by Amanda Teresi | 5:08 pm, August 25, 2010 | Comments Off
I asked Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who’s running for governor of Colorado, about his plan to keep the economy growing and whether he would keep taxes low. Here’s what he said at the July 22 event in Denver:
“The question is that if you’re really gonna try to help the economy, what are my thoughts about raising taxes? And, you know, it’s funny because people keep coming up to me and asking me to lower taxes. And it reminds me of back when I was building my business. I had a couple customers, this one guy in particular came in every week and he always wanted to know what the special was. And whatever the special was, he wanted it a little cheaper; he wanted me to always lower my prices. The next week he’d say well, ‘You sold that special to me last week to me for X, why isn’t it a little less money?’ And we always did, we tried to make it cheaper for him every single time. But at a certain point you can’t keep making things cheaper and cheaper. At a certain point you’re as low as you can go. I think we’re about as low as we can go with taxes. Right? At the state level, the city levels, all the way through. So, I’m not…As I go around the state, I can guarantee you I haven’t found anywhere where people want to raise taxes…”
[At that point of the event at Bogey's on the Park, I was asked to turn off my video recorder, which I did for a few minutes.]
Upon hearing the mayor’s response, two things came to mind. First, we are NOT as low as we can go with taxes. Hickenlooper himself has said that the solution to Colorado’s state budget problems will require growing the economy. Strategically cutting taxes is the best way to do that.
Second, Hickenlooper uses a false metaphor by citing the restaurant customer, but does provides some insight into his own view on taxes. He misses the fundamental difference between taxes and commerce: coercion.
A customer at the Wynkoop Brewing Company (which Hickenlooper co-founded and once ran) or at any other restaurant can choose not to buy the lunch special if the price isn’t right. (Ah, the beauty of a free marketplace!) On the other hand, a taxpayer doesn’t have the choice to forego paying for a government service if it’s seen as too expensive to fit their budget.
You’d think that as a former businessman, current mayor and gubernatorial candidate, Hickenlooper would know the difference between an individual voluntarily patronizing a restaurant and a citizen obligated to submit to government taxation. Perhaps Hickenlooper is over the whole “voluntary” thing now that he only works within government?
After all, customers can be pretty pesky; it’s much easier when you can make people buy what you want.
More about this on the Caplis and Silverman radio show.
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