Authoritarian Audacity – Consider This…

Bobblehead DollEliadis, Hill, and Howlett (2005) edited a book, “Designing Government,” used in many different academic institutions to teach courses on government in the United States.  The book and the authors are well known in academic circles, so when I discuss the findings in the book, I am not pulling information from an unknown, hardly read, obscure source.  I wanted this made clear from the beginning, for recently, several media sources have tried to declare that the cost of government is inconsequential and does not hinder a country’s economic forecasts significantly.  As I continuously state, draw your own conclusions.

From pages 60 and 61 for “Designing Government,” we find the following statistics; the authors put them in chart and graph form, I have placed them in bullet form; this is the only change to the statistics made.  Reported for Canada’s government in Canadian Dollars (1995).

      • 1973/74 – Economy-Wide cost of compliance costs $58 Billion
      • 1987 – Economy-Wide cost of compliance costs $78.7 Billion
      • 1993/94 – Economy-Wide cost of compliance costs $85.7 Billion
      • 1995/96 – Economy-Wide cost of compliance costs $83.4 Billion
      • From 1988 40% to a forecast of 47.2% in 1998, Regulatory costs of compliance increased.

According to the Canadian Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 1973-1974 as presented by Minister of Finance John Turner in the House of Commons on 19 February, 1973 Total Revenue was $22.997 Billion, Total Expenditures $25.208 Billion. With a deficit of $2.211 Billion.  If the cost of compliance for federal regulation was $58 Billion, the entire Canadian Budget could have been funded twice without deficit spending, with funds left over.  Tell me, what exactly is the number of “significant” for the cost of government??u=http2.bp.blogspot.com-BKwWSo412lIUngTRkmSYwIAAAAAAAARd8GqxDhvovmRgs1600salestaxcartoon.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

Now, wait a minute, you say, this is just a single year.  I could be gerrymandering and cherry-picking my data to make a point.  I haven’t listed a point yet.  But you’re correct.  Let’s run another year just to see what else is out there.

According to the Canadian Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 1987-1988 as presented by Minister of Finance Michael Wilson in the House of Commons on 18 February, 1987 Total Revenue was $97.215 Billion, Total Expenditures $126.232 Billion. With a deficit of $29.017 Billion, the cost of regulation in that year alone was $78.7 Billion.  Firstly, that is a lot of deficit spending in a little over a decade.  Secondly, that is a lot of growth in government regulation costs in the same period.  Thirdly, one is left to ask using historical records why both the cost of government and the deficit spending went up so significantly during the same period.Working Dollar

According to the academics, the answer is a little dry, “extreme forms of rhetorical hyperbole.”  A simpler version of the answer is this, the politicians in power are staying in control by scaring the hell out of the electorate using extreme cases, fear-mongering, and the media to hype fear!  But, don’t believe me, do not take my word for this at all.  Watch the news, go backward using YouTube, watch the news, and look for the latest “Boogeyman.”  In the 1980s, the boogeyman was the USSR.  In the 1990s, the boogeyman changed, morphed, and all but disappeared, becoming local crime issues.  2000 began, and we had corporations become the boogeyman.  Then 9/11 hit, and terrorism became the watchword.  Then we had the southern border and wars, and then we had big tech, big pharma; fast forward to 2020, and we have COVID, the unvaccinated, and the list goes on.  Rhetorical hyperbole in the extreme, drumming fear as the only constant 24/7/365 as the only reporting done by the “media.”

All the while, what is happening in government?  What is the current cost of government regulation?  Canada conveniently, like many other governments post-2000, hides their costs of regulation in hundred of pages of marketing materials and calls this  a “plan,” a “budget,” and a “roadmap.”  Finding simple facts like how much federal regulation costs my family and me into an arduous task.  However, if you can decipher all the lines and arrive at an answer, feel free to leave it in the comments below.Apathy

The point is, the information is not accessible, transparent, or quickly locatable, even though you pay for the government to report this information to you.  A perfect example of authoritarian audacity, and it is rampant in every single government across the globe.  Hey United Kingdom, they say the Internal Revenue Service in the United States is bad at reporting financial data to taxpayers; you have the US beat!  However, France and Italy have you beat!  But China and Cuba have you guys beat except for Venezuela and Brazil.  Canada and Australia are dark horses somewhere in this race; Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and many more are on the list somewhere.  The only easy place to find data is Switzerland and Iceland, and even there you still have to swim upstream against marketing and government bureaucratese!

