With all these sales taxes, it really is ‘much ado about a penny’

Published 6:36 pm Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Many of our negative, national experiences, particularly in the realm of government or politics, are accompanied by either the suffix “gate,” as in Watergate, or “mageddon,” as in Armageddon. These suffixes are intended to magnify the grievous predicament of the incident.

Armageddon, of course, is that battle to end all battles as recorded in the Book of the Revelation. Christ the King returns, not as a humble servant, but as the King of kings and defeats Satan and his minions once and for all time. It is horrific in its magnitude. Anything with “mageddon” as a suffix is meant to have an apocalyptic application.

Such is the end of this year (2012) as it pertains to the economy of the United States. Many pipers will have to be paid. According to many economists, The Grapes of Wrath will return.

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Seven tax benefits to most all Americans expire. Among these are the Bush tax cuts, the payroll tax cut, the Alternative Minimum Tax patch, and the tax cuts from the 2009 stimulus. In addition to the tax cuts that will expire, a new tax increase will be instituted as The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, will kick in.

Many have described this scenario as a “fiscal cliff” and guess who is heading for it? You and me. The only problem is that you or I don’t seem to have control of the jalopy known as the economy of the USA. If we did, we might begin to apply some brakes.

With all of this taxing situation as the backdrop, we were asked to vote for a simple, little penny increase on our Tuesday ballots. This proposal was known as the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, also known by its acronym, T-SPLOST.

To read the ballot, it seemed a no-brainer. Before we were to hit “yes” or “no,” there was this explanation of the initiative. T-SPLOST “provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.”

Then we were asked if we shall improve all our traffic woes by providing for a 1 percent sales and use tax for a period of 10 years. “Yes” or “No.” I wish I could have hit the “Yes” button, but I just could not.

I may be surprised as I awaken this morning (Wednesday) and find that the initiative passed, but I am not so certain that it will and it’s a shame. It’s a shame that we are so lacking in confidence in our government’s efficiency and the fact that they have come so often, and again, to the well. The well is not dry, but if a well can take on the human characteristic of anger, it has.

Would I like to be a part of the creation of new jobs? I could vote “Yes” to that. Would I like to maintain and even improve our transportation infrastructure? I would vote “Yes” to that, too. I just can’t vote “Yes” to any new tax.

I understand that the sales tax is the one that hits everyone. That’s universal or fair enough. I also think that a penny is not all that much. I see pennies on the ground quite often and I still pick them up, although it seems that lots of people don’t. Over the 10 years of this insignificant increase in the sales tax, billions of dollars will come into the government’s coffers. It all sounds like it would not adversely affect anyone.

If all that is true, why can’t I simply vote for it and be done with it? I’m not sure I have a good answer to that question, but let me try.

First of all, remember when it used to be simply a 3-percent sales tax? That was 1951, two years after my birth. That’s all it was until April 1, 1989, when it was raised to 4 percent. (Talk about a real April Fool’s Day joke!)

It wasn’t long before they needed more creative ways to grow revenue. Every county was given the option to add another penny on the dollar. After that came Local Option Sales Taxes. It seems like there is one every election cycle and the 3 percent of 1951 has more than doubled into a 7 percent.
That 7 percent doesn’t include some of the other sales taxes that are collected, such as the ones when hotel rooms are rented or when cigarettes, alcohol, or gasoline are bought.

Donna Sue and I don’t travel all that much, but when we do, we make reservations at places to stay. We don’t stay at the most expensive places, but simply clean and comfortable rooms. The rates may be $70 or even more. Since I worked in the hotel industry for a dozen years, it doesn’t surprise me to see the final bill, but I can assure you that a $70 room costs at least $80 once all the taxes are added.

I don’t have to complain about so many other taxes, but if you look up the word “voracious” in the dictionary you should see a picture of some form of government. They will never stop spending and spending, inefficiently and ineffectively, until the spigot is cut off.

I know that road maintenance and improvements costs money that comes from taxes. I am sorry that I was compelled to vote “No” for this recent initiative. I’m sure it had its good points.

I am not against governments doing a collective good for all. I am just in a really bad mood when it comes to tax increases.