Plunder, in the Name of Revenue

"Change is never easy, but it is the only way we can put New York back on the road toward fiscal and economic recovery."
-- Gov. David Paterson

Four months ago, I donned my best suit and snazziest heels to attend "Eyes on the Future," a local economic summit held in a college gymnasium that smelled vaguely of feet.

It was here that hundreds of Rochester, NY business execs and entrepreneurs gathered to whine into their Tim Horton's about the dreadful state of the Upstate economy. No jobs. Vanishing credit. Young college grads fleeing the state in record numbers. It was a real sobfest. The panelists on stage prattled on and on about non-issues like "attracting Millennial workers" and "how to better brand Rochester," all the while studiously avoiding the real elephant in the room: [i]The economy sucks because we made it so. The only way to make it better is to tighten our belts.[/i] To be fair, this is not a message that we New Yorkers are used to hearing.

Which is why I was so impressed with Governor David Paterson, who dropped by that day to give a surprise, impromptu speech. The same Governor Paterson who just declared war on the geeks.

In his brisk, toneless presentation, in which he barely paused for breath or punctuation, Gov. Paterson doled out some pretty rough justice, calling for immediate, drastic and specific cuts to government spending. He talked of change and tough times, and the need to face problems head-on, decisively. He even dropped the R-bomb — "recession" —months before most government employees could curl their lower lips to make the “R.” (One businesswoman on stage physically cringed when he said it.) It was just like watching John Wayne. If John Wayne were a lawyer from Brooklyn.

I was startled. Somehow — it could only have been by mistake — we New Yorkers had acquired a frank, no-nonsense politician in our highest office. Someone who might actually understand what it takes to revitalize a dying economy.

It’s important to understand just how Mr.-Wayne-Goes-To-Albany Paterson seems. Because otherwise, it won’t make any sense that I’m so pissed about his new budget proposal.

On Tuesday, the governor unveiled his ideas on how to close the state's $15.4 billion budget gap. It's been called a "doomsday proposal," one that Paterson himself said contains "extreme measures."

By "extreme measures," I assume he means "anti-intellectual, nickel-and-dime sabotage."

Gov. Paterson's budget is a love letter to King George III. He suggests raising taxes on wine, beer and cigars; removing caps on the already punishing gas tax; and adding new taxes on everything from movie tickets to baseball games to massages. He even boldly proposed a 21st century version of the Sugar Tax: an 18% tax on sodas and sugary juices, which he claims will cut down on childhood obesity.

Putting aside my moral indignation of having the State help me decide what to eat, what bothers me most are Paterson's new proposals on online transactions. For starters, Paterson wants to impose sales tax on all digitally downloaded products, including "prewritten software, digital audio, audio-visual and text files, digital photographs, games and other electronically-delivered entertainment services."

In other words, almost all the media I consume.

In addition, he wants to require out-of-state companies who do business in New York to form a "nexus" here, through which they'll collect state sales tax. This, he claims, will prevent a company from "avoiding charging sales and use tax on Internet purchases by creating independent but affiliated out-of-state entities to make those sales."

Meaning, I can only buy from State-approved Gamestops.

Setting aside the question of enforcement — I'd make a scary lawyer, and an even scarier cop — the new provisions raise several red flags.

Charging sales tax on downloadable content may seem like a great idea on paper, but I worry the move may encourage even more piracy over time. A 4% tax on your iTunes purchase may not seem like much, but we've become so psychologically attached to the $.99 price point that exceeding that by any amount — even just by four cents — will seem an outrage, or worse, a personal dig at a generation that chooses to purchase its media digitally, rather than physically. Nevermind that physical brick-and-mortars have been charging sales tax for decades. The very novelty of the tax will encourage piracy, at least in the short term, perhaps as a sort of protest. (I know I'd feel much less guilty bilking the government instead of a game developer.)