Knowledge Check!Taxpayers, the point is simple, you are paying to be hoodwinked.  You are paying to be lied to, manipulated, robbed, cheated, and left holding a bag full of blank checks and IOUs by the government officers elected, born into office, and who stole their way into power in your countries.  The bills do not go away when governments fall; ask Russia how they are doing with the USSR’s bills and problems.  Ask Venezuela how they are coping with the loss of their country and the accounts from their failed government.

Deficit spending countries, Canada, US, UK, Ireland, Spain, Greece, etc., you might want to pay a little attention here, cause when your economy finally fails, the bills come due, and who pays then?  Not the politicians who wrote the blank checks.  Not the special interests who benefited from the governments they sucked the money from.  Certainly not the Hollywood stars and media elites who consider themselves above everyone else.  The citizens pay, and they pay in blood, they pay in sweat equity, and they pay in treasury long after the principal and interest have compounded, and the debt creators have turned into worm fodder.Lemmings 1

Regulatory costs are always significant and exorbitant in time and treasure long after the wage earner is paid for being the putz that hinders and represents the government your taxpaying dollars support.  Regulatory costs are never free!  Regulatory costs are always triple, if not more, in dollars and cents than what a legislator thinks they will be.  For example, when Obamacare was priced as costing $10 Trillion, the smart taxpayer tripled the cost before considering anything else about the legislation.  The same is true for every other piece of legislation from the school board and the mayor’s office through the governor’s office to the federal level.  Every price tag should be tripled before consideration simply because the various accounting offices always downplay the numbers as a human failing.

But you have got to be joking.  Government cannot possibly cost that much money.  Let’s test that theory, using the United States, 1996 dollars, and Social Regulation for FY 1997 as reported by the OMB under Executive Order 12291 and 12866 from the following link.

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1Total social regulation costs for 1997 were $198 billion.  Please note that this total does not include costs of regulations that totaled less than $100 million or regulations from independent agencies. There is a possibility that some agencies might have underestimated the costs of their rules.  Thus, the $198 Billion is a guess, and the end total is probably much higher.  Moreover, the estimate of $198 Billion is based upon educated guesswork performed and accepted by academics, legislation, and other banking regulations.  Not included in the costs of regulation are the simple transfer costs of money inside the banking system itself, as these are not considered as costs of regulation.

Did you catch that; certain costs are not considered because Congress allows them to be not considered.  Thus, Congress can lie about regulation costs, fees, taxes, and other monetary adjustments.  The only person who ever is accountable is the taxpayer left holding the statement for deficit spending.  Then the agencies have the audacity to need specially trained personnel to fill out paperwork to meet obscure fraud and deception laws and charge these costs back to the taxpayer as costs other than costs for regulation.  Best of all, tax paperwork is not considered a cost to regulation; paying taxes is not a regulatory cost.  Why not; taxes cost businesses to operate and cannot be changed into different categories?

Tax BurdenThe point is elementary; those who think they have power, bureaucrats in government employ, consider themselves authoritarians.  These authoritarians have presumed to possess the audacity to control how they spend your money because their bosses have allowed them leniency through laziness and disinterest.  Through a lack of scrutiny, the bureaucrat has become fat on power and must be placed upon a diet if a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is to survive.  Are you more aware of the problem?  What will you do today and tomorrow to help fix the problem?

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

The Walmart Effect – Competition is NOT Just Cost

Exclamation MarkAfghanistan and the fraudulent President Biden have had me thinking about the Walmart effect over the last three days or so, and I cannot help but think there are some lessons to be discussed.  More to the point, the lines of congruence between the Walmart effect and the current political situation possess the potential for correcting course and saving America.  Not just America, but representative governments worldwide.  The Walmart effect is a global pandemic more powerful and pernicious than COVID ever will be, and we need to at least recognize this truth.

What is the Walmart Effect?

