals, they are once again poised to offer “fixes” based on more confiscation and redistribution of private income rather than easing taxes and regulations and letting the economy at large – not just a handful of specialty sectors like Wall Street – expand so that fewer services and programs from the government will be required. But economic expansion takes discipline and effort and time; none of which, say the do-gooders, will put food in the mouth of a child who is hungry today.

So it seems that New York is stuck in a downward spiral, as its working class “continue(s) to fight for their part of the economic pie,” yet has unfortunately become dependent upon government programs funded by stifling taxes and regulations that discourage entrepreneurship, encourage successful residents to leave, and ensure that the “pie” gets smaller with each passing decade.

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