By Bradley Harrington
“A government which lays taxes on the people not required by urgent public necessity and sound public policy is not a protector of liberty, but an instrument of tyranny.” — Calvin Coolidge, “Memorial Continental Hall Speech,” 1924 —
For anyone who has an honest interest in what Wyoming’s financial problems are — and the ways to not solve them — you’ll find all the answers you need right here:
“Some state lawmakers [the Legislature’s Joint Revenue Interim Committee] are facing a bear of a task during this year’s interim as they must address the dreaded five-letter word no one wants to hear: Taxes … As Wyoming enters another year of dismal revenues because of a downturn in the prices of minerals, the state’s elected officials are trying to figure out how to cope with deficits. That includes a projected $1.8 billion shortfall in education funding through the next five years.” (“Wyoming lawmakers consider tax increases to meet deficits,” WTE, May 24.)
What do we, Dear Readers, as mere citizens without the power to raid the pockets of our neighbors, have to do when our expenditures exceed our incomes?
We CUT SPENDING, that’s what. According to Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Michael Madden, R-Buffalo, however, that’s not an option: “Madden said the state can’t cut its way out of current deficits.”
Really, Mr. Madden? While I read the rest of that news story with great interest, attempting to find support for that argument, I came up completely short.
Instead, here’s all I found, referencing the nature of Wyoming’s “boom-and-bust” economy: “It’s long been the attitude that a boom would wait on the horizon of every bust. But he [Madden] said the current economic slump is a new paradigm with no clear end in sight.”
That’s right, folks, the government’s intervention into our once-free market economy — and particularly with regards to energy production — has now gotten so bad, and created so many distortions and destructions in its wake, that that there don’t appear to be any more “booms” left … Or, at least, none in the foreseeable future.
And, instead of actually addressing that issue — i.e., eliminating the stupid, stifling rules and regulations that created the problem — the only thing our “leaders” can think of is to engage in political grandstanding while they plunder the state taxpayers’ pockets on an ever-wider scale.
Yet, historically, increases in mineral royalties and/or other tax increases have NEVER solved Wyoming’s spending problems. Consider the following five-year intervals in Wyoming state spending since 1975, for instance:
Expenditures: 1975 — $600 million; 1980 — $1.2 billion; 1985 — $2.3 billion; 1990 — $2.4 billion; 1995 — $2.9 billion; 2000 — $3.7 billion; 2005 — $5.6 billion; 2010 — $8.7 billion; 2015 — $8.8 billion. (From www.usgovernmentspending.com.)
Now, granted, these are biennium figures — but this hardly represents what one would expect for “boom and bust” expenditures, does it? Were it you or I, we would save during the “booms” to get us through the “busts.”
Ah, but state politicians, who think they can violate economic law with impunity, do it completely differently, as these figures make perfectly clear.
During the “boom” of the late 1970s, for instance, from 1975 to 1980, state spending DOUBLED — and, by 1985, despite the “bust” of the early 1980s, spending had nearly doubled again.
By 2005, spending MORE than doubled again over that 20-year period — and, by 2010, had increased by another 55 percent.
Aren’t the facts and trends obvious? Instead of saving during the “booms” to get us through the “busts,” state government INCREASES spending to match whatever our revenues are, regardless of “boom” or “bust.” And then, when they inevitably come up short, lawmakers start hollering about the need for “tax increases.”
But what has state government always done with increased revenues? Increased its spending … What makes anyone think this time is going to be any different, when both reality and history say otherwise?
Don’t be fooled by such ploys, as they are simply a sure sign that your budget, your taxes and your spending are ALL in the hands of a bunch of shameless political hacks. After all, just how did Wyoming ever get along, back in 1975, by spending only a small fraction of what we spend today, even after adjusting for inflation?
As just ONE example of how we could cut spending: Instead of blowing $300 million on a “Capitol Renovation Project” that was completely unnecessary (AND funded during a “bust” cycle!), we could have built a brand-new high-rise on the old Safeway grounds for less than $50 million, turned the Capitol Building into a museum and saved … A quarter of a billion dollars.
Those kinds of cuts, however, would only occur to those of us who have to earn what we spend; they’d never occur to people who simply pull out guns and steal what they think they have to have. “Instruments of tyranny,” indeed …
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on June 11, 2017. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.