Working DollarWalmart has always competed on price.  As if there was nothing else to compete upon.  Lowest prices, regardless of the junk sold, price mattered more.  Hammer the price to nothing in every aspect of the supply chain.  Hammer the costs of doing business to lower costs to consumers.  Cheapen and eliminate packaging, “helping the environment,” and reduce costs.  Force suppliers and vendors to absorb traditional costs stores assumed, lowers costs, and increase profit margins.  Everything in the Walmart model is about lowering consumer costs, and Walmart has been very successful at twisting arms and breaking heads to reduce costs.

But, what has been the result of focusing just on costs the consumer sees?  First, lots of hidden fees have become observed.  Some of which was a good thing, most of which have become more obscure, and this is not such a good thing.  Worse, think of the fuel fees and delivery charges you now pay for having a pizza delivered.  Once a fee is begun to be charged, it is very difficult to stop charging the fee.  The Walmart effect passes costs onto consumers and shows the consumer why they are paying a higher fee, then the consumer accepts the fee as the cost of doing business and does not complain.  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why there are so many fuel fees and why they became apparent almost overnight; I promise the cost of fuel was not the reason, the Walmart effect was the reason, and making money is the purpose.

Pigeon RevengeSecond, quality and service have disappeared in competition.  Safeway, as a grocery store, has excellent service; but they cannot compete on service and quality because the Walmart effect has changed these two adjectives to be synonymous with higher consumer costs.  Believe it or not, the grocery store model has not changed in the last 200 years. Walmart changed society to believe everything was about competing on consumer costs, and the rest of the competition has played along.  Want to know a secret, you as a consumer are being deceived into believing that Walmart has the best prices, but when quality is added to the picture, Walmart is selling you junk.

Third, all big-box retailers employ science to lure you into their stores.  Bright lights, color schemes, smells, all carefully crafted to keep you in the stores.  Musical shelves where products move from day to day in the store to lengthen your time walking the aisles.  Everything is carefully planned and organized to influence you to spend more money.  Now, back to Walmart and the claim about junk.  Some of the items in Walmart are end runs of name-brand products.  Some of the items are cheap knock-offs.  Some of the fruit and vegetables are almost spoiled or completely raw.  Yet, Walmart pushes those products for sale anyway.  Purchasers for Walmart are under strict order to find products for sale at the lowest costs.  After working with a manufacturer supplying big-box retailers, I can tell you that many manufacturers hate dealing with Walmart because of the Walmart costs of doing business.Lemmings 3

Fourth, all big-box retailers represent a plethora of manufacturers trying to get their products in front of customers in the easiest way possible.  This is a truth, and a problem, for the manufacturers, are always competing, think Kraft and General Mills, Post, and other brand names.  These manufacturers compete for every dime you spend; they compete for shelf space; they compete for advertising space; they compete for every second you spend in the store, and dealing with these manufacturers is like herding long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs.  A loose conglomeration controlled by access to the customer portal, Walmart manages an extensive customer portal, Safeway, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. All control certain customer portals and commit to selling XX amount of goods for the manufacturers.  But, this is not “friendly” competition by any stretch of the imagination.  One manufacturer scores a benefit that improves their access to customers over another manufacturer; you can bet another manufacturer will be competing to repeat the performance.  All of which increases costs to the consumer in hidden fees, generally through rebate scams, BOGO “deals,” or my favorite “Rollback prices.”

Interestingly, the political situation in all representative governments is similar to America’s current situation.  A phenomenon I find both alarming and intriguing, but one with enormous potential to be taken advantage of to correct and save representative governments.  The one thing cost-focused competition cannot do is compete with service.  When customer service is truly the focus, cost competitors melt away.  Therein lay the answer, but we must first describe the lines of congruence before we can discuss solutions.Lemmings 5

Consider point one of the Walmart effect, competing on price both hides and reveals costs.  Every representative government worldwide has an entire industry working 24/7, working tirelessly to plasticize words where taxes are concerned to make progress bad and regression good.  Regressive taxes are considered good, even though they kill jobs, ruin lives, cost more, and eventually lead to the ruination of liberty and freedom.  Progressive taxes are hailed as bad, even though they cut government costs, increase liberty and freedom, allow people to keep more of their hard-earned money, and force the government to live on a budget.  While the tax language has been around longer than Walmart, the truth is, the Walmart effect has improved the tax language to the point that representative government can rob you blind, and you never know.  Just like that fuel surcharge on pizza receipts, after the cost of ingredients for the pizza skyrocketed.

