Fox News Shocker!

The ever-vigilant newshounds at Fox have sniffed out yet another shocking and scandalous story: property taxes across the country are skyrocketing! After much digging, which basically appears to consist of interviews with a Milwaukee homeowner and representatives of grassroots anti-tax organizations with catchy names like the National Taxpayers Union and Citizens for Responsible Government Network, Fox has learned that "many states are still struggling with the hot-button political issue" (of escalating property taxes). But why? What's driving these tax-happy local governments to place such a burden on property owners? For an answer, they turn to an actual "tax policy specialist" from the National Conference of State Legislatures, who notes that local governments have few options when state funding for local services like schools, police and fire departments dries up. And that's where the story ends.

Here's what Fox missed, and what also seems to escape the grasp of the fine folks at the National Taxpayers Union and Citizens for Responsible Government Network: dwindling state contributions to local governments and rising property taxes are directly and inextricably linked to diminished federal contributions. These morons have yet to figure out that federal decentralization has not only shifted greater responsibilities onto state and local governments, but also greater financial burdens. Take Medicare, for example. States have always contributed a portion of the funding for Medicare services, in spite of the fact that this is a federal program. As the federal government reduces its share of the expenses, states are forced to make up funding shortfalls, or to cut services. Cutting Medicare services is neither politically popular nor particularly feasible from a public health perspective. Accordingly, larger shares of state budgets are dedicated to covering this funding gap, leaving fewer and fewer state dollars to be kicked down to local governments. You see how this works. As Republicans and other not-so-bright folks celebrate federal tax cuts, they fail to realize that they're still paying for it on the back-end through property tax hikes. Why? Because nobody wants to do without things like schools, or police, or fire departments, or sanitation, or public health services. They don't want epidemics breaking out because only the very wealthy can afford private healthcare. They don't want to give up things like public infrastructure and civil services. And yet, they don't want to pay for these things either. So, at the federal level, a Republican President assures them that they can have their cake and eat it too. The federal government passes the burden of paying for these things onto the states, and the states in turn pass it onto local governments. In the end, the bill is the same, and citizens are still the ones paying. Only now, instead of sharing the burden and services more or less equally, those communities with low property values (which, of course, results in lower tax revenues) receive fewer and fewer of the public amenities (like schools, police, fire departments, etc.). This is how social and economic inequality is reinforced and perpetuated.

Needless to say, Fox didn't quite dig down far enough to figure any of this out.


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