At present, governors and mayors face no political downside to suspending democracy and the economy with overly draconian measures. They only face accolades and praise from the media commensurate to the degree of lockdown they promote, based on the faulty science that failed so miserably in Europe. It’s time to make them feel the pain of their decisions so that they are forced to pursue a more prudent and balanced approach to coronavirus.
So far, all the damage to our liberty and economy is being pushed by state and local governments, not the feds. On the other hand, all the bailouts and responsibility for dealing with the fallout of their virtue-signaling decisions are being placed on the president. Isn’t it time for state legislatures and county councils to convene and take full responsibility? If they are big enough to declare nuclear winter on liberty, jobs, and the economy, they are big enough to handle the blowback and pay for their decisions.
To that end, citizens should pressure their state officials to suspend numerous forms of state taxation during the duration of the shutdown. The longer the shutdown continues, the longer states should do without their revenue. Furthermore, President Trump should promise that the $150 billion that state governments received during the last epic spending bill will not be present in the next one that will inevitably pass in a few weeks.
Yesterday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy posted on Facebook that Congress should suspend the recently implemented cap on state and local tax deductions (SALT) on the federal income tax form for this year. I certainly understand why he feels that way, but this proposal is extremely insidious. He wants to have it both ways – shut down the state completely and then have the federal government bail him out from his already astronomical property taxes that long predated this crisis.
How about we do the opposite? Rather than the federal government incentivize greater state taxation by subsidizing it at the federal level, states should be pressured to cut property taxes until the shutdown is over. If the situation really requires economic nuclear winter, as the governors are suggesting, then they have no moral right to demand that people pay property taxes. This form of taxation eats away at people’s homes, even if they have long paid off their mortgages and even if they have no income.
Consider governors like Virginia’s Ralph Northam, who plans to shutter the economy until at least June 10. How does he expect people to pay their property taxes? And if a single man can rule by fiat without a rigorous and transparent debate in the legislature, then why should the citizens pay taxes at all? Aren’t we back to where we started in 1776, with taxation by King George without representation?
As of now, governors can virtue-signal on the cheap without owning up to the consequences of their actions and being forced to balance tough decisions and outcomes. Unlike federal taxes, most state taxes come from sales and property and are still being paid. Plus, governors have the federal government paying for the entire economic mess and bailing out the states with printed funny money. Thus, from their end, they can keep this charade going forever, even if prudence dictates within the next few weeks that we should pursue a different strategy for coronavirus.
With most property tax bills coming due at the end of June, it’s time for legislatures to reconvene and suspend payment for six months. They should also waive other state fees and taxes and ban salaries of top state executive officials until the shutdown is at least partially lifted.
Most of all, it’s time to return to self-government. It’s simply indefensible for Congress and state legislatures to remain out of session without public hearings and debate (at least remotely) over every aspect of the lockdown strategy and its cascading effects on our lives. If at this juncture in history – with the outcome of every aspect of our lives hanging in the balance more than at any time since World War II – elected representatives are hiding in their bunkers, then why do we even have them?
If we are going to be confined for months on end with so many citizens out of a job, we need more transparent answers to the questions about this strategy of the lockdown and all of the nakedly political decisions being made under the guise of saving lives. The stakes are too high to take our government on faith and credit.