One Weird Trick That Will Sell Your Tax Increase to the Public

Here is the trick:  You want a tax increase for X.  The public is never going to approve of raising taxes for X.  So you bundle 95% X with 5% Y, Y being something the public is really excited about.  As much as possible, you never mention X in any discussion of the tax increase, despite most of the funds being dedicated to X, and instead focus solely on Y.   If history is any guide, you will get your tax increase.

What a specific example?  You want a tax increase to fund a huge public transit boondoggle.  The public is not buying it.  So you rebrand the public transit project as a "transportation bill", you throw in a few highway improvements, you talk mainly about the highway improvements, and you get your public transit bill.

Another example is general revenue increases.  Most of these tax increases go to increasing the salary and pensions of bureaucrats and senior administrators that aren't really doing anything the public wants done in the first place.  So you say the tax increase is to improve the pay of three (and only these three) categories of workers:  police, firefighters, and teachers.  The public likes what these folks do, and could mostly care less about what anyone else in local government does.   So even if the taxes help about just 3 teachers among 3000 other bureaucrats, you sell it as a teacher salary increase.

It is because I understand this one weird trick that this sort of story does not surprise me in the least:

'Yikes!': Some Arizona teachers see little from Prop. 123

For months leading up to the vote on Proposition 123, supporters of the public education funding measure pleaded for its passage, saying it represented money for teachers.

But as the first installment of cash has gone out, many teachers may find Prop. 123 is a smaller windfall than they hoped. And voters may be surprised to learn where some of the money is going.

In some cases, teachers will collect less than 20 percent of their district's Prop. 123 funds. Some districts will use most of their money for other purposes, ranging from textbooks to computers to school buses, according to an Arizona Republicsurvey of district spending plans.

The measure was sold as a way to direct money — significant money — to teachers and classrooms....

With no rules on how the money can be used, each school district has tried to address its own priorities. While many supporters of the measure invoked teachers as the main reason to vote for Prop. 123, others in the public school systems have staked a claim to the money, especially after many went years without raises beginning in the recession.

Those seeing raises include relatively low-paid secretaries, custodians and bus drivers. But it also includes superintendents, principals and mid-level administrators who don’t work in classrooms.

That may not sit well with voters who opposed the measure or with supporters who thought they were doing something more substantive for teachers.




  1. mlhouse:

    Education is a huge culprit in this type of bait and switch.

    Here is a question that I cannot figure out why most people do not ask.

    On average about $10,000 is spent annually on each student for K-12 education in this country.

    Each class has about 20 students. Give or take some on each of these numbers.

    So, the "REVENUE" for each classroom is about $200,000 per year.

    Lets say that the fully loaded compensation of the teacher for that class is $70,000.

    WHERE IN THE HECK DOES THE OTHER $130,000 go????

    Sure, there is facility and administration but o a per pupil basis this shouldn't be significant. Per student book costs are really insignificant (particualary since they use the books for more than one year). Most teachers are forced to supply their own paper and other materials for class out of their own pocket. I am sure that they spend the moeny somewhere, like special ed, but when you look at education costs in these terms it really is a loser.

  2. Not Sure:

    You can ask that question if you want, but you won't get an answer. You'll get asked a different question in return- "Why do you hate the children?"

  3. HoratiusZappa:

    That's basically what the governing Liberal party did during the recent Canadian federal election. They - supported heavily by sympathetic media - talked incessantly about accepting a budget deficit in order to increase spending for "infrastructure investment". Essentially, they used less than $2 billion (per year) of additional (above what had already been proposed by the past government) proposed nuts-and-bolts type infrastructure spending to low-ball what eventually has come out as a likely deficit in the $20 to $30 billion dollar range, much of which is to enable non-infrastructure spending. Every time anyone spoke about the deficit, it was always described as "infrastructure" spending.

  4. J_W_W:

    Yeah, even Democrats in America have been treating the word "infrastructure" as if it were magic.

  5. ColoComment:

    We spent $831B under ARRA, the justification for which was "infrastructure, education, health, and renewable energy," and of which "$105.3 billion" went to infrastructure (to quote Wikipedia.)