Point two of the Walmart effect; where has customer service gone in government?  Since I was a kid, citizens’ accessibility to elected officials has dropped like a sack of lead.  Worse, we have seen active animosity from the elected officials towards the citizenry.  Mayors allow terrorist mobs to destroy public and private property without regard, mobs and gangs to rule, entire sections of cities lost to civilization, and elected officials do not care until they utter empty words in an election campaign.  Enter a government office for a permit, license, get a question answered, etc., and you are treated like scum, and the bureaucrat is doing you a tremendous favor by granting you an audience.  Now, how do you honestly feel when you walk into Walmart and ask an associate a question, provided you can lasso an associate to ask?

Gravy Train 3On the third point in the Walmart effect, politicians spend enormous amounts of effort to use marketing science to play upon emotions to get and keep an audience.  The same marketing science employed to keep you in a retailer making purchases keeps you “connected” to your political party.  Worse, because there are familial traditions in being one political party or another, there remain tighter ties to a political party.  These strings are played to the fullest to bind you ever tighter, so you do not use conscious thinking when voting the party line.

Finally, we come to the fourth Walmart effect, the one with the most pertinence to current political dogma, the bundling of obscure groups into a ruling party.  I have never been shy about admitting that two-party political rule is terrible for America.  I am all for having 10-15 separate major political parties; in the confusion generated by the many voices, better governance occurs, mostly.  I respect the Israelis for their political system with their separate and ungainly political parties because of the need to gain coalitions and be very connected with and responsible to the people in those coalitions and the citizens they represent.  Recognizing that the political system does not always work, a robust system of codified laws is mandatory to keep the government in check and accountable to the people.

Bobblehead DollFrankly, I do not care what side of the political spectrum you come down upon.  What matters to me is how your representative governs.  Once an elected official of a representative government gains office, they cannot simply think they only represent that political party while in office.  Thinking this way is the epitome of the Walmart effect and stems from competing on cost alone.  Worse, thinking that the representative only represents those who placed them in power places that elected representative into a position to abuse their office.

Using others is what Walmart has done because they control such a vast portal to customers, and the manufacturers have been paying a steep price in more than dollars and cents ever since.  Unfortunately, so have the customers.  The harm to the manufacturers is delivered to the end consumer, and Walmart does not care as they are just a portal through which a manufacturer sells goods.  The same thing for the politician, all of society is harmed when a politician can be purchased and influenced; when harm comes to one person because of their political leanings, everyone suffers.

Knowledge Check!Therein lay the other answer to the Walmart effect, recognizing that we must join together, or fall individually, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle since we are all interconnected.  Service and joining together are the only paths forward.  We must not allow divisive political agendas, carefully crafted scientifically marketed political pogroms, and slick groomed politicians to sway us from the important points of freedom, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness.  We cannot afford the governments that have ballooned and festered over the last 60-years.  We cannot afford the Walmart effect; the cost is just too great!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

The Proper and Improper Role of Government: Chapter 4 – Tax Freedom Day – Do you know why this is important?

Working DollarIn 2019, Tax Freedom Day was 16 April 2019.  For those not in the loop, Tax Freedom Day is the day all Federal, State, County, and Local taxes are paid from your paycheck.  This date gets further into the new year every year, and with the amount of inflation seen since 16 April 2019, you can bet that Tax Freedom Day will shortly be in the middle of May or July.

What is Paper Money?

