Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Virtual Platform: Taxes

(This post is a part of my platform for my virtual campaign for the Mayor of Houston. You can read my announcement here and my statement of principles here.)

Most people complain that taxes are too high. I would agree. The reason that taxes are too high is because government attempts to do too many things, most are which are outside of its proper and legitimate sphere.

I also believe that taxes are too high because taxation is immoral--any level of taxation would be too high in my opinion. Taxation takes money from individuals and businesses without their consent. If a private citizen did this, he would be arrested for theft. The principle does not change merely because government is doing the taking—government takes from those who have earned and gives it to those who have not. This is not a proper function of government and it is immoral.

I would be naïve to suggest that we can end taxation in the near future. There is too much government to dismantle. But we can significantly reduce taxation in Houston. We can take steps to allow Houstonians to keep more of the money they earn.

Our plan for reducing taxes includes selling city assets, privatizing city services, eliminating code enforcement (because the codes will be repealed), and cutting spending in other areas. Each of these steps alone could result in significant tax reduction; together they will have a tremendous impact on your ability to retain the money you earn.

As a few examples of where savings can occur:
  • More than $60 million can be cut from the city budget by eliminating building inspections and similar functions. Building codes, regulations controlling occupancy of residential and commercial buildings, and similar ordinances violate the rights of individuals to use their property as they choose. Such functions are not proper for government and they should be eliminated.

  • Providing parks and other recreational facilities is not a proper function of government. Such assets should be sold to the private sector. Selling some of the city’s parks would allow us to reduce this expense. Our goal is to reduce the parks and recreation budget by at least 15% per year.

  • Nearly $5 million can be cut from the city budget by eliminating sign administration. Ordinances regulating and controlling billboards and signs violate the rights of individuals to use their property as they choose. Such functions are not proper for government and they should be eliminated.

  • Nearly $10 million can be cut from the city budget by eliminating the Mobility Response Team. Clearing roadways is not a proper function of government. This particular program takes money from some Houstonians to use for the benefit of other Houstonians. This program should be eliminated.

  • Nearly $9 million can be cut from the city budget by eliminating the Planning and Development Department. Planning and development are not government functions and should be left to the discretion of private individuals.

  • As we privatize solid waste collection the budget for that department will be reduced. Our goal is a reduction of 25% per year. The budget for FY2009 is $76.41 million. This will translate to a savings of more than $19 million in the first year.

The above measures will reduce the city budget by more than $104 million. The city's current budget is approximately $2 billion per year. Of this, less than half is for legitimate government functions--the police and courts. And both the police and the courts are over burdened with laws that are improper and immoral. The city's budget should be a fraction of what it is today.

We will reduce property taxes by 10% in the first month after taking office. This will save Houstonians $88 million per year. Our goal will be to reduce property taxes by at least 50% in 6 years. Eliminating permitting and licensing fees will translate to other savings not reflected in the city’s budget, that is, lower regulatory impact costs to businesses and consumers. Cutting taxes will allow Houstonians to keep more of the money they earn. Morally, this is only proper. Such measures will also spur investment into new businesses and expansion of existing businesses.

One of my opponents claims that her years of service on City Council and as Controller means that she can spend taxpayer money more wisely than any other candidate. This is a very presumptuous attitude, and I reject it. I do not purport to know how to spend your money more wisely than you, and I intend to take whatever steps necessary to allow you to keep an increasing amount of your money. It’s your money. I don’t intend to try to find ways to spend it more wisely. I intend to find ways to let you keep more of it so you spend it as you choose. I won't make empty promises about not raising taxes, because I will cut taxes significantly.

Thursday: The Economy

4 comments:

Jessie said...

How would eliminating taxes completely (but since this is real life, cutting them enormously) actually affect the way things are accomplished? Waste Management is one example, but I'd like to hear of others (at least in general).

Examples: Roads - with private companies controlling them, would we have an even worse comprehnsive system? Would private companies actually work together to produce a cohesive system?

I would not say taxes/government are not completely immoral. Although, it's a direct effect of the fall of man. Because sin entered the world, people became immoral. Also, we can assume that people are in their natural state, "not good"(see the mortgage crisis); we're selfish.

Government is therefore a natural mediator which helps control the people from complete chaos. This is not to say government should control all things, but they should protect people from immorality of others (or eachother). You might say that market forces would force out or limit these immoral business/people, but I'm not so sure about that as immorality would be running rampant.

In conclusion, I would say small government is needed, but I agree with you that they have their hand is in baskets they shouldn't.

...render to Caesar what is Caesar's...

Brian Phillips said...

There are many examples of private companies working together--the downtown tunnel system for example, which approximates how private roads might operate. But privatizing the roads would not be an immediate goal of my administration.

Taxation is not an example of selfishness, but the exact opposite. By selfish, I mean concern with one's own interests. Taxes are justified on the opposite moral principle--that we must place the "general welfare" or the "public good" before our own personal interests. Therefore, we must each pay our "fair share", and government will tell us what that is.

Government is actually an arbitor, not a mediator. Government is an agent of force, and its purpose is to protect individual rights. When an individual's rights are violated, it is government's purpose to identify the culprit and assess punishment.

Finally, it is not the responsibility of government to protect us from the immorality of others. Many immoral actions, such as advocating socialism or cheating on one's spouse should be legal. Actions that initiate force against others should be prohibited, and those who use force should be punished severely.

Harold said...

"Examples: Roads - with private companies controlling them, would we have an even worse comprehnsive system? Would private companies actually work together to produce a cohesive system?"

It happens all the time. The consumer electronics sector (among the *least* regulated) is a great example of this. Take HDMI for example; many different companies collaborated to make it. It's a product/service just like a road.

"I would not say taxes/government are not completely immoral. Although, it's a direct effect of the fall of man. Because sin entered the world, people became immoral. Also, we can assume that people are in their natural state, "not good"(see the mortgage crisis); we're selfish"

Morality is based on the fact that as a biological organism, man faces an alternative between life and death. If he is to live, he must determine (by reason, we have very little in the way of instinct) what things are of value to him. That is, what will support his life. I'm not sure where this "sin" you're referring to came from.

"Finally, it is not the responsibility of government to protect us from the immorality of others. Many immoral actions, such as advocating socialism or cheating on one's spouse should be legal. Actions that initiate force against others should be prohibited, and those who use force should be punished severely."

That's right, and of course fraud is included in there as well. But you knew that ;-O

Another good post.

Rational Jenn said...

Thank you for participating in the Objectivist Round Up! Keep 'em coming!