    Anyone know what that bought for us? Or, like the portions for energy, education and health, did they just throw it down a rathole?

  6. Conqueror of All Foes Cheese:

    In the worst school systems [LA, Detroit, DC, NYC, etc] the average per pupil spending is even higher than that.

  7. Conqueror of All Foes Cheese:

    Is it really throwing it down a rathole if it goes to cronies and/or buys votes?

  8. ColoComment:

    Nah, no more so than all of the billions lost in the "normal course" to waste, fraud, and abuse. e.g. for 2014, CMS, the Medicare administrator "estimates that last year some $60 billion of American taxpayer money, or more than 10 percent of Medicare’s total budget, was lost to fraud, waste, abuse and improper payments."

    What the hey. Let's just call it all stimulus. That's how pols believe government "creates jobs."

  9. sean2829:

    Since the convoluted permitting process takes as long as construction in most states, anything that was "shovel ready" was likely approved and funded by state transportation bonds. ARRA simply replaced the state bond money so there was no increase construction jobs, it just gave states more finacial breathing room on capital expenditures that were already approved.

  10. Matthew Slyfield:

    Yes, it is. Of course throwing money down a rat hole is going to benefit the rats.

  11. GoneWithTheWind:

    Right on! But do not forget to label the bill with a high sounding name too.

  12. J Calvert:

    And the corollary to this rule, "the first dollar cut from city budgets will always come from police, fire, parks, and libraries." They never cut the Deputy Secretary for Diversity, Public Works, it's always street cops, firemen, and closing parks and libraries.

  13. J Calvert:

    Medicare fraud is the most amazing, unfathomable, unkillable thing in US policy. Most of that $60 billion ends up in doctors pockets, but everyone loves and trusts their doctor. Where are these crooked, lying, cheating doctors?!? $60 billion is an incredible amount of money. It can't be that hard to find....

  14. markm:

    Facility and administration is not insignificant. The numbers of administrators have increased many times over what was needed when I went to school in the 1960's, and in many school systems, administration salaries total as much or more than teacher salaries. I'll repost one of my posts from elsewhere:

    "Why is it that all school administrators should earn more than even the best teachers?"

    They're the bosses, of course they get paid more then the people who do the actual work. Never mind that most of them are just doing paperwork - they're the bosses _as a class_, and the ones who actually are bosses set the salaries...

    "And just why do schools need so many administrators?"

    1. Administrators rate their status by how many flunkies they can get on the payroll.

    2. Federal education funding requires a lot of paperwork, and you need people to fill it out. There's only so much that can be shuffled off on the teachers and pretend they still have time to teach.

    3. Back when I was in public schools (1958-1971), administrators were just jumped-up teachers (IMO, usually selected because they possessed a Y chromosome rather than for any special skills as teachers or anything else), and they could pass the much smaller paperwork load off on secretaries (who lacked a Y chromosome and hence could forget about getting a job title and salary matching their ability). It didn't take me long to learn that the secretaries actually ran the school - and were quite good managers. Nowadays, women with similar skills and ability as many of the school secretaries may be corporate CEO's, doctors (rather than nurses), or college professors (rather than elementary teachers). What bright and talented young women rarely become is public-school administrators; that's a separate major in education schools nowadays, and most of the young men and women taking it score even lower than the teacher candidates on the SAT, GRE, and other standardized tests. It takes several of these dolts to do (badly) what one good secretary could do correctly in the 60's.

    4. There really is a LOT more paperwork now. Successfully teaching kids is unimportant; what is essential is to document all the efforts made to provide an equal(ly ineffective) education to each kid, regardless of color, intelligence, interest in learning, or parental support. This is not only required by law, it's the only thing that might save the principal and district superintendent when it is discovered that, regardless of all the attempts to hold them back, Asian kids with their parents pushing them HARD and white kids with an interest in academic subjects far outperform the kids who call doing your homework or paying attention to the teacher "acting white" - and mean it as an insult.