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Opinion | If GOP economics work, why do Alabama leaders tax the working class?

Josh Moon

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The Mobile toll bridge is dying. 

You can feel that things have turned. The opposition has become too organized, indicating that there’s a powerful force behind it, and the fringe politicians have made public statements supporting the protestors — because, why not? There’s no political downside to being against a tax that doesn’t really affect 90 percent of the state. 

And so, here we are. The billion dollar bridge, almost dead in the water. 

Killed by Jim Zeigler. It probably says a lot about the competency of our elected leaders in this state that they keep getting outmaneuvered by Zeigler — a man whose entire job for the better part of a calendar year consisted of trying to find two portraits and a desk.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, Alabama officials, including Gov. Kay Ivey, were still adamant that the toll bridge was going up, with or without public support, and that residents would just have to live with the $6 tolls. 

Now, meetings have been delayed. Votes are stalled. And the whole project is hanging by a thread. 

And Ivey is none too happy. 

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On Tuesday, she appeared on a radio show — because, apparently, those still exist — and told the tens of listeners that “Nobody wants to pay for anything — we just want the benefits.” 

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To which every Republican in the state replied, “Well, yeah.”

Why wouldn’t the conservatives in this state feel that way? For the past 40 years, they’ve been told that’s how government works. That all tax increases are bad. That the government takes too much of our money now. That they don’t have to pay. 

Hell, look around. 

We’re on the verge of yet another Republican president tanking what was until he took office a fairly solid economy. But what did he do? He cut taxes on the wealthiest of Americans and slashed corporate tax rates to absurdly low levels. 

And now, why, we’re on the verge of a recession, as annual deficits creep back towards $1 trillion. 

All because Republicans can’t do simple math. 

If you cut revenue, you also have to cut expenses. 

And if you want nicer things, you have to increase revenue to pay for them. 

These seem like fairly easy to understand concepts. But Republicans can’t figure them out. 

They seem to believe that there’s this magic economic formula that only they can see — one that allows for defense spending and economic development incentives paid to their pals to increase steadily even as they cut taxes on the wealthiest individuals and companies. They’ve even attached a ridiculous name to it — “trickle down economics.” 

Basically, if you leave more money with the rich, those people will create jobs through their spending or business genius and everyone will benefit.

I’ll pause here so the Democrats can laugh.  

In reality, there is no trickle. The rich people put their money in their pockets and you eat cat food for dinner when things get rough. This economic theory has never — not one single time in the history of the planet — worked. Even a little bit. 

Alabama was built and has operated on such an economic theory since it was founded. Its tax structure was created to protect the wealth of the rich, and as a byproduct, severely restrict the upward mobility of everyone else. 

It has succeeded. And the state has failed. 

Consider Alabama currently. We are at the state’s lowest ever unemployment rate. Nearly everyone has a job and most people have two or three. Unemployment compensation is also at record lows. We pay almost zilch in welfare. We have one of the highest thresholds in the nation for Medicaid. Our social services are almost non-existent. And we fund public education at barely 2008 levels. 

We should be rolling in tax revenue, right? 

But we’re not. We’re broke. 

We’ve already had to raise gas taxes to do the bare minimum upkeep on our roads. We needed a toll bridge to get people to the other side of the bay, because the state — even with the federal government kicking in a significant portion — couldn’t pay for it. And in the upcoming legislative session in early 2020, they’ll be looking for a way to fill a $500 million budget hole, probably with gambling money. 

Why? 

Because GOP economics stink. 

And even when Republicans know their economic plan is failing — even when they can see that new infrastructure or more cops or better bridges are necessary for the state — they still refuse to abandon it. Instead, like always, they turn to the working class.

Jobs get cut. Benefits get slashed. Retirement accounts get raided. 

And then the taxes start. 

You’ve been hit with occupational taxes. Sales taxes. Gas taxes. And now a toll. 

They’ve taxed you to have a job, to eat at the job, and now, to get to the job. 

And we’re still broke. The schools still stink. The roads are mush. The rivers are polluted. The bridges are swaying. And the health care is third world. 

And we’re all still broke. 

At some point, don’t y’all have to start wondering if there’s a better way?

 

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