Dr. Clarence Carson wrote an article about paper money and the US Constitution, quoted heavily below.  Paper Money, “… Paper that was intended to circulate as money but was not redeemable in gold and silver was technically described as bills of credit at the time of the Continental Congress and writing of the US Constitution and US Bill of Rights. The description was (and is) apt. Such Paper is a device for expanding the credit of the issuer.”  The credit of the issuer is improved, not the benefit of those forced to use the Paper as credit.  Hence, the US Government, to improve its credit, began printing money, and the problems in American Economics took off like a rocket sled on greased rails!Plato 2

Paper Money only has value when the person holding that Paper has confidence in the government printing that money.  In every nation across the globe, the only thing keeping value in the paper currency is confidence in the government by citizens paying taxes.  Hence, the problems with depressions, the confidence in value are shaken, and the holders of Paper Money become restless and lack confidence that their money is valuable.  Bills of credit, Paper Money conveying the value of debt have been around for a long time, as discussed in a previous article on money.  Why did the USSR fall; the currency had been worthless for years, and when the citizens had finally had enough, the government fell apart.  A fitting tribute and pattern to be heeded from history if we, the government owners, cannot get the government to cease and desist forthwith!

Government and Paper Money

The US Constitution, as originally written, forbids the US Government from printing paper money why; because of how fast the government abuses this power, creating inflation.  The Continental Congress was well aware of government abuses with Paper Money, thus restricting the Federal Government to coinage and tying the value to the gold standard.  Inflation is nothing more than a hidden tax, where the government controls how much value your money is worth.  Every person using US Dollars to make a purchase pays this tax.  Thus, by the time a consumable product has been paid for in a store, that tax, inflation, has been paid multiple times, and the consumer is always worse for every point of inflation the government allows.

IronyDid you know that the Federal Government allows 2% inflation every year as a “target?”  Consider this for a moment; the government wants your money and calls this tax a “good thing” for the economy.  Thus, your prices for everything increase 2% or $.02 every year because the government wants it to.  The 2% devaluation of your money is part of the Federal Reserves’ “Dual-Mandate” to achieve 100% employment and price stability.  Do you see any logic in making money less valuable as a means to improve employment and stabilize prices?  I don’t!  Now, consider this, inflation has hit a this year (2021) and has not stopped climbing.  Worse, inflation is expected to continue to grow as the government prints more Paper Money, which will eventually end in a depression preceded by massive deflation of the value of the US Dollar.  Keep in mind; inflation has become a global problem, as the majority of governments spent money they did not have during the pandemic.  Imagine lemmings racing for a fiscal cliff.

Lemmings 5Josiah Quincy wrote George Washington “that there never was a paper pound, a paper dollar, or a paper promise of any kind, that ever yet obtained a general currency but by force or fraud, generally by both.”   Yet, Congress still refuses to learn the lessons taught during the Continental Currency.  Debts, runaway inflation, legal enforcement to demand paper money be accepted, all of these lessons were experienced by the Founding Fathers, with Rhode Island being the Continental equivalent of California for bad fiscal policy and idiotic fiscal enforcement.Tax Scheme 2

The founding fathers met during an economic period of deflation, which quickly became a severe depression caused by states issuing paper money that was useless.  The founders “hoped to erect a system that would endure, and to do that, they wished to guard against the kind of fiscal adventures that produced both unpleasant economic consequences and political turmoil. Paper Money was reckoned to be one of these.”  Paper Money, without the backing of silver and gold, has led to speculation, inflation, deflation, cycles of economic depression, and Congress essentially stole the right to print paper money and borrow from the citizens unconstitutionally!  This cannot be stressed enough; there is a direct causal relationship between Congressional action, Executive Orders, and the economic problems America is suffering, including the bondage of debts insurmountable and the abuse of tax schemes!  All of which were powers strictly limited in the US Constitution because the founders knew the government would abuse the power of Paper Money!Bait & Switch 2

History shows that when paper money was discussed, the states overwhelming voted to remove the power to print money from the US Government, seeing this as the best method for long-term economic success in America.  “The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of removing the authority of the United States to emit bills of credit. The delegates voted by state, and 9 states voted in favor of the motion while only 2 opposed it. (New York delegates were not in attendance, and Rhode Island, of course, sent none.) It is a reasonable inference from the discussion that the delegates believed that by voting to strike out the words, (from the Articles of Confederation, which made up the bulk of the US Constitution), they had removed the power from the government to emit bills of credit.”  It is important to note that allowing states to issue bills of credit, print their own money, or stamp coinage was also forbidden.  To avoid the economic crisis, the founding fathers were in the middle of when framing the US Constitution and the US Bill of Rights from the Articles of Confederation.  How many problems, and how much lower would your taxes be if the Federal and State governments had simply followed the law instead of stealing rights and powers from the governed?