Normally, I wouldn't worry about the handful of people so cheap that they can't abide paying an extra four cents for a song, or an extra $2.40 on a next-gen game. But remember the main justification behind those vicious copy protection schemes wrecking up our hardware? [i]"We must do something about piracy.” [/i]What if there's a sudden, measurable influx of new pirates on the scene? Oh the fertile grounds of next-gen rootkits!

I'm also worried about that second proposal mandating "nexuses." Essentially, that means forcing companies — even independent, one-person operations — to create a new business entity, just to do business in New York.

Obviously the Wal-Marts and Microsofts and probably even Valve will comply and continue to offer goods to New Yorkers. But what about the smaller guys? Will the increased red tape (and presumably additional expense) diminish the incentive to do business in New York altogether? Does this mean that consumers will conceivably be unable to purchase games from Stardock, or some small indie developer living off paypal donations, simply because those vendors don't want more hassle?

Let me be clear: If Paterson takes away my Stardock, I'll be heading up the million-Kat march on Albany myself. Me and my 999,999 Facebook friends.

The crippling irony here is that one of the major complaints Gov. Paterson addressed in his speech — the flight of young college grads, and thus the loss of an entire generation of economic growth — is the very thing this budget proposal will accelerate.

Our brain-drain isn’t really news. New York has struggled with keeping the smart kids here for a long time. Students flock to the state to get educated, but few ever stay. It's a particularly bad problem here in Rochester, where the slowly sinking Kodak and Xerox offer even less incentive than ever for young people to stick around.

So what does Paterson suggest? Tax the very goods that appeal most to the younger, tech-savvy little engines of commerce he’s trying to court. Higher alcohol and cigarette taxes. An obesity tax for soda. New taxes on sporting events and movie tickets. And, of course, taxes on online content. He’s a one man wrecking-crew headed straight for Saturday night.

It's not that young people will leave New York simply because there's a 4% tax on their World of Warcraft subscriptions. Rather, it's the cumulative effect. They'll have to pay so much more for every little aspect of their daily lives — why should young people stick around when it seems the governor is singling their generation out for special treatment? (I noticed there were no proposed taxes on hearing aids or Metamucil.)

Look, I'm not naïve. I know that, realistically, our tax structure must be updated for the 21st century. As commerce spreads from the brick-and-mortar store to the virtual marketplace, so too should the ways society funds its communities evolve.

But is this really the best idea we can come up with?

This isn't the John Wayne I saw four months ago, swaggering across a stage and rustling whiny businessmen into line with tough talk about budget cuts. Looking back, I'm not sure who that guy was.

I mean, sure: The economy is tough. But it's even tougher when you're stupid.

Comments

If John Wayne were a lawyer from Brooklyn.

Isn't that sort of like "if bourbon were corn syrup"?

Someone else said it but everyone seems to be ignoring it.

We know the government wastes a lot of money. Government waste is identified every year and we have many watchdog groups that look after this waste. Why is the assumption that more taxes is the answer. If you tax luxury goods then people will just reduce their consumption, which will hurt those industries, which may mean more cutbacks, etc. You cannot tax your way to prosperity.

Belt tightening is an apt analogy, but government never seems to want to tighten their belts. Instead they put their hands out and say "Give us some more". When is it ever enough?

Frankly, I am glad I live in Texas where there is no state income tax. Everything is a consumption tax here, which is fine. However, a consumption tax is not really that equal. As an upper middle class wage earner a tax increase hits less of my proportional income, it becomes a greater burden on those with less income. We already exempt food and some necessities. I don't think we want to send the message "Don't spend money!" because that just hurts other people. Everyone is trying to make a living and if no one is spending we'll just go into the same death spiral that we say in the dotcom bust.

Demand your government cut spending, cut waste, get rid of silly ass projects or vote them out. It doesn't matter if "that other party" holds a seat for awhile. So long as politicians think they can gerrymander their way into office they'll have no incentive to do any better. We as voters continue to fail the system by refusing to make hard choices. Too many people align with a party without ever asking "What have they done for me lately". I am not surprised by the State of New York's response. They have no incentive to do better. We'll just get more money from the voters!

