View from a Political Outsider – Georgia’s Transportation Tax

Jim Galloway’s recent Political Insider column in the Atlanta Journal discusses Georgia’s recently rejected “trauma tax” and how that rejection will impact the state’s proposed sales tax increase in 2012. I respect Mr. Galloway. His Political Insider column provides a great deal of insight into the world of Georgia politics… but being an insider has its price.

In the case of tax increases Mr. Galloway’s insider viewpoint prevent hims from seeing the issue from the perspective of the political outsider (otherwise known as a typical voter). As a political outsider perhaps I can help.

Right now there is a failure to communicate in Georgia. The communication failure stems from the fact that too many elected officials aren’t listening to the voters. Instead of listening to voters politicians spend their time listening to each other along with the bureaucrats and lobbyists that surround them. After talking amongst themselves this political class hammers out a mutually acceptable solution to whatever the perceived problem is and unveils it to the public. Of course the solution always involves confiscating millions of dollars from Georgia’s taxpayers so the taxpayers frequently reject the proposed solution once they find out about it. The whole process is a tremendous waste of time and a big part of the reason government rarely solves anything. If more elected officials juat made a point of talking to people outside of their echo chamber a great deal of time and money could be saved and some progress might actually take place. 

The recent trauma tax debacle is a perfect example of miscommunication between voters and politicians. I have lived in Georgia for 40 years and I have never once had a person tell me they wanted or needed more trauma centers in the state. But despite the fact that average people didn’t think there was a problem, some hospital lobbying group convinced Georgia’s political class that a problem did exist. Once the lobbyists convinced the politicians there was a problem they all got together and hammered out an agreement that was acceptable to them. As usual the solution called for Georgia’s taxpayers to cough up millions of dollars. So once they were satisfied with their solution the political class went to the people of Georgia. The voters weighed the option of paying millions of dollars to solve a problem they had never heard of or faced and said no. The whole process was a complete waste of time and money that could have been spent on one of the real problems facing Georgians.

 A similar process is taking place now in Georgia’s struggle to address transportation infrastructure needs. Both the voters and politicans seem to agree that Georgia needs transportation improvements in this case but the trouble is that the political class and the voters disagree on the solution.

The political class say they could fix the problem if they only had more money. What the political class doesn’t understand is that the voters don’t blame infrastructure needs on a lack of money, the voters place the blame on the political class. Taxes in Georgia are the 16th highest in all of the United States while transportation spending is 49th out 50. See the problem?

But Georgia’s political class won’t accept the fact that they have been the problem. Instead, the politicians and lobbyists  sat down together and once again hammered out an agreement acceptable to the politicans and lobbyists.  And once again their solution is to raise taxes… billions and billions of dollars in taxes. That solution must have sounded awfully good in their echo chamber because a few months ago the political class unveiled this genius idea to great fanfair and they patted themselves on the back so hard that Atlanta’s chiropractors must have made a fortune.

But the people that will pay for this enormous tax increase are not impressed, they are hurting. They face 10% unemployment while the other 90% are still unsure of the future. More than 12,000 Georgia homes were foreclosed in July. IRA accounts and home prices are going down while grocery and gasoline prices are going up. To make matters worse their federal income taxes are going up in a few weeks and they will have even less money to spend. Georgia voters are hurting and they find it offensive that political insiders have decided taxpayers need to pay billions of dollars more to fund transportation improvements. While transportation improvements might bring jobs to Georgia in a decade or so, the state’s taxpayers would have to cough up billions of dollars that could have gone to pay their mortgage or put food on the table in the meantime.

During Georgia’s recent economic boom transportation issues were a top priority for Georgia taxpayers. Voters pleaded for road improvements but the political class ignored their pleas and spent the money elsewhere. Now that the economy has tanked the roads are no longer the highest priority for voters. Money is the top priority now and the politicans find the shoe on the other foot. So as the political insiders plead for money to improve roads in the current environment I fully expect Georgia’s voters will ignore their pleas in return.

 You can read Mr. Galloway’ Political Insider column on here:

(Added 12/2/10 ) P.S. I forgot to mention that Mr. Galloway conspicuously chose not to allow comments on the column cited above. It is the only recent column which doesn’t permit comments and I don’t ever remember seeing him block comments before. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.


I found this quote today in a discussion of the Democrat health care bill which is being forced on this country against the overwhelming will of the people. Unfortunately I believe it applies to the vast majority of people that currently hold public office.

Half the harm that is done in this world
Is due to people who want to feel important
They don’t mean to do harm ­
But the harm does not interest them.
Or they do not see it, or they justify it
Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle
To think well of themselves.

T. S. Eliot

What most of us know that politicians don’t

Life is not fair.

It just isn’t.

Innocent children die every day. That isn’t fair. Hookers are caught with governors and get rich as the celebutante of the day. That isn’t fair. Hardworking people are layed off on Christmas Eve. That isn’t fair. Human beings don’t like unfairness but most of us realize that unfairness is indeed a fact of life. Why don’t politicians?

About thirty years ago President Jimmy Carter decided that it was unfair that everyone in the United States couldn’t own their own home so he decided that the government should fix the problem. The federal government encouraged banks to give mortgages to people that had never owned their own home before. How fair. In the 1990’s Janet Reno threatened banks that had not made enough loans in economically challenged areas. Banks made more loans in those areas and then sold them to investors with the understanding that the United States government would pick up the tab if the homeowners couldn’t pay.

Everybody was happy. People that historically could not afford homes bought houses. People that already owned homes bought newer and bigger houses. Then lenders came up with more “innovative” loans which could get more people in homes and let everyone buy bigger and better houses. People were full of glee as home prices continued to rise and more people owned homes. Life was more fair and politicians patted themselves on the back for the great thing they had done.

Then the people who could not have bought homes thirty years ago started to default on their mortgages. Uh-oh. Statistically it was inevitable. Banks knew thirty years ago that a certain percentage of these homeowners wouldn’t be able to afford their houses. That’s why the banks didn’t lend to them in the first place. But politicians had wanted life to be fair.

As more houses were foreclosed the flood of homes started lowering home values. People with high incomes found that they could not afford the “innovative” mortgages on their bigger and better homes. Uh-oh. More people lost their homes. The banks and investors couldn’t sell the homes they foreclosed. Banks and investors started going bankrupt and that brought us the economic crisis which faces the entire world right now.

There are roughly 220 million people in the United States that actually pay income taxes. The United States government has authorized spending of 700 billion dollars so far to fix the current economic crisis. By my feeble calculations that means that every U.S. taxpayer  is now on the hook for about $32,000 because politicians wanted life to be fair.

The funny thing is that in 1970 you could buy a really nice house for $32,000. It would have been cheaper if the United States government had just bought a nice house for every family that didn’t  have one.

Which brings me back to my original point. Life is not fair. It just isn’t.

We understand that. Why don’t politicians?