Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Michigan's Tax Elasticity

WSJ COMMENTARY on Michigan state government:
Officials in Lansing reported this month that the state faces a revenue shortfall between $350 million and $550 million next budget year. This is a major embarrassment for Governor Jennifer Granholm, the second-term Democrat who shut down the state government last year until the Legislature approved Michigan's biggest tax hike in a generation. Her tax plan raised the state income tax rate to 4.35% from 3.9%, and increased the state's tax on gross business receipts by 22%. Ms. Granholm argued that these new taxes would raise some $1.3 billion in new revenue that could be 'invested' in social spending and new businesses and lead to a Michigan renaissance.

Not quite. Six months later one-third of the expected revenues have vanished as the state's economy continues to struggle. Income tax collections are falling behind estimates, as are property tax receipts and those from the state's transaction tax on home sales."

[ . . . ]

The tax hikes have done nothing but accelerate the departures of families and businesses. Michigan ranks fourth of the 50 states in declining home values, and these days about two families leave for every family that moves in. Making matters worse is that property taxes are continuing to rise by the rate of overall inflation, while home values fall. Michigan natives grumble that the only reason more people aren't blazing a path out of the state is they can't sell their homes. Research by former Comerica economist David Littmann finds that about the only industry still growing in Michigan is government. Ms. Granholm's $44.8 billion budget this year further fattened agency payrolls.
I don't like calling government an industry, but it is interesting to note that Michigan state government continues to grow even as people and businesses move from the state to greener pastures. Politicians and bureaucrats in state governments often seem to neglect the idea that people may well have a very elastic response to increases in the costs they face.

Maybe if government encroaches on liberty too much people will respond by taking their lives to other locales in which they can find just a bit more liberty.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Of Subsidies & Charity

". . . I would argue that there is nothing morally wrong with receiving a subsidy, even from government. The moral corruption in government subsidies is not in the recipients, except insofar as they deliberately pressure legislators for money. The moral corruption is in the subsidizers, who are taking money involuntarily from A to give it to B."
I think this is an interesting point. There are people who are demanders of subsidies or gifts from others, and there are people who are suppliers of subsidies or gifts. When the suppliers respond by taking from their own pocketbooks, their charity is a good thing. But, when the suppliers respond by taking from the pocketbooks of others charity is not what is going on.

Drive Less

TIM HAAB writes about the high price of gas:
"The real question CNN should ask is: What can you do about $4 gas? There is only one answer. 'Drive Less'. You as a consumer have control over your own gas purchases and little over the market price. The choice to drive less may be uncomfortable, but all the whining, crying and shouting for the government to do something will only make the situation worse. Price controls, gas rationing, windfall profit taxes, gas tax holidays...are all bad policies that may make you (and politicians) happier in the short run but will make everyone miserable in the long run. Your solution to high gas prices is to adapt. Drive Less! If the market adjusts, all the better, you're saving even more money."
I guess he has heard of a demand curve. This is certainly the short run response because it is about the only way reduce consumption in the short run. Of course, in the long run, a person can respond to a higher gas price by purchasing a car that gets better gas mileage, or perhaps even by changing the location of his or her economic activities. There are already reports in the news of an increased demand for better gas mileage vehicles.