August 02, 2007

Cue Nick Coleman

You knew he'd have to chime in, didn't you?

My favorite bit?

For half a dozen years, the motto of state government and particularly that of Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been No New taxes. It's been popular with a lot of voters and it has mostly prevailed. So much so that Pawlenty vetoed a 5-cent gas tax increase - the first in 20 years - last spring and millions were lost that might have gone to road repair. And yes, it would have fallen even if the gas tax had gone through, because we are years behind a dangerous curve when it comes to the replacement of infrastructure that everyone but wingnuts in coonskin caps agree is one of the basic duties of government.

Got that? Gov. Pawlenty. Wingnuts in coonskin caps. WINGNUTS! Could he be any more blatantly vile? And, of course, he follows that paragraph with:

I'm not just pointing fingers at Pawlenty. The outrage here is not partisan. It is general.

Uh. . . huh. You just keep telling yourself that, Nick.

Posted by Ryan at August 2, 2007 10:54 AM | TrackBack

I get your point about the political opportunism evident in using a tragedy to get one more "wingnuts in coonskin caps" zinger in, but it is hard to miss the connection between decades of anti-tax, "let's drown government in a bathtub" sentiment and failing infrastructure. And this quasi-libertarian sentiment has been a staple of the GOP since at least the Reagan administration.

Of course, our HWY 99 viaduct in Seattle has been crumbling since the last big earthquake and the Democrat-controlled Washington government has spent the intervening six years arguing about what to do about it without any meaningful results, so it isn't just a Republican issue.

It's a strong argument for non-elected officials to be in charge of infrastructure repair, IMHO. I doubt if anybody gets elected on a platform of "modest tax increases to pay for sensible precautions and needed repairs."

Posted by: flamingbanjo at August 2, 2007 11:10 AM


Check your email.

Posted by: LearnedFoot at August 2, 2007 11:27 AM

It's a strong argument for non-elected officials to be in charge of infrastructure repair, IMHO

Yeah, except that elected officials-- the legislature specifically --being in charge of taxation is kind of a cornerstone of our democracy. Taxation, representation -- there's an episode of Schoolhouse Rock about it. And do you really want anyone levying and allocating taxes by fiat?

Otherwise, yeah, I basically agree. And this is going to show up all across the board: flood management, transportation, water and sewer, public buildings. I recently went to a lecture with some bureaucrat from Washington DC talking about the country's water systems, and how many miles of pipe are scheduled to be replaced in the next 20 years and what kind of tax spending would be required to cover it above and beyond what's being spent now. It was pretty shocking to me, and I've been advocating infrastructure spending for 10 years; I can only imagine what Ryan, in his coonskin cap, would think.

I often think there's a major public education failure in all this. Jefferson imagined public education as a necessary ingredient to the yeoman farmer ideal that so many libertarians use as a core justification for their world views. Part of Jefferson's logic was that there are basic realities of governance that citizens must be familiar with if they're going to hold power. One needn't look any further than the recent spate of attempts to override land use laws through "pay or waive" legislation billed through the initiative process to realize how fantastically ignorant (or in denial) most Americans are about how things work in civil society.

Which is really where Coleman's analysis breaks down: the nuts in the coonskin caps are actually in very good company, right there next to soccer moms and technical writers. Unfortunately.

Posted by: Joshua at August 2, 2007 11:33 AM

Joshua: I didn't mean that they should be allowed to levy taxes. I understand that it's the purview of elected officials to do that. It's when those elected officials spend years debating what to do about infrastructure repairs, with their debates revolving more around re-election considerations than any technical understanding of the issues, that I get frustrated. Those people will debate forever without doing anything.

And yeah, the anti-tax initiatives that have passed in Washington state and many other places requiring super-majorities to raise any kind of tax are a big part of this equation. It all brings me back to my principal problem with libertarianism: The Libertarian Fire Department. Seriously, if my house is on fire I don't want to wait for market forces to come over and put it out. I want paid civil servants with expertise in putting out fires to do it, and that requires taxes.

