My 7-year-old daughter’s favorite political website is, without a doubt, the recently launched Whack a Loophole. She enjoys its informative content, whimsical production values, and “hitting things with a hammer.”
Yeah, sometimes it takes a little humor and creativity to get a point across, and that’s exactly what this fun little parody does. Oh… and it’s a very serious point.
The Legislature is struggling to close yet another multi-billion dollar budget gap; if they’re going to consider further cuts in funding for education, health care, and other essential services, then it’s only fair to put billions of dollars in tax breaks on the table too.
Some of the tax breaks Whack a Loophole makes fun of are incredibly stupid, but relatively small, like exemptions for bull semen insemination ($954,000) or the sale of gold bullion ($5 million.) Others are much more substantial and require some careful consideration, such as the $1.8 billion in revenues lost by not extending the sales tax to professional services like stockbrokers, lawyers, and lobbyists.
The truth is, our tax structure is irreparably broken, and eventually even Republicans are going to have to make the choice between an income tax, or becoming Mississippi. In the meanwhile, we need some temporary fixes to help ease our perpetual budget crisis. The sale of goods is becoming an ever smaller portion of our economy, and if we’re to continue relying on the sales tax for the lion’s share of government revenues, then we’re going to have to extend it to those things that 21st century Washingtonians actually sell… you know… services.
Some people — like the ever-ornery Rep. Ed Orcutt — may object to calling these tax thingies “loopholes”, but by any other name they still have the same impact. Huge portions of our economy currently go untaxed, and it only makes sense to consider whether these “tax preferences” are both fair and productive. Are we getting our money’s worth from these exemptions, and is it fair to the low-income families who shoulder the highest tax burden? Is it fair to our high school graduates for whom there are no available slots at our colleges and universities? Is it fair to the children who are losing their health coverage?
These are all questions that legislators need to ask themselves before whacking another $2.2 billion out of our state budget.