11/1/18, by Professor John Frary,
THE MPA TEST OF VOTER INTELLIGENCE.
Our state’s voters must make up their minds about Question 1 in a few days. The Secretary of State presents us with the abbreviated version we will see on the ballot:
“Do you want to create the Universal Home Care Program to provide home-based assistance to people with disabilities and senior citizens, regardless of income, funded by a new 3.8% tax on individuals and families with Maine wage and adjusted gross income above the amount subject to Social Security taxes, which is $128,400 in 2018?”
That’s the short version, for the long version go here. When you reach page 12 of the long version you will find a summary which is just a little clearer than the ballot:
“The initiated bill establishes the Universal Home Care Program to provide in-home and community support services for all people with disabilities living in Maine who require assistance with an activity of daily living and people 65 years of age or older who are living in Maine and who require assistance with an activity of daily living, without regard to income, to be funded by a new tax of 3.8% on income and wages that exceed the maximum wages subject to social security employment taxes.”
We recognize both short versions of Q1 as models of Left-Lurcher sucker-bait. Decrepit, shuffling, spavined senescent wrecks (e.g., Me) see the offer of security against finding themselves, slumped and dribbling, waiting for the end in some squalid warehouse for redundant old crocks.
Kind-hearted citizens see an opportunity to express their benevolence by voting to spend someone else’s money. Mean and envious citizens will warm to the idea that beasts with better incomes than their own be punished by a tax directed at the wicked “rich.” Every variety of sucker with income levels below that specified ($128,400 in 2018 in rough and ready numbers) will rejoice in their illusory immunity from the surtax.
It is appropriate here to cite Proverbs 1: 17: “Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.”
I don’t have a complete count of the number of times governments of nations and states have convinced voters to support tax increases by assuring most of them that they will remain untouched — the rich will pay, you see. But I can report that there are numerous examples known to me.
In 1913, for starters, the top marginal income tax bracket was 5% to 7%, starting at $10,000 ($254,988 in 2018 purchasing value.) One hardly needs to point out that an American paying 5% on an income of $254,000 today would be spending the extra dollars purchasing champagne for a celebration.
Maine instituted its Income Tax in 1969. In the beginning incomes between $2,000 and $5,000 were taxed at a 2% marginal rate, while those over $50,000 paid 6% on every additional dollar. A 1969 income of $3,100 was taxed at 8.5% before LePage’s election because it had grown to $19,000 in inflated dollars without any increase in purchasing power. An income of $50,000 in 1969 would grow to $290,476 by 2009 and pay 8.5%, the same maximum on every additional dollar as that $19,000 income.
“Bracket creep,” not legislation produced this steady increase in taxes. Inflation works on a “progressive” income tax system to produce these increases As the dollar depreciates due to inflation the taxpayer must earn more to have the same purchasing power. As he earns more depreciated dollars he moves from bracket to bracket, from 3%, to 4% and on up until he, or she, hits the maximum.
Automatically indexing the tax rate to inflation corrects this process. In 1982 Charlie Craigin promoted and helped pass a referendum designed to index Maine’s tax rates to inflation, ending bracket creep. The legislature almost immediately overturned the referendum and bracket creep resumed.
It’s possible that our legislators preferred a steady mechanical increase in revenues without risking unpopularity by openly voting for higher taxes. But who can say for sure? None have ever admitted that they prefer to avoid excessive transparency.
In a few days, we will discover how many Maine taxpayers will choose to fly into the familiar net set for them by the Maine People’s Alliance.
From this, we will be able to compute what percentage of Maine’s voters display a level of the intellectual development below that of ancient Palestinian birds. This will solve few problems but may serve to restore respect for avian intelligence, and stamp out the expression “bird-brained.”
Some variation of “voter-brained” might serve as a substitute.
Since Paul LePage, Shawn Moody, Janet Mills, Terry Hayes, Alan Caron, and the Portland Press Herald editors all opposed Q1 we have a perfect intelligence test. The bird-brained voter will have nothing to go on but the Q1 wording itself, along with its Maine Peoples Alliance bodyguard of fibs, fallacies, and fables.
John Frary is a retired college professor of 32 years, a well-known conservative columnist and activist, and a former Maine congressional candidate.
Professor Frary is a regular contributor to Maine First Media and will be back next week with another exclusive column.