Friday, 7 October 2011

Tax is good

I'm sure I'm not the only one who played SimCity as a kid(/teen/adult). My usual version was 2000 and the bane of my existence was tax. You usually had it set around 7-8%, because when you put it up people booed and left town, and if you put it lower you couldn't pay for anything. I loved all the little social good programs you could institute, so paying for things was an ongoing problem. Like all good politicians, I solved this by putting it higher than I intended, then lowering it again to trick my people into thinking I'd caved.

In the real world, people have other solutions. In Kansas, the Topeka City Council is struggling with having to pay to prosecute crimes that last month Shawnee County decided were too expensive to deal with and shunted onto local councils. The cases involved are misdemeanours, including domestic battery.

Faced with the reality that you have to spend money to punish criminals, Topeka has come up with the obvious answer: stop punishing them. It will be voting next week on whether to repeal the ban on domestic battery, rendering it not technically legal, but not something that will be actively prosecuted either.

This is pretty solid evidence that austerity is a bad plan, especially considering that most of those who espouse it also try to be seen as tough on crime. In New Zealand the government is essentially paying companies to pollute; in America, tax deferments mean that corporations are operating under a tax rate of 0%, or less. The richest are avoiding paying their share, and everyone else is paying it for them.

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