Republicans excuse tax hikes

Remember the time Pat Hickey told the truth, and people beat him up for it? Did anyone ever congratulate him on being right?

Republican Assemblyman Pat Hickey said recently that promises Republican candidates made last fall to not raise taxes—well, that was just campaign rhetoric. After they got to Carson City and realized how desperately Nevada state government needed a tax increase, they just had to face reality.

The last time I heard that excuse was in 1992, when a young former governor of Arkansas, William Jefferson Clinton, ran as a New Democrat and promised not to raise taxes. He won the election, beating President George H. W. Bush who himself famously broke his promise, “Read my lips, no new taxes” and a feisty Texas billionaire, Ross Perot, who lectured the nation on the national debt, then a shocking $4 trillion, a quarter of its current size. No sooner was President Clinton inaugurated when he announced that by golly, he was shocked, shocked to discover the true state of finances in Washington, D.C., and would, sadly and reluctantly, have to propose new tax increases.

So, I will believe Assemblyman Hickey’s excuse for the Republican push for the largest tax increase since the last one when I am convinced that Hillary Clinton is the champion of the middle class.

The problem with tax increases is that they result in more government power and prop up government inefficiencies. There is no need for that. The government reforms passed this session like ending some prevailing wage mandates and for the first time allowing private school choice are welcome. Taking back the public lands would enable more local revenue for education. The Legislature should concentrate on government reforms this session, not on the logrolling and special interest pleading involved in a tax increase.

Gratingly annoying is the proposed increase of the cigarette tax. Nevada has low cigarette taxes compared to other states, and since gamblers smoke more than the public at large, we have avoided some of the onerous regulations on individuals and property rights enforced in other states. Cigarette smokers are overwhelmingly lower middle class and poor and the least able to pay more tax.

What risks peaceful people take and what they put into their own bodies should be of no concern of the state. The establishment of both parties point to “social cost” whenever they want to tax or outlaw the choices people make about their own lives. This is a fabrication that, John Stuart Mill pointed out in his 1853 treatise On Liberty, will lead to all manner of statist interventions

Any human behavior outside of the prescribed norms are supposed to create costs that “everyone must pay for.” There are many problems with this argument, not the least of which is that prohibitions and increased taxes lead to black markets and then the violence caused by state enforcement, which results in far more “social cost” than the original infraction.

The extreme case in Staten Island, New York, of a black man, Eric Garner, who was “harassed” to death by police for selling loosies, or loose cigarettes, to those too poor to buy packs under the outrageous New York cigarette tax regime, should bring the point home. The dangers of arbitrary state interference into the laws of supply and demand are seldom discussed in polite circles. Government action is presumed to accomplish what it intends to do, and any suggestion that there will be major unintended consequences caused by an increase in government police powers, even if made, seldom carries the day in our current legislative environment.

Freedom is the only antidote to this madness.