I bet if they took a hard look at where money is actually going, they could do this without a tax increase. The tax increase is just easier. Don't believe for a second it's the only option.

Botswana, in the case of NY the governor is proposing belt tightening as well, see my post on the second page about the proposed massive cuts to the NY prison guard budget. Also, as SillyRabbit points out, "tightening belts" often means that people are going to lose their jobs, which might explain why some look to raise taxes instead.

Badferret wrote:

Botswana, in the case of NY the governor is proposing belt tightening as well, see my post on the second page about the proposed massive cuts to the NY prison guard budget. Also, as SillyRabbit points out, "tightening belts" often means that people are going to lose their jobs, which might explain why some look to raise taxes instead.

Again, I'm just shocked how willing voters are to accept pithy responses. Why are job losses the way to go. Again, this sounds like the easy way out.

I'll give an example. Back when I was in the Sheriff's Office the county had a budget shortfall. The County Commissioners first response was to cut back on the staff at the Sheriff's Office since we were the single largest work force. No question as to whether that staff was needed or not, no evaluation on the community impact, just immiediate "Cut staff!" A little digging discovered several things that could go. For instance, the annual budget for maintaining the flower beds at a park was about the same as the yearly salary for a deputy. Which is more important? The flowers or the deputy? Which one is providing for their family. That was just one example though, but it still stands out in my mind. An outside body evaluated the county budget and found several excesses that eventually meant that no staff reductions were necessary.

Yet these political yahoos went knee-jerk and attempted to end the livelihood of good people because it was easier than taking a hard look at the numbers.

So when I hear these stories "Raise taxes! Cut jobs!" I have a hard time believing it is actually necessary.

Botswana wrote:
Badferret wrote:

Botswana, in the case of NY the governor is proposing belt tightening as well, see my post on the second page about the proposed massive cuts to the NY prison guard budget. Also, as SillyRabbit points out, "tightening belts" often means that people are going to lose their jobs, which might explain why some look to raise taxes instead.

Again, I'm just shocked how willing voters are to accept pithy responses. Why are job losses the way to go. Again, this sounds like the easy way out.

I'll give an example. Back when I was in the Sheriff's Office the county had a budget shortfall. The County Commissioners first response was to cut back on the staff at the Sheriff's Office since we were the single largest work force. No question as to whether that staff was needed or not, no evaluation on the community impact, just immiediate "Cut staff!" A little digging discovered several things that could go. For instance, the annual budget for maintaining the flower beds at a park was about the same as the yearly salary for a deputy. Which is more important? The flowers or the deputy? Which one is providing for their family. That was just one example though, but it still stands out in my mind. An outside body evaluated the county budget and found several excesses that eventually meant that no staff reductions were necessary.

Yet these political yahoos went knee-jerk and attempted to end the livelihood of good people because it was easier than taking a hard look at the numbers.

So when I hear these stories "Raise taxes! Cut jobs!" I have a hard time believing it is actually necessary.

Great example of how poorly managed our governments are. While many are aware of things like the Alaskan, "Bridge to Nowhere" there are literally thousands of little and not so little wastes of public funds that continue to get pushed through all levels of government, while well spent money gets ripped away and another even larger tax bill is sent to the public. I weep for the future, because I seems more and more that our government is only there to service the election cycle and not to manage the country to the betterment of the people.

The Seattle Times is the only outlet I know of that is actively trying to investigate unethical spending practices ("earmarks") to any significant degree, at least on the national level. Too bad it is a relatively small regional outlet. Not many people will get the info. A really good example of old school investigative journalism on a major problem in our government. Sifting through those giant poorly written budgets must be mind numbingly boring task. A great remedy to the pundit-heavy, celebrity-focused 24 hour news style that CNN pioneered. It nice to see that actual journalism is still alive.

