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Opening Arguments

Relative burdens

The Lafayette Journal & Courier has an editorial on the state of taxes in Indiana:

Compared to the rest of the United States, Indiana's tax burden is about average. And the property tax, as part of that burden, is also about average.

But within that average have been wild fluctuations over the past five years -- brought about by state lawmakers whose inept tinkering reminds us of one of those sitcoms in which efforts to fix a household appliance causes a multitude of malfunctions throughout the house.

Taxes are up one year, and down the next, then up wildly the next.

We should be skeptical of comparisons of our tax burden to those of other states. For one thing, we can't adequately judge the relative burden unless we know things like comparable standards of living, what other expenses people in the compared states have to pay; it would also be nice to know how the tax revenues are spent, wasted, etc. For another, we don't live in other states; what matters to us is what we pay compared to what we used to pay, not compared to what others pay.

A certain amount of this is tolerable from editorial pages (I've written such stuff from time to time); we live in the rarefied atmosphere of the ivory tower, where reality need not intrude. But when our politicians say it, what they mean is, "We're not punishing you as much as other states would," and, we may infer, "but we surely would like to."