The Outstater

December 7, 2019

THE TABLE TURNED SUDDENLY a decade ago. One day Indiana state government served us, the next day we served it. It happened during a state Senate Appropriations Committee hearing when the chairman took a moment to explain to a young legislator how things were going to work.

The issue was repeal of the onerous and self-defeating inheritance tax. You can’t go around abolishing taxes, the young man learned, without designating how the lost revenue can be replaced.

Lost revenue? Tell us what logic holds that an inheritance tax inefficiently and destructively applied not once but twice and then finally returned to taxpayers would be “lost”?

The new logic, that’s what. The committee chairman, as a member of our ruling class, was on the cutting edge of it.

Angelo Codevilla of the Claremont Institute has been writing about this recently. “Since 2016, the ruling class has left no doubt that it is not merely enacting chosen policies,” says Codevilla. “It is expressing its identity, an identity that has grown and solidified over more than a half century, and that it is not capable of changing.”

Now comes a Twitter message from an old friend, a former legislator whose credentials include actually keeping a term-limit promise. He links me to an article in “School Matters,” a publication focused on public education in Indiana.

“Tax Caps Cost Schools Hundreds of Millions,” the headline screams.

Cost?

There’s that logic again, that ruling-class identity. This time it is applied to a column of Indiana school districts with the dollar amounts that have been ostensibly ripped from the backpacks of Indiana students.

Without going into the obvious need to redirect resources to classroom teachers and measurable learning, the presumption is that a percentage-based constitutional ceiling on how much of your property can be confiscated somehow costs innocent school children.

To accept that, you have to accept that local officeholders are powerless to readjust priorities or seek election based on a conviction that taxes in other categories could be raised in the interest of public education. Nor can you suggest there is countervailing waste or inefficiency anywhere else, that there is nothing government does that it doesn’t need to do, that is really none of its business.

That last, I have come to believe, is their point — that we should never fall into a discussion of what government should or should not be doing. For then we would learn the real cost of this barratry — that is, the loss of public confidence any official above the township level can be trusted with so much as a coin purse.

— Craig Ladwig



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