Margaret (Maggie) Thatcher was the Prime Minister of Great Britain while Ronald Reagan was President. In 1979, Thatcher succinctly stated, “Let me give you my vision. A man’s right to work as he will. To spend what he earns. To own property. To have the state as servant and not as master.”
That is a moral vision of economic freedom.
Economics is a moral arena that reveals who we are. If you want to know about a person, look at the checkbook (as well as the calendar and computer). Control of one’s economic life is vital to freedom itself, and how government handles economics is a moral exercise.
I am delighted that the Republicans in Congress passed a tax bill that made a few important changes to the huge, complex monstrosity that we call the tax code.
But let’s focus on local government economics. Taxes are not voluntary. Governments collect taxes under threat of legal sanction.
When our citizens receive a 2 or 3 percent salary increase, and property taxes go up by 8 to 10 percent over multiple years, absent an existential threat it is morally indefensible. Our region has seen that exact scenario for the past 5 years as our property values have gone up somewhere on the order of 50 percent over the past 5 years. No local government, including county government, has lowered their tax rate to account for property value increases over that whole period. All of this against a backdrop of astounding population growth helping to shoulder the burden of government.
Yet your county government is criticized for its low tax rate; the lowest total county tax rate in the state. Today, candidates are running for office to reverse that fact.
I am not interested in building an empire. I am not interested in matching the spending of other governments. I am not interested in wringing every penny out of you before you revolt. I am not interested in conjuring up threats that require more taxes and more spending to ward off. Is there risk in life? Always. I am not interested in government replacing your choice of charities with more government spending where your good hearts should prevail. Beware of politicians asking for more of your money to do great things for you.
I am interested in your economic freedom to earn and spend as you choose. I am interested in accomplishing core functions that the state directs we accomplish, and in the area of transportation, trying to accomplish a core function that the region seemingly cannot.
And I am interested in doing those core functions in the most fiscally responsible manner possible.