Facts About Tax Freedom Day

IRSPlease note, the federal deficit, state deficits, pension crisis, student loan debt crisis, and interest are not included in the numbers quoted below.  The following information comes directly from the Tax Foundation (linked above):

      • Tax Freedom Day is a significant date for taxpayers and lawmakers because it represents how long Americans as a whole have to work to pay the nation’s tax burden.
      • This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on 16 April or 105 days into the year.
      • In 2019, Americans will pay $3.4 trillion in federal taxes and $1.8 trillion in state and local taxes for a total bill of over $5.2 trillion, or 29 percent of the nation’s income.
      • Americans will collectively spend more on taxes in 2019 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.
      • If you include annual federal borrowing, representing future taxes owed (interest on the debt), Tax Freedom Day would occur 22 days later, 8 May.
      • Tax Freedom Day in 2018 and 2019 was five days earlier than it was in 2017, primarily due to the recent federal tax law, the Tax Cuts, and Jobs Act.
      • From 1930 to at least 1995, Tax Freedom Day has taken 1.27 days longer per year to reach. – I do not have an updated reference for this information since 1995.
      • In 2019, on average, it took:
            • 42 days to pay the income taxes
            • 26 days to pay payroll taxes
            • 15 days to pay sales and excise taxes, not including surcharges and government fees for services
            • 11 days for property taxes – states control this, some municipalities, it took a lot longer
            • 5 days for Corporate Income Taxes
            • 6 Days for other taxes that always get passed along to the consumer.

Tax BurdenI have read economic reports from noted minds in economics that claim had the dollar not been loosed from the ties to the gold standard, America could not have produced the tools needed to win WWII.  To which I continue to claim, as Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H so aptly stated, “HORSE HOCKEY! and BULL COOKIES!”  Having Congress issuing massive letters of credit, borrowing tremendous sums of money, and the economic fallout remains a millstone about the financial neck of this country.  How much longer will Americans pay for debts created during WWII?  What about the ever-increasing debt burden and interest that is driving prices and taxes ever upwards?

Knowledge Check!The US Government has acted improperly since establishing the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service.  Not just improperly but illegally under the US Constitution as drafted.  Illegally, immorally, and unethically towards the founders, and distorted the intent of the US Constitution to protect America from runaway government debt and inflation/deflation/depression cycles common when issuing Paper Money.  This is the utter truth, and until this problem is rectified, removing paper money is the right thing to do, even if it means some financial hardship!  America can survive financial difficulty; we cannot survive the bondage of runaway debt, interest that sucks all the GDP, and the socialism projects being paid for by tax dollars to buy votes from envious people looking for “equality and fairness.”

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Gasoline Taxes – The Epitome of Forced Taxation and Government’s Broken Promises

Exclamation MarkI do not care that Alaska has not increased its gasoline taxes in 50-years.  Frankly, the fact that the Federal Government has gone 27.4 years without increasing the Federal Fuel Taxes is not a problem.  Nor that the Federal Government has to either get the current taxes renewed, or the Federal Gas Tax goes to $0.042 a gallon is not a tragedy, but a good thing.  Gas taxes are not the problem; the problem is that the fuel taxes, excise taxes, surcharges, and fees built into a gallon of gas that equals more than $1.00 per gallon, are never prioritized to the infrastructure projects the tax was collected initially to pay for!

IronyI find the following ironic; the Federal Gasoline Excise Tax is actually two taxes combined.  $0.01 per gallon is paid as the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) fee.  Why is this ironic; because the government LUSTs after all types of money to misappropriate.  Before creating acronyms, one would think that the government would consider how much of a joke those acronyms will make.  One of the seven deadly sins that are constantly causing scandals for politicians, LUST!  Yes, I find this tax acronym very ironic and applicable to the discussion on why the roads and other infrastructure is rated as a C- and falling.  I find LUST very appropriate to the discussion on the misappropriation of funds and how the government wants to increase taxes to pay for something already well funded but where the money is consistently diverted.

