11 March 2013

Poor Southerners Pay More Taxes

While the federal government has largely stuck by the principle of progressive taxation, the states have gone their own ways: tax policy is particularly regressive in the South and West, and more progressive in the Northeast and Midwest. When it comes to state and local taxation, we are not one nation under God. In 2008, the difference between a working mother in Mississippi and one in Vermont — each with two dependent children, poverty-level wages and identical spending patterns — was $2,300.
These regional disparities go back to Reconstruction, when Southern Republicans increased property taxes on defeated white landowners and former slaveholders to pay for the first public services — education, hospitals, roads — ever provided to black citizens. After Reconstruction ended in 1877, conservative Democrats — popularly labeled “the Redeemers” — rolled taxes back to their prewar levels and inserted supermajority clauses into state constitutions to ensure it could never happen again. Property taxes were frozen; income taxes were held down; corporate taxes were almost nonexistent.
Practically the only tax that could rise was the one that hurt the poor the most: the sales tax. And rise it did, throughout the Deep South in the late 19th century, then spreading into the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and the rest of the region in the 1960s and 1970s. Even liberal politicians weren’t able to buck the tide — just ask Bill Clinton, who as governor of Arkansas urgently sought new revenue to improve his state’s ailing schools and found the sales tax was the only politically viable option.
From here.

Should anti-democratic supermajority clauses in state constitutions be invalidated on the basis of equal protection or Republican government provisions of the federal constitutions?  Is it pertinent that these state constitutional entrenchments were enacted at a time when the electoral process was demonstrably racially biased in ways that have since been held to be illegal and unconstitutional?  Do we need to fully purge the South of its post-Reconstruction pathologies before the American democratic system can ever work properly?  Is there still a great deal of unfinished Civil War business that need to be justly resolved?

Also, does this help explain the strong anti-tax ideology of blue collar and middle income voters in the South that drives an overall anti-tax ideology of Republicans in general? 

Rank and file blue collar and middle income voters in the Northeast and Midwest aren't as concerned about taxes because they don't pay nearly as much of their income each year for them.

This ideological attitude of lower income Southern voters towards taxes driven by state and local taxation, in turn, may drive stances of federal taxes that don't make sense from a consequentialist point of view for Southern voters in federal elections.

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