EDIT: Forgot the link - http://community.seattletimes.nwsour...

Now we just need local reporters to do the same for State and Local governments.

You know the US is headed for $2 TRILLION deficit next year right? That means the Government spends more money than it receives in taxes, to the tune of $2 trillion.

The only way you can do that is by borrowing 2 trillion from China, Japan and the oil states. Someday very soon, the US actually needs to get its financial situation in shape (at all levels of government), or it's next stop Zimbabwe and the Treasury printing a 10 billion dollar note so you can buy bread and milk.

Gov Paterson is proposing an expansion in the tax base - new taxes to increase the amount of revenue so the budget is not in deficit.

Whilst I think it is certainly worthy to criticise some of the specific tax measures being proposed, I think you are severely missing the big picture if you just write "oh MYGOD, you can't possibly tax my itunes downloads, all my facebook friends will riot, that's just stupid!!"

If you believe some of the proposed taxes are stupid - What do you propose the Government taxes instead? Alternatively - What services do you propose the state cuts back on? Garbage collection? Road safety? The Police force?

Which would you prefer - a 4% tax on itunes downloads or a 50% cut to the police force?

If Americans are opposed to expansions to the tax base (and they invariably are), then you need to nominate which government services to cut back on.

The first place to look is government waste, the second place to look is what services may need to be cut, the last resort is to raise taxes.

Government wastes billions of dollars every year. A quick look at places like porkbusters.org will expose many of these projects.

I'm surprised at the vitriol being levelled at people who think raising taxes is a bad idea. I'm tired of politicians feeling there is this unlimited pool of money that they can always draw just a little more from. The problem is once they start taxing something they never stop.

Then there are the inevitable unintended consequences. Make something more expensive and it will become less desirable. Are we going to preserve government at the expense of private industry? Will jobs just be lost somewhere else? What will the long term impact of this be?

Cut jobs! Raise taxes! These are knee jerk responses. I have a better idea, hire some auditors and take a good long hard look at the books.

Botswana wrote:

The first place to look is government waste, the second place to look is what services may need to be cut, the last resort is to raise taxes.

Government wastes billions of dollars every year. A quick look at places like porkbusters.org will expose many of these projects.

I don't disagree with you here in principle, but while auditors are going through the books your country and state are bleeding funds out of every orifice, and won't survive long enough to see results.

Taxes on luxury items are an effective stop gap, then audit and get the system running more efficiently. All the cost-cutting in the world won't help if there is no cash.

God I hope this doesn't happen because it'd only be a matter of time until something like that spread everywhere and god knows I don't want to have to pay it. What I find intriguing about America is it seems to be a nation defined by taxation and taxes, to the point where you've got states like Pensylvania and Ohio with these byzantine tax structures effecting everything from payroll to property ownership to death.

I l ive in Canada, sure we have a pretty hefty taxation system compared to some places but it's pretty straight forward compared to the switch backs and mazes of the American system and at times it almost seems like you guys pay a lot more then us in taxes when everything is taken in to account with a lot fewer of the social services and structures that we enjoy.

commonperson wrote:

What I find intriguing about America is it seems to be a nation defined by taxation and taxes, to the point where you've got states like Pensylvania and Ohio with these byzantine tax structures effecting everything from payroll to property ownership to death.

How do you expect politicians to buy votes and support without a byzantine tax structure?

EDIT: Out of curiosity, I did some digging to compare international tax rates. First, it's surprisingly hard to get a good answer. Second, different studies have a surprisingly wide range of results. The only solid answer seems to be that all companies and individuals should move to Switzerland. Given rumblings from some corners about Switzerland being the next Iceland, though, I'm not in a big rush to move. Overall, it's hard to say for sure, but it looks like the US is nothing special with taxes. I'm kind of surprised, as I thought we'd lean heavily towards being one of the cheaper places to live.

I have no problem paying taxes and high taxes at that. My problem is that what are we getting in return for those tax hikes? It seems that our governments get more and more expensive to run and provide less and less. Our governments are corrupt, mismanaged, and we keep throwing more money at them. I am not for, "Starving the Beast" as a lot of fiscal conservatives are, but there does need to be some form of reform in how our money is spent. Right now a lot of it is wasted on nonessential projects because they help some politician raise campaign funds and get re-elected. You couple this wasteful spending with an economy that is based more and more on financial wealth with every passing year and you see how we can get into this recession that ripples across the globe...A huge pile of financial wealth just evaporated out of existence and the government has invested very little in the middle class, making our economy doubly vulnerable. Our response...raise taxes, bail out "private" industry, and send the taxpayers the bill. It will help fix the problem in the short term, but what does it do to fix the more systemic flaws in our economy?

heavyfeul wrote:

I have no problem paying taxes and high taxes at that. My problem is that what are we getting in return for those tax hikes? It seems that our governments get more and more expensive to run and provide less and less.

I agree, whilst I am not a conservative I find it incredibly frustrating the waste that seems to go on and the stupid decisions. The current Conservative Party of Canada gained power with one of the largest surpluses in Canadian history on the books. The Liberal Party of Canada had a system in place where a large portion of the taxes were going towards a "Contingency Fund" in case of recession this money was to be used to keep a level of service in place and ensure that the country had enough money to work on.

Once in power the government slashed taxes but to appear that it was revenue nutral and generating more business due to lower taxes they frittered away this fund and it's now gone. And low we are heading in to a recession in Canada with no saftey net left and having to look towards selling off our assets as a country. It often seems that people who claim to be fiscally conservative at the government level have very poor forsight in to how their actions are going to impact the economy.

commonperson wrote:

It often seems that people who claim to be fiscally conservative at the government level have very poor forsight in to how their actions are going to impact the economy.

That's the next guy's problem!

heavyfeul wrote:

I have no problem paying taxes and high taxes at that. My problem is that what are we getting in return for those tax hikes? It seems that our governments get more and more expensive to run and provide less and less.

This seems to be a pretty common theme amongst responses here (and everywhere), so here's my question. I get the generalized frustration with government, but what less is the government providing? Roads, public schools, social services-they're all still here, but the reason they are lessened is because costs for these things are going up while revenues are going down.

Government providing less is not just a mismanagement issue, but also a realistic cost issue. School systems don't cut music and arts programs because they are dumb, they do it because they don't have the funding.

Tax my luxuries; I'll pony up the extra $5 bucks per GTA or $.06 per Roots download if it'll add up to another college guidance counselor at a high school in North Philly, South Boston, or Oakland.

toe two wrote:
heavyfeul wrote:

I have no problem paying taxes and high taxes at that. My problem is that what are we getting in return for those tax hikes? It seems that our governments get more and more expensive to run and provide less and less.

This seems to be a pretty common theme amongst responses here (and everywhere), so here's my question. I get the generalized frustration with government, but what less is the government providing? Roads, public schools, social services-they're all still here, but the reason they are lessened is because costs for these things are going up while revenues are going down.

Government providing less is not just a mismanagement issue, but also a realistic cost issue. School systems don't cut music and arts programs because they are dumb, they do it because they don't have the funding.

Tax my luxuries; I'll pony up the extra $5 bucks per GTA or $.06 per Roots download if it'll add up to another college guidance counselor at a high school in North Philly, South Boston, or Oakland.

The argument here is against bureaucratic bloat and towards efficiency. And who says the government needs to do those things?

toe two wrote:
heavyfeul wrote:

I have no problem paying taxes and high taxes at that. My problem is that what are we getting in return for those tax hikes? It seems that our governments get more and more expensive to run and provide less and less.

This seems to be a pretty common theme amongst responses here (and everywhere), so here's my question. I get the generalized frustration with government, but what less is the government providing? Roads, public schools, social services-they're all still here, but the reason they are lessened is because costs for these things are going up while revenues are going down.

