How Red State Tax Strategies Are Killing America’s Future.

by Pitt Griffin on April 5, 2018 · 0 comments

in Education

Conservatives sneer at high-tax, blue states while they continue to slash their budgets back home. But the real measure of economic vitality is take-home pay — and there the blue states do so much better. Which raises this question for the rational economist: How can people who pay higher taxes have more money in their paycheck?

The simple answer is people in blue states earn so much more and can, therefore, pay higher taxes and still walk away with more cash. But that’s just arithmetic; it doesn’t explain why they make more money in the first place

I am not an economist. But even to a layman, it seems reasonable to posit that education plays a role in financial success. The numbers suggest a correlation between high pay and high school graduation rates, college attendance, and advanced degrees. And by any of those measures blue states outstrip the less academic red states.

Now the teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky have put the abysmal state of education in some states in the national spotlight. And it isn’t just low pay, the teachers’ actions have revealed classrooms stuffed with ill-supplied kids sharing textbooks and even seats in schools built for far fewer students than are now enrolled. From this unfunded beginning, the state reaps what it sows — low wage earners who further stress the tax base.

The neglect of education doesn’t stop at secondary school. College — or at least debt-free college —  is increasingly reserved for the rich. Once we had a GI Bill which launched America’s returning World War II veterans into the middle class, but the country no longer shows that sort of commitment to the future.

There is peril in treating education as a luxury. There are no economically successful countries without an educated labor force. As educational achievement becomes increasingly a feature of Democratic states, it raises the question: How long can America ask some states to pick up the slack for those states who chose to let their schools wither?

Jobs in America are changing as well. Trump may make noise about rescuing coal mining and manufacturing, but energy production is going to natural gas and renewables, and manufacturing is going to robots. The workforce of the future will be tech savvy and hiring will go to those states with an educated citizenry.

There is also a political divide between educational philosophies. Conservatives believe in parental choice as exemplified by vouchers, for-profit charter schools, and religious schools. Liberals place their faith in traditional public schools.

I’ll leave it for others to discuss the merits of the case, but let me note that while ‘for profit’ has been a boon for consumer goods — say TVs and cars — it has produced poor results in systems — for example, health and education. And religion works backward from conclusion to evidence — which is anathema to rational thinking. However, I do think that STEM schools have value, as do well-managed charters, and magnet schools.

Ultimately the quality of the school depends less on its type than the quality of its management, its culture of learning, the support of the community and its funding. And the teachers’ actions have shown that support for education is not universal.

At some point states, which have pursued a tax-cutting strategy at the expense of all other considerations, will have to question their reasoning. They should ask if that last dollar going to families who already have a lot is a better long-term use of that dollar than spending on all of the state’s youth. The justification for tax cuts is always economic growth. Yet cutting taxes may well have the exact opposite effect.

Previous post:

Next post: