Monday, January 15, 2007

Soak the poor

Here is the basic tax structure in Montana:

Soak the rich through steeply progressive and confiscatory income taxes.

Discourage business through steep business equipment and corporate income taxes.

Discourage private ownership through high property taxes.

Make it expensive to drive Montana's long distances through high gasoline taxes.

Punish sinners through high tobacco taxes.

And tell the poor that they are getting a great deal because of not having a sales tax, while soaking them by encouraging tinhorn "casinos" at which the state gets 15% of the 100% that they lose in the machines.

A Missoulian editorial recently estimated that the average gambling Montanan wagers more than $2050/year on video gambling. The editorial goes on with some sobering facts from a 1998 study:

"nearly half the gamblers were people with below-average income. One-fifth of the gamblers then had incomes under $15,000 a year (1997 dollars). Twenty percent were on Social Security. Seventy percent were employed. Five percent were on public assistance.

As the editorial correctly states, "people are entitled to do whatever legal thing they want to do with their money, and video gambling is among the legal forms of gambling in Montana." One won't find anyone at Montana Headlines telling anyone not to gamble -- it's their business. Perhaps those who don't gamble, like everyone at Montana Headlines, should be grateful that this is one tax that someone else is paying.

But as the editorial continues, it is more than legal, it is sanctioned and even encouraged by the state. A little honesty would be in order: gambling is Montana's backdoor tax on the poor.