Absolutely, cost due go up, but is this the sole cause of degrading services? If you have a reasonable tax rate and your populous is making more money as time passes (improved standard of living), then your revenues will go up. Instead of raising taxes, how about investing the revenue they already get into programs and services that boost the standard of living of the general public by investing in upward mobility. I am no public policy expert, but it seems that things like abstinence only sex eduction, bridges to nowhere, fighting a war on drugs, and turning food into fuel are not the ways to due it. Those are just a few examples. There are hundreds more. Do I even have to mention the money dumped into the deserts of Iraq, much of it going to "private" corporations, while Walter Reed stagnates and rots in disrepair?

With every policy decision the government makes, they should be asking what is the net effect of this policy and does it improve the lives of US citizens? Do we have the authority to implement this policy/law? Those sorts of questions are rarely asked. Decisions are either poorly thought out reactionary knee jerks or calculated political positioning. Our country is not run by people dedicated to improving it.

heavyfeul wrote:

Instead of raising taxes, how about investing the revenue they already get into programs and services that boost the standard of living of the general public by investing in upward mobility. I am no public policy expert, but it seems that things like abstinence only sex eduction, bridges to nowhere, fighting a war on drugs, and turning food into fuel are not the ways to due it.

But in the short term what about all the stuff we can't live without? A lot of Americans would disagree with you about the importance of many of those things I suspect. Representative government means not getting what we want sometimes. That sounded snarkier than I meant it, but you get my point.

heavyfeul wrote:

With every policy decision the government makes, they should be asking what is the net effect of this policy and does it improve the lives of US citizens? Do we have the authority to implement this policy/law? Those sorts of questions are rarely asked. Decisions are either poorly thought out reactionary knee jerks or calculated political positioning. Our country is not run by people dedicated to improving it.

That's quite a generalization.

toe two wrote:
heavyfeul wrote:

Instead of raising taxes, how about investing the revenue they already get into programs and services that boost the standard of living of the general public by investing in upward mobility. I am no public policy expert, but it seems that things like abstinence only sex eduction, bridges to nowhere, fighting a war on drugs, and turning food into fuel are not the ways to due it.

But in the short term what about all the stuff we can't live without? A lot of Americans would disagree with you about the importance of many of those things I suspect. Representative government means not getting what we want sometimes. That sounded snarkier than I meant it, but you get my point.

Absolutely. The tyranny of the majority means that we will always have to deal with bad policies, systems, and laws that are at their best ill advised and ineffectual and at their worst unconstitutional. That doesn't mean we should simply accept that tyranny and say, "oh well, that is just the way it works." Also, some things are not really a matter of opinion. For instance, while some may think abstinence-only sex eduction is important, it doesn't mean that it provides any benefits or that it achieves its intended goal. More disease, higher rates of pregnancy, greater frequency of sexual activity and, in particular, "non-traditional" sexual activity often result from abstinence-only programs. I can understand why a parent would want to do everything to discourage their children from having sex, but does supporting an abstinence-only public policy help them in that regard?

We need to get civic minded people to think a bit differently. So, if you want to discourage premarital sex in children, for example, what public policy would help in that goal? Common sense may lead some people to assume that abstinence-only eduction is the key, but logic would contradict that. Thus, civic minded people need to realize that they sometimes need to support a public policy that seems, on the surface, to be incongruous to their personal beliefs, but in fact helps them achieve that goal. Politicians should be the ones to help bridge that intellectual gap. But they simply make it wider in an effort to use their constituents personal beliefs for their own professional gain.

This can apply to tax policy as well. The reaction is, we are in a recession, revenue is going to decrease, so we must raise more taxes. OK. Makes sense, but what will be the result? Are the Federal, State, and Local governments going to repay the money in a few years when the recession is over? Is the extra money they will eventually take in going to benefit the long term health of our economy? I need politicians to prove to me that the extra chunk they are going to take out of my check is going to be a benefit to society and not just another money grab to fund more poorly conceived and ineptly executed government policies.

