I live in what I consider the country of Indiana. It is still officially a state in the United States, but my recommendation is that we secede as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I personally consider myself a citizen of Indiana rather than of the U.S. Don’t tell the feds.
Sales tax in Indiana is 7%. I am old enough to remember when sales tax in this country–excuse me, in this state–was 2%. What’s that? Okay, full disclosure: I am actually old enough to remember when sales tax in Indiana was 0%. And, believe it or not, so are a lot of other people.
The sales tax in Indiana was approved by a constitutional amendment voted on in 1962. The sales tax then began in 1963, at 2%. A tax of 2% is not very high. It is however, considerably higher than 0%.
In the 56 years since the sales tax here started, the percentage has gone much higher, from 2% to 7%. This happened in several stages–two or three, I think, but I’m not sure. We stayed at 2% for a while, then after a few years began going higher. We have been at 7% for quite a while. I have heard no rumblings about trying to go higher. I’ve also heard no rumblings about trying to go lower. More on that in a minute.
Sales taxes vary considerably in the United States. According to a recent (July/August 2019) report by AARP, Tennessee and Louisiana have the highest sales tax, at 9.5%. (AARP describes sales taxes as “Combined state and local tax rates as of Jan. 1,” but for sake of simplicity I will consider their report as giving us the state sales tax.) But almost all of the states (plus the District of Columbia) have a fairly high tax, 5.4% or higher. There are two states with what we might call moderate sales tax, Hawaii at 4.4%, and Alaska at a scintillating 1.4%. I call 5.4% and above high, and most of those states are 6% or higher, many in the 8s and 9s.
Here is the shocker: four states still have a sales tax rate of 0%! Those states are, in alphabetical order, Oregon, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Montana.
Apparently, once you leave 0%, the sales taxes go higher in the short or long run. Indiana began with a beatific 2%, but now is up to 7%. Only Alaska and Hawaii have stayed below 5.4%, and Hawaii is not far below, at 4.4%. So my advice to Oregon, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Montana, is that you continue to not let the sales taxers get their toe in the door. Once the toe gets in there, pretty soon it is followed by the foot, then the whole body (encased in body armor and carrying rifles). Your 2% will pretty soon become anywhere from 5.4% up through 9.5%.
Here’s some more free advice. It goes out to any politician who wants to get elected and really wants to help people. I know that latter phrase sounds funny, but there really might be a few politicians who care about the people in their own state. Call me hopelessly naive, but I think that if there are very few such people, there could be more of them. Anyway, here is the free advice, especially to those running for governor: make lowering the sales tax a serious plank in your platform.
If an Indiana politician running for governor campaigned on lowering the sales tax from 7% to 5%, he would attract attention, and the attention would be good among a lot of voters.
We like hope. Hope is rare these days. Moreover, most of us are gradualists by nature. I would prefer a sales tax of 0%. I think that is what the sales tax should be. But whisper 5% in my ear, and I will be impressed, and possibly even vote for you if you are not otherwise a baby-killing jerk. If I can see that you are serious, and that your long-term goal is to lower the overall expense of government, I will pay attention to you. So will a lot of other people.
So, potentially honest politician, give us hope. Don’t tell us that you will immediately insure that the sales tax falls to zero. You couldn’t do it. You would be lying. Tell us that your goal is to get the sales tax back to 5% for now. Maybe lower someday. Don’t over-promise. Then, if you are elected, fight like the dickens to get the sales tax down to 5%. Even if you only get it to 6%, we will be grateful. Even if you honestly try, and fail, we will be grateful.
The question arises: are we the people willing to have less services come our way, if the sales tax is 5% rather than 7%? I don’t know. Quite possibly we are not willing. One thing I can promise you without fear of contradiction is that we the people are deliriously corrupt. We wouldn’t have the quality of national government that we have, if we were thoughtful, honest people. But things aren’t are as bad on the state level as they are nationally. An honest politician on the state level is still a theoretical possibility, and on the state level we occasionally vote for someone who is neither a socialist nor a crook. It may not happen often, but it happens now and then.
Here is another potential plank to your campaign platform. Promise that you will do all in your power to stop the fraudulent telephone calls we get constantly. Again, don’t over-promise. Don’t brag that you will immediately make Indiana a place where crooks are afraid to operate. It would be a lie. Just say that you will diligently pursue making the state such a place. Then if you are elected, follow through on your promise. Seriously try to make Indiana a place where crooks avoid. Even if you succeed only slightly, we will be grateful. Give us hope. Right now we notice that telephone crooks and credit card crooks are never captured and punished. The political class seems to consider such crooks as sort of part of the natural environment, like gravity or mosquitoes. But they don’t have to be part of the natural environment. They could be people on whom a ton of bricks fall if/when they are caught and convicted. A ton of bricks on crooks may encourage other crooks to stay out of Indiana. And if something like that could happen in Indiana, why not other states?
If you can honestly do so, give us hope.