QuestionPlease note that each state will have additional taxes, fees, surcharges, and tax projects built into the cost of a gallon of gas or diesel, aviation, or propane.  Fuel taxes are a tax scheme that seems to always pay for anything but roads, bridges, and infrastructure.  Some basic facts regarding gas taxes:

      1. The average state gas tax is $0.3006 per gallon of gas.
      2. The Federal Government gets $0.184 per gallon of gas.
      3. States have added other fees to a gallon of gas, including:
          • Environmental
          • Underground storage (payable even if the tanks are above ground)
          • Inspection fees
          • Certification and other weights and measurement fees
      4. If your state taxes Ethanol, your gas taxes include the Ethanol tax, as well as a fuel tax.
      5. All fuels are hit with taxes, and some of those taxes are disproportionately assigned to heavier vehicles. For example, diesel has a different formula for taxes due to the trucking industry using roads and bridges more; at least, this is the excuse used to tax diesel differently.

Gas Tax Revenue – Poor Roads and Infrastructure

Since I was a kid in Maine, who closely observed the gas tax debate, I have wondered the same question.  “Why are the roads so poor if the government is collecting all these taxes on gasoline?”  Now, keep in mind the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. “Taxes are the price of civilization.”  Meaning that to “enjoy” the pleasure of a free society, the government will levy taxes.  But, the money collected does not have to go for what the tax was intended to pay.  Hence the broken promises of gasoline taxes.

Plato 2Fuel taxes are used for a myriad of uses, and the priority is all confused about how to spend fuel taxes:

        1. Schools
        2. Pay down the National Debt
        3. Mass Transit
        4. Cleaning up underground fuel leaks
        5. Law Enforcement
        6. Environmental Protection
        7. Pension Shortfalls
        8. State Debts
        9. Federal Highway Trust Fund Deficits of all types
        10. Enforcement Costs, including weights and measurement certification
        11. Roads
        12. Bridges

Now, do not forget the other obstacle in fixing roads and bridges, the labor costs, especially if the workers are unionized.  The government bidding processes for projects, especially in all forms of construction, are obscenely complicated, which increases costs long before a shovel hits the dirt.  If unions are involved, the time for the project and expenses will, at a minimum, double before the project completes, creating deficit spending.  I am not cynical here; I have witnessed this occur too often not to admit the truth.

Working DollarChris LeDoux sings a song, “Working Man’s Dollar,” which tells the story and details the difference between a working man’s dollar and the dollar in other places.  The fuel tax was first adopted in Oregon, and the proceeds were earmarked only for fixing, maintaining, and building roads, bridges, and other travel infrastructures, like tunnels.  Except, the money never is prioritized to the failing roads, bridges, and infrastructure costs.  The working man’s dollar, collected through forced taxation, is not respected by the government authorized through the ballot box to allocate spending.

I was in Maricopa County when a stadium was pitched to the residents to be located in Scottsdale.  A gas tax hike was proposed as part of an overall tax plan to pay for the stadium.  I asked, “If the stadium was worth the investment, why not just sell bonds?”  I never got an answer.  Not every citizen was interested in the stadium, not all citizens were going to benefit from the stadium, but every citizen was being asked to help pay for a stadium.  The stadium in that election failed, but the ideas did not die; a new location was proposed, and the voters there accepted the stadium’s tax hikes.  Want a surprising non-surprise, the stadium is built, but the taxes have never gone away, including property, sales, and fuel taxes!  Where is that money going?

Bait & SwitchNow, the Federal Government has a bunch of fuel taxes and surcharges (taxes called a fee) about to expire.  The question every voter in America needs to ask themselves is this, “Did the government properly use the funds dedicated to infrastructure?”  If so, then the fuel taxes should continue at the Federal level.  If not, then the fuel taxes should cease, for the government refuses to spend money according to the purpose it was collected.  Every single state in the union should be asking the same question and answering accordingly.