I have avoided wading in because these discussions, on most internet forums, are usually full of rampant idiocy. I should have expected better of GWJ; it has been delightful to not-skim the intelligent responses on both sides. Being able to assume a basic understanding of economic theory and progressive versus regressive tax systems is wonderful.

Whether fiscally liberal or conservative, I think it's safe to say that we all deplore waste and "pork." I suppose some (like Botswana) might think that there is sufficient pork to cut that we can balance most government books without raising taxes or cutting existing services, period, end of discussion.

I believe the truth is that we need to cut waste, yes, but that alone will not be enough. The price of most essential services is rising, and most tax bases are shrinking with incomes and housing prices. Eventually, even with a hypothetical perfectly lean government, you start having to chose between lower taxes or less services. We are already choosing to do without in many cases: health care is not guaranteed, quality of education varies wildly from place to place (with college out of financial reach for more and more people), and most people would love to see more police and firemen and child protective service agents. Could we do without more, or should we be adding services?

The only variation to this old argument, here, is whether taxing digital downloads in particular is a good idea.

From this angle, it's hard to say it isn't. Basing your tax on whether your bits are delivered on a physical media or not seems awfully quaint. She admits, herself: As commerce spreads from the brick-and-mortar store to the virtual marketplace, so too should the ways society funds its communities evolve. The biggest disagreement with a tax on digital downloads seems to be conflation with general anti-tax arguments.

We can huff and puff around the pros and cons of libertarian fiscal policy in general, but so long as taxes continue to exist, it's only fair that those of us enjoying digital downloads pony up like those consuming any other entertainment media.

beeporama wrote:

We can huff and puff around the pros and cons of libertarian fiscal policy in general, but so long as taxes continue to exist, it's only fair that those of us enjoying digital downloads pony up like those consuming any other entertainment media.

I think the issue is deeper than that. One town in Virginia, I think it was Alexandria, sought out federal funds for a main street project, fixed up their old town, and then put up a bunch of new laws so that there historic downtown area would not descend into a bunch of McDonalds and whatnots. Yet after it was all said and done the most prominent place to eat is a Subways. The reason being is that local businesses could not afford to implement the new policies and restrictions, so the only people who could afford to do business were the chains and franchises they were attempting to keep out!

When I read the original article I was struck by the concept of creating a nexus in New York. The State of New York is trying to seek sales tax they no longer get to collect thanks to the way business is handled on the Internet. While I understand it might seem frustrating, it's also like trying to collect tax on something I purchased in another state. Local governments complain all the time about people who live in one area and work in another. Really, the digital download complaint is just a new wrinkle in an old debate.

However, since there is no physical location to these businesses in New York, no storefront as it were, the state wants to create some kind of entity in order for them to do business and so the state can collect its tax revenue.

What will happen is that more businesses will simply not have anything to do with New York. Many smaller businesses may not even be able to afford to.

Not every state is looking to increase taxes or complaining about budget shortfalls. Some places are cutting services or doing some real belt tightening. Maybe you can't eliminate enough waste to make up the shortfall, but they're not even going to try. First reaction, hands out, give us money.

As I said before, taxpayers are not some unlimited pool of money and I really resent that politicians treat us that way. The State may be hurting for money, but so are many of the residents. What they are looking to do is increase the burden on the people who will likely be able to afford it the least. You cannot tax your way into prosperity.

We do not want to discourage spending. We need money flowing in the economy. This is just one more measure to convince people to keep their wallets closed. It's a bad idea and I suspect it will end up doing more harm than good.

Although I guess this is all elementary to me. I will never live in New York as long as I can help it. The cost of living is simply ridiculous and the tax burden is already way too high. They complain about brain drain but they are creating an environment that is a detriment to business, which will not create more jobs, which will only encourage the younger generation to move out of state to find employment.

heavyfeul wrote:

Absolutely. The tyranny of the majority means that we will always have to deal with bad policies, systems, and laws that are at their best ill advised and ineffectual and at their worst unconstitutional. That doesn't mean we should simply accept that tyranny and say, "oh well, that is just the way it works."

