Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Three ideas to improve government

I have been looking at government since I was a teenager–both from the inside and outside. I  pride myself on the fact that I have given a great deal of consideration and thought to how to make our government, both federal and state, better. I have three ideas which would lend greater efficiency to our government and allow us to meet our needs on a regular basis without moving from tax crisis to tax crisis. 

The bad news is I am confident I will not see any of these enacted in my lifetime.

First of all, it seems Texas politicians would rather walk barefoot through a room full of rattlesnakes than to say the word tax. I always thought this aversion to talk about tax harmful to our state in that the lifeblood of democracy is free and open debate about ideas. Unfortunately, the words income tax also scare the “bejeezus” out of ordinary citizens who conjure up the idea of a state taking as much of their paycheck as the federal government now does. 

The old statement about rich folks dancing while poor folks pay the fiddler couldn’t be truer than our system in Texas. Perhaps this is one of the reasons politicians in our state cater to the very rich when they keep talking about no new taxes. If only middle class and poor Texans would take a pen or a calculator and add it up, probably a modest state income tax would gain instant popularity.  

Take a look at what money goes out of your pocket every year to the government. After federal income tax, probably the largest bite out of your income is for school taxes.  You pay greatly on what you have already sacrificed to purchase–your home.  For most Texans, it is the biggest investment they will make during their lifetime.  Even with a tax which has grown from being one of the lowest property taxes in the nation to now one of the highest, we still run short on enough money to provide a first-class education system.  We are beset with lawsuits and complaints that our funding from the Legislature does not satisfy our constitutional mandate to provide an efficient system of public education.

Should Texas introduce a measure to repeal all school property taxes with the possible exception of paying all bonded indebtedness and then enact an income tax on all income over $50,000 a year of probably not more than 2% or 3%, we would have more money than we need to provide for public education in this state.  It is a function which our forefathers envisioned to be the burden and responsibility of state government. Unfortunately, since the 1940's when the state supported about 80% of public education, we have backslid--mainly because of no new taxes at the state level--to where local governments now furnish about 80% of the cost of education and the state about 20%. 

Should we replace the ad valorem tax on homes and businesses in Texas with the income tax I have described above, the average Texan would save untold amounts of money in the process.

The second idea I would push forward is to quit exporting our suckers--gamblers. We’d take in probably a couple of billion a year if we authorized casino gambling in Texas. Without a doubt this would be a win/win situation in view of the fact I don’t believe in gambling, but I do have to pay property taxes on my home.

The final idea I have does not involve raising money. At my age I had the misfortune of being confined to a nursing home for a week. It was not a shabby facility--in fact, it is reputedly one of the best in the area where I live. However, I can describe it in one word–awful. Currently, the Medicaid allowance for care of elderly persons who cannot afford to pay out of their own pocket is about $6.  That’s not even minimum wage. I submit to you that adequate care for the elderly cannot be accomplished at such a low rate. 

My idea for curing this is to require each member of the Legislature–House and Senate–to spend one week in a nursing home. I promise you that would fix the problem.

I suppose I’m living in reverse in conjuring up innovative ideas the same as I did when I was very young. At least it gives me something to dream about in my old age.

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