I lived in Albuquerque, NM., for several years.  To get potholes fixed, you had to ruin your car in an accident involving the street, then sue the city, county, state, whatever for the insurance costs.  Only then was that particular patch of road deemed important enough to repair.  There are bone-jarring, teeth-rattling, car-destroying potholes all over Albuquerque.  These never get fixed because the city has been too busy dumping tax money into a rapid transit project that is barely used, overly expensive, and desperately not desired by the taxpaying citizens.  They had “ART” (Albuquerque Rapid Transit) crammed down their throats by a judge.  ART has been a disgrace from Day 1.  Yet, money keeps pouring into ART instead of the many roads, bridges, overpasses, and other infrastructure that desperately needs repair.  A friend of mine hit a pothole, doing 35mph, dented his rim almost 2”, ruined his front alignment, and cost him a considerable sum.  That pothole is still there, still causing dents, still eating tires, and the city cannot fix it, the state will not fix it, the county was supposed to fix it, the Indian reservation owns it, and the federal government makes the pothole worse every day by traffic of federal employees going to work.

Tax BurdenHence the reason why fuel taxes are considered a tax scheme!  If you pass the buck enough, nothing gets done, and the money collected can be used in other projects while responsibility is determined.  Except, there is no money to fix the problem when the responsibility is determined, and the wheel just keeps spinning around.  Are you sick and tired of the games politicians play, yet?  Now, imagine your electric bill going up to pay for the fuel taxes not paid for by electric car owners, and tell me about proper government action and accountability.  My friend could not sue because responsibility cannot be determined; his insurance would not pay for the damages because the road damaged his vehicle; guess who was out almost $10,000.

Tax Scheme 2Some states are changing how the gasoline and other fuel taxes, including electricity due to the rise in electric vehicles on the road, are being priced and collected.  However, the problem is not the tax; it’s the fact that the tax never pays for what it was intended to when collected.  Some states got an increase in fuel taxes through their state legislatures this year.  Other states and the Federal Government are taking fuel taxes up in the coming months or the next legislating session.  But, not a single politician, anywhere in America, has stepped up to state the obvious, the current taxes collected are sufficient to pay for roads and bridges; we have to allocate more of the current money collected to roads and bridges.

Broken Promises – Broken Roads and Bridges

Question 3Is the problem apparent?  How many of your state taxes, lotteries, and other fees are supposed to pay for education?  Yet, education always seems never to have enough money.  How many taxes and fees go into the Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Transportation, all of which are supposed to pay for infrastructure, e.g., roads, tunnels, bridges, overpasses, highways, etc.?  How much is the pension crisis costing your state, driving taxes and fees upwards, but the money never is delivered to pay down and lessen the pension crisis?

I repeat, only for emphasis, “America does NOT have a cash collection problem; it has a spending problem.”  At all levels of government, the elected officials are acting worse than drunken sailors on a seven-day binge, and this behavior needs to cease!  We cannot spend our way out of the hole dug through deficit spending!  The answer is not allowing the government to steal more money from our pockets, but to demand the money taken is used for the purposes intended!

Tax SchemeWe must tie political decisions to misappropriate funds to the legislators and executives making the decisions.  Thus, holding accountable the people who are being poor managers of the people’s money.  More importantly, when re-election decisions are made, the media, the influencers, and the political parties need to report this information.  Being able to hide funding shenanigans and criminal activities should never occur; businesses cannot do this, the government should not be able to do this.  Audits, investigations, and transparency are critical to putting the right people out of office and into prison, and keeping the honest and faithful stewards in office and working.

Knowledge Check!The size of government must shrink to an affordable level, from the city to the Federal; every government body in America, including those non-Government agencies acting like government agencies (USPS), need to be forced onto a diet of less money!  There is no excuse for the government to be the size it has become.  There is no excuse why we, the owners of the government, cannot demand government shrink, become efficient, and keep the promises made regarding money collected, used appropriately, and ended at the time promised.

Angry Wet ChickenAs sure as carts to horses and ducks to water, a Federal tax, fee, or surcharge, will be found shortly on your electric bill to cover the costs of electric vehicles on the roads.  When the Federal government does this, the state, county, and city will jump in with both feet, claiming “fairness” and “equality” so everyone is “paying their fair share” of the costs for infrastructure.  It doesn’t matter that you do not own an electric vehicle; the government will help you finance one through increased taxes and misappropriated fees collected.  Just like the “Obama Phone” scheme being abused by many people and paid for by a small minority.  Broken promises indeed!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
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