Right but you can object to specific policies without resorting to writing off all elected officials as conniving, when in fact their decisions that you or I disagree with are generally designed to serve their constituents, which is how an elected official is supposed to think.

Obviously that's not an excuse for a lot of big things (I hope no one would argue now that Plessy v. Ferguson was good), but a lot of the big issues (economy, schools, everything) are big issues because smart people disagree on the best way to fix them. So I guess what I'm saying is, there's a reason progress is slow, and it's okay, because we aren't ruled by a despot (there it is on a tee for every President Bush joke).

I am being forced to officially bow out of this discussion.

Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.

toe two wrote:

Right but you can object to specific policies without resorting to writing off all elected officials as conniving, when in fact their decisions that you or I disagree with are generally designed to serve their constituents, which is how an elected official is supposed to think.

I think common thinking about elected officials can be summed up in two quotes.

"A politician thinks about the next elections - the stateman thinks about the next generations." -Winston Churchill

"A politician is a man who understands government. A statesman is a politician who's been dead for 15 years." -Harry S. Truman

People seem to see a lot of politicians these days, and few statesmen. I tend to agree. I've seen local politicians start off with big and altruistic hopes. As they get bigger, their parties and special interests notice them more. If they want to climb the ranks, they have to follow the people who they think will get them re-elected-- party leaders and special interests. I've seen too many times where a local politician starts out sounding reasonable, but a few years later they sound like hard-nosed fanatics, taking extreme views to appease their masters. My father was once a small-time politician. He stopped trying to make a career out of it when he realized that he'd have to sell his soul to continue. No big deal, as he's been very successful in other endeavors, but it's an example of how politics turns away so many people who could help us.

One of my favorite movies is "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." I'd like to believe that some form of dramatic change could come. But, like many people, I've lost faith in the system. I wish that I could believe that these guys are acting in the best interests of voters, but I don't really think that's their true constituency.

Ultimately, we have no one to blame but ourselves for this state of things. 'We the People' do hold the votes, and 'We the People' haven't cared enough to, for example, drop Congressional re-election rates anywhere close to below 90%. We keep voting in the same guys we complain about. If people aren't happy with how things are going, maybe they should think about saying so at the polls. This latest election was encouraging, at least from the standpoint of "We want to see things change somehow or another." Hopefully this will usher in a new era of statesmen, but I'm not going to hold my breath. I've seen too many politicians.

toe two wrote:
heavyfeul wrote:

Absolutely. The tyranny of the majority means that we will always have to deal with bad policies, systems, and laws that are at their best ill advised and ineffectual and at their worst unconstitutional. That doesn't mean we should simply accept that tyranny and say, "oh well, that is just the way it works."

Right but you can object to specific policies without resorting to writing off all elected officials as conniving, when in fact their decisions that you or I disagree with are generally designed to serve their constituents, which is how an elected official is supposed to think.

Your view of politicians is far more optimistic than mine.

Poppinfresh wrote:

Ultimately, we have no one to blame but ourselves for this state of things. 'We the People' do hold the votes, and 'We the People' haven't cared enough to, for example, drop Congressional re-election rates anywhere close to below 90%. We keep voting in the same guys we complain about. If people aren't happy with how things are going, maybe they should think about saying so at the polls. This latest election was encouraging, at least from the standpoint of "We want to see things change somehow or another." Hopefully this will usher in a new era of statesmen, but I'm not going to hold my breath. I've seen too many politicians.

We have a higher retention rate than the old Kremlin.

Just an update on the situation.

New York Governor David Paterson's December tax proposal that would see the state nickel and diming downloadable content has been scrapped in favor of large amounts of federal stimulus money.