Tax policies, like the humans who craft them, are flawed

If it’s so hard to bring spending into line with revenues when one political party controls the executive and legislative branches in this state, maybe there is an underlying problem that needs to be resolved.

The problem cannot be partisan politics when one party has so many seats in the Legislature that they need no votes from the minority party even when a few of their party members don’t go along with the rest.

They need agreement among representatives who supposedly share a common ideology to enact whatever budget they want.

Yet, it hasn’t been easy for the Democrats to agree during this year’s legislative session.

Part of the problem may be the unusual situation in which they find themselves.

For a generation, tax revenues went up almost without fail each year, so the desire to spend more has rarely been unsatisfied for long.

Of course, there has never been a time when this desire has been fully satisfied, but being unable to increase spending as much as they desired isn’t the same as getting by with little or no increase.

They don’t seem to have a way to handle a substantial downturn in the economy that leads to stagnant or decreasing revenues from one year to the next.

But inexperience in handling such situations surely isn’t the biggest problem, since these are intelligent people who can learn quickly enough.

Perhaps the thing that causes them to stumble so much when faced with lower revenues is the ideology of the people who hold office and of the voters who elected them.

When people hope to receive services and pass the cost to someone else, raising taxes is difficult — and so is cutting spending.

If voters hope to receive more services at no more cost to themselves, and then elect representatives who may make this hope a reality, there has to be a tax system that makes it possible to do so.

Washington doesn’t yet have such a tax system, so we often hear from people who wish for a progressive income tax that would allow more revenue to be taken from a few rather than from everyone.

Our tax structure is criticized for being regressive — meaning that people with higher incomes pay a smaller percentage of their income to the government compared to people with lower incomes.

People with higher incomes generally pay more in taxes to state and local governments, but not as much more as they would with a progressive income tax.

As with all the necessities of life, the costs of government can require a greater percentage of the income of people who are not at the high end of the income scale.

The costs of food, clothing, housing, medical care, etc., take a bigger share of the income of people who are not rich, so why should taxes be any different?

Apparently, many people think taxes should be different, because a majority could make them different.

And, if more tax revenue can be taken from the few, it can be spent in ways that provide assistance to people at the lower end of the income scale.

This combination of desires to take from the few and give to those who are not as well off appears to lead to an almost irresistible urge to increase government spending — and here we are.

Our political discourse often involves pleas that would seem to fit better in a charity’s fund raising efforts if we were not so accustomed to depending on government.

Until we arrive at the point when we run out of other people’s money, we aren’t likely to achieve a lasting resolution to the problem of matching spending and revenues.

So long as a majority of our representatives think the real problem is their inability to get enough of other people’s money, they will find it very hard to turn away from their desire to spend more.

Maybe this year could be different — maybe they will campaign for election by candidly promising to increase taxes to bring revenue into line with their spending desires.

Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.