There are three things I have learned, in a long and complicated life, to automatically disbelieve: 1. The check is in the mail (of course), 2. Your call is important to us (they couldn’t care less or I wouldn’t be on hold for 20 minutes), and 3. A politician who promises to lower taxes.
Kim Guadagno has made lowering taxes the central theme of her campaign. I’d love to pay less tax. I’d also love a lifetime pass to Disney World, a title of nobility, a yacht and a castle.
There are so many things I’d love. I’d really like it if Santa Claus was real and elves came at night to clean the house and do the mending. Regrettably, all of these fantasies have about as much chance of actually happening, as does a lowering of taxes. There may perhaps be some occasion buried somewhere in the dark and distant past whereupon a politician actually did lower taxes—not just sleight-of-hand bookkeeping but an actual lowering.
We have 10,000 years of recorded history and a lot of strange and unexpected things have taken place. A teenager named Alexander conquered the known world, God spoke from a burning bush, Facebook was invented in a college dorm room and made its creator a billionaire almost overnight—the list goes on and on. However, as a lifelong student of history—strange and unexpected as so much of it is, I can’t recall ever running across a case of a politician lowering taxes. Nonetheless we are asked to believe Ms. Guadagno will be the first. Right. OK. Sure!
The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Republicans are always promising to lower taxes and some voters keep on expecting it to actually happen. We are led thereby to question the sanity of such voters. Unfortunately, neither sanity nor intelligence is a required qualification for voting.
Anyone with an email connection is daily bombarded with spurious promises and we should by now be immune to them. If not, here are a few news flashes: Russian women are NOT desperate to date you. There is no old lady dying of cancer in Nigeria who wants to give you a million dollars to do God’s work. The “amazing dietary discovery”/ miracle pill/ fish extract is NOT going to regrow your hair, cure cancer or enlarge your penis. Finally and most important, no one is going to lower your taxes.
New Jersey’s high tax rate is not based on the will of a governor. It is a consequence of the fundamental political structure of the state. We have more than 650 separate political units—villages, towns, cities, and counties—each with its own administration, police force, legislative ability, school district, social services and so on. That is a very expensive way to do business and yet we cling to this local control fiercely.
It does have its advantages. If you show up at a town council meeting with an issue, you are far more likely to be heard and considered than you would be at the state level. Likewise, if you happen to be passionate about whether or not your local school should be teaching that the moon is made of green cheese and you decide to argue the matter with the school board, you will get your say and they will respond because the board is composed of your neighbors and they have to deal with you when you run into each other at the Shop-Rite.
That would certainly not be true of a statewide system. However, this kind of grass-roots political organization is expensive. I personally think it’s worth the money and I wouldn’t change it. Moreover, we’ve been doing it this way in New Jersey ever since the Board of Proprietors lost the right to govern the state by fiat in 1702. Ms. Guadagno isn’t going to change it. She is peddling a dream.