Thursday, August 16, 2012

Guest Column: T-SPLOST and the Parable of the Broken Ipod

Thursday, August 16, 2012
Augusta, GA

The economy is strictly driven on the prosper or downfall of individuals. People may talk about large corporations, government, or non profit organizations driving the economy through hire, spending, failure, or stimulus, but it all boils down to each of us being able to pay our bills, satisfy our material desires, and provide for our families or even ourselves. When we are facing a reduction of income, we cut back. We watch our cell phone minutes, take less trips across town, order the cheaper combo meal, or we skip that vacation. The economy always comes down to a personal impact, which is the way it should be. 

Months ago I was at work and while helping a co-worker, my iPod slipped out of my pocket. It crashed to the ground, breaking the screen, rendering it useless. I had just purchased this about a month prior, costing a little over $200. It was one frivolity I had, saving up a few weeks of expendable income to purchase. It made my stomach turn that I had spent that money on this device, and in one swoop, I had ruined it. It was destroyed, and the only thing to fix my situation was to plunk down another $200 to buy another one. At this point in my life, I feel that $200 is more important to me than an iPod, so I decided not to buy another one until my finances were intact enough to do so. 

Fast forward to August. My birthday is August 31st, so I am due for a birthday present from Mrs. Bryant. I have thought for a while what I could possibly want, and it comes down to a few things. I would like to replace the radio in my car, which doesn’t work, or possibly a new iPod to replace the destroyed one. Decisions, decisions....

Destruction and maintenance is a drain on our individual economy, the only one that matters. When a natural disaster strikes, the roofers, disaster clean up crews, and the contractors tend to do well in fixing the problems that accompany the fallout. Just like potholes, the crews filling them make money filling them, which “stimulates” the economy through a trickle down process. Does destruction and ongoing maintenance really create jobs and keep our economy on an even keel? The supporters of TSPLOST seem to think so, enough that the idea was included on the ballot language for Georgia voters to ponder.

Back to the personal side of things. If I decide to ask for an iPod, I am no more richer personally than seconds before I dropped the one I had. We are back to square one, except my family is now poorer by $200. If I had not dropped the iPod, creating a $200 stimulus to the Apple Corporation, I would have had a perfectly funtioning iPod and a nice radio for my car. So destruction has robbed me of my chance of both, which is a negative economic impact to my family. Same for maintenance. If I had decided that my car had needed $200 of brake pads and rotors, I have, at the end, a functioning vehicle, as I had before. What I don’t have is $200. $200 at this home is a big deal. 

Fast forward several years from now when many of these projects the TSPLOST folks have managed to get done actually happen. These projects will need ongoing maintenance that is not covered by the initial package funds. Taxes will have to be raised to keep up with new infrastructure. Now, we have to fix roads that didn’t exist with money we don’t have. This will trickle down to the individual, now strapped with 1% less buying power at the gate and increased property and income taxes for maintenance and destruction costs. This will directly affect your family’s buying power at the car lot, the grocery store, and everywhere products are sold. People, this is not what we needed at exactly the time we didn’t need it. The same goes with ESPLOST, because those new schools we build will need new low bid air conditioning units and all those new buses will need maintenance. Regular SPLOSTS? If a pipe busts in the Miller theater, we pay for that now. Just like a broken iPod. 

So, back to the personal effect... I have about $20,000 of income a year that is not subject to the TSPLOST tax. This includes money I spend on groceries, entertainment, merchandise, textbooks for Mrs. Bryant, school supplies for the kiddies, tools for work,  etcetera. I spend pretty much all of it over the year, not able to save much due to being a one income family. So TSPLOST takes one percent of that. That makes my share of this farce of a stimulus about $200 a year. 

Hmmmm...what could I purchase for $200?

(Note: This is not a new thought. Frederic Bastiat first published the “Broken Window Parable” in 1850. Google it, he explains it better than I can)

*Bryant has previously ran for the Georgia State Senate (Dist 22) and the Richmond County School Board (Dist 6) as a Libertarian.


Frank Williams said...

Nice essay, Mr. Bryant. The entire SPLOST system is unjust and destructive of the welfare of Georgians. We taxpayers are the "employers" of the government and those "private-market" firms who benefit from government contracts, in so far as we must pay their salaries. Imagine if you could walk into your employer's office and tell him that, based upon a vote of the employees, he must transfer !% of his income to the salaries of all his employees. He could, and should, say, "okay, if that's the 'law', I am forced to comply, but I'll be forced also to lay off two of you employees." Too bad the voters of Georgia cannot do the same with the Governor and all his subordinates; or at least lay off that former City Council member, Don Grantham, who pushed the T-SPLOST so enthusiastically, and just happens to gain a job spending that T-SPLOST money.
Frank Williams, Augusta

Auntie Em said...

Great parable Taylor! It's all about "careful what you wish for". There is always another shoe to fall.