Monday, October 02, 2006

Lynn's Swann Dive into "A New Direction"

Although I have no factual basis to state this (this is only my belief), while I suspect this book was written more by Robert Heiler than by Lynn Swann, I do credit Robert Heiler for thoroughly researching and arguing the basic conservation Republican positions in this book. Partisans will note the comment in the book from Charena Swann when she writes of her husband, “I do not share his party affiliation.” The book goes downhill from there.

The book calls for more programs that will make voters happy while calling for lower business taxes. The tired arguments that businesses will locate elsewhere without tax breaks is made, despite the numerous economic studies and admissions from business executives that state tax breaks make little or no difference in their business location decisions. (Indeed, it would be a foolish business executive who decides a permanent location on the basis of such a minute factor in the costs of operations.) The book further calls for greater protections for doctors (who someone fit the Republican bill as an underprivileged class) from those nasty patients who wish to sue them when doctors make mistakes that only hurt the health of patients.

The book correctly notes that taxes and spending increase over time, as does inflation. Again, the solution that is offered is to reduce business taxes, perhaps because businesses should be made immune to inflation. I guess individuals will be willing to make up the difference, something they should consider when they go to vote. Amazingly, the book makes the argument that cutting taxes will increase revenues, the logic of which has seldom if ever existed on the state level.

Lynn Swann proposes capping property taxes at 3% even though the costs of education have been increasing at higher rates. He even makes proposals that would increase education costs even further, such as increased monitoring and tracking of students’ progress and bonus pay to teachers whose students outperform students in schools of similar demographics.

Swann also proposes limiting spending on a formula according to inflation, again ignoring the realities that major components of the state budget such as health care and education are increasing faster than inflation.

While business taxes are to be lowered, the book calls for new spending in restoring 1,000 miles of streams, increased agricultural and farmland preservation, increased efforts on improving green spaces, brownfields, hazardous sites, and mine reclamation, as well as creating new programs in agricultural resources, vocational agricultural programs, and agricultural research. These ideas have merit, although the book ignores how to pay for these with the fewer revenues (oh, I’m sorry, I forgot, the authors believe that reducing taxes increases revenues. If that is the basis, I would warn agriculture and environment advocates not to hold their breaths waiting for these additional revenues.)

Some roads should be leased, the authors argue. Readers should be forewarned that this would mean higher tolls so the lessees can make profits off of drivers. The authors are also hoping voters ignore where they wrote “Rendell believes adding police officers will address the crisis…This alone will not lower the murder rates”, as this is what Swann’s Republican friends in the legislature have since proposed.

Students of legislatures will find it interesting that the authors propose that the Governor can not sign or veto any legislation until at least 72 hours after it passes the General Assembly, with exceptions allowed for stated emergencies. Also, they “applaud” (it is your guess whether “applaud” means “supports”) a proposal to reduce the legislature to 30 Senators and 121 Representatives (thus giving legislators more constituents and making it more difficult to serve each and all).

This book will make an interesting archival study someday when future researchers seek to learn of failed ideas during the 21st century.


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