I heard Ron Paul speak recently and while I agreed with a lot that he was saying, when he came down to his "And I'd like to eliminate the I.R.S." talking point all I could think was "here comes the libertarian fire department. The ashes are over that way, boys."

Posted by: flamingbanjo at August 2, 2007 12:44 PM


I'd like to eliminate the IRS too. Fuck it -- if there was a party or a candidate who had even a remote chance of winning election who was running on a platform of eliminating the IRS, I'd be on board in a hot minute. This is not to say I'd like to get rid of taxes: I'd like taxes to stay pretty much where they are. But I'd like to see them managed at the state, county, and city level -- not least of all because that would severely curtail defense spending. Right now whatever "economy of scale" savings we get by having the fed do things are totally overwhelmed by the pork free-for-all that is the federal defense budget.

Come to that, I'd like to see states be in charge of their own defense except during a war that has been formally declared by Congress.

Because the Federal Fire Department will let your shit burn down as surely as the libertarian one. Just ask New Orleans.

Posted by: Joshua at August 2, 2007 01:03 PM

It's funny, because the reason I supported Kucinich in 2004 wasn't because he was the "Peace Candidate" (blech) or any such happy horseshit. What caught my eye about him was his proposale for a $500M infrastructure improvement bank to allow States, Counties, and Municipalities to rebuild the nation's infrastructure - which would also have the nice side-effect of creating jobs. That and his opposition to NAFTA and the WTO.

But sadly the infrastructure thing never really resonated with the Hollywood and Internet liberals he was hoping would give him money, so it got buried in among the more popular "Department of Peace" new age garbage.

In fact, only one semi-prominent liberal talks about infrastructure, and that's Rick Pelstein. Everyone else just goes on and on about "holding Bush accountable." Bleh.

The problem isn't just anti-taxers. The problem is the core idea that government can't possibly do anything right and the free market can't possibly do anything wrong. That idea is always allied with the "no taxes" thing and the "public workers and stupid and lazy and overpaid and you should hate them" thing.

That's the trifecta that leads to nothing ever getting fixed because no one wants to pay anyone to do it.

Posted by: David Grenier at August 2, 2007 02:14 PM

When I change my ThunderJournal title again, I think I'll go with "Strip Mining for Whimsy 2.0," just because of this comment thread.

Posted by: Ryan at August 2, 2007 03:10 PM

Oh, I'm sorry. Let's get back into Ryan mode. Hold on here while I get in character...


Dick, fart, poop poop poop, TARA REID'S TITS! Boogers boogers, TITS TITS, martial arts, Nick Coleman.

It's kind of like how Muslims talk in Team America. Derka derka.

Posted by: Joshua at August 2, 2007 03:30 PM

Dirty Mushroom! Double Dragon! Lindsay Lohan!

Posted by: David Grenier at August 2, 2007 04:49 PM

Oh, I'm sorry, was that supposed to make me feel obligated to be all thoughtful and stuff? Because, that's just not going to happen here.

Posted by: Ryan at August 2, 2007 06:01 PM

Death cat loves your sandals.

Posted by: flamingbanjo at August 2, 2007 07:42 PM

I'm of the opinion that it's not taxes in general that are seriously annoying; it's taxes for things that are silly or stupid that are annoying.

Infrastructure is not silly or annoying; it should be one of the primary things a government pays for. In fact, I think government should be paying for only a handful of things— infrastructure, the military, and standards* are the big three I can think of. (The closer a government gets, the more it should take care of, so your water board should be on a local and not federal level.)

*I believe that the federal government is too far away from the problem to actually help public education. I think the best approach would be to set standards— you need x amount of education for an eighth grade cert, y amount for a HS diploma— and leave it there. States and counties would be held up to public ridicule if they fell below certain levels but they'd have to figure out how to fix it themselves.

Posted by: B. Durbin at August 4, 2007 08:18 PM
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