Whoever crafted the “Sopranos” television series of downward-spiraling family dysfunctionality must be writing the script for California’s saga of upward-spiraling taxation dysfunctionality — into bankruptcy oblivion.
An interwoven chain of subplots depicted a cascade of calamities for fictional New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano. Contaminated with him were his family (genealogical and occupational), his pals, his neighbors, total strangers — anyone he came into contact with, including his long-suffering psychiatrist, whom he habitually drove nuts.
Every time Tony got into a pickle, he had a simple formula: He got out of that jam by getting himself into an even-worse one. No matter how frantically Tony shoveled to get out of his current unspeakable mess, he always excavated himself deeper into his next, and more-dire, disaster.
After half a dozen seasons, the series ended like a pop-culture song. With no discernable conclusion, it somehow just drifted off into nothingness, where California’s economy may well be headed.
Once the Golden State, now "Taxifornia," has grown addicted to the Tony Soprano formula. Its politicians, Democrats and Republicans, seem to think they can play “Sopranos” roles in real life and get away with it.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who burst upon the scene as a low-tax, low-spend terminator, was soon kidnapped by tax-and-spend Sacramento Sopranos. As if in a Stockholm syndrome, he remained with his captors rather than appear at the GOP National Convention — in front of real folks like fellow Republican Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, a shining, successful antithesis of the failed Tony Soprano formula.
Taxifornia is in terminal thrall to tax-addicted special interests that depend on state entitlements to survive. It’s well-nigh impossible to get elected there without the backing and funding of their power brokers.
Those pols find excuses to spend every dime they spy in the state’s coffers. Nor do they stop there. They go on to spend billions more than they find in the coffers, or have any prospect of finding in the coffers.
They imitate Tony Soprano, sinking further into trouble doing more of what got them into trouble in the first place. Their knee-jerk solution is to raise taxes and/or find new things to tax. They’re at their best at that.
It pays their way out of a present pickle, but puts the state further into hock. What to do then? More of the same old Sopranos-like same old.
They, like Tony, never seem to grasp that you get out of trouble by doing less, not more, of what got you in trouble. They never heard that the definition of insanity is to keep doing what doesn’t work, expecting different results. That’s how Tony sent his shrink around the bend.
They, like Tony, apparently never had a day of economics at school or cracked a history book. It’s not all that occult: Lower taxes generate more investment in productivity, thus greater tax revenue. Higher taxes mean less tax revenues because they result in less productivity to tax.
As with all addictions, once you are hooked on increasing taxes it’s utter agony even to consider cutting taxes.
Taxifornia is taxing a multitude of its own residents into leaving the state. It is also taxing into leaving the state a parade of significant industries (which hire employees who are consumers, and are taxed).
If politicians there cannot discipline themselves (as Tony’s analyst was always counseling him), discipline will be imposed upon them — ultimately at the polls. A bankrupt state is not a happy place for those politicians who cause bankruptcies to run for reelection.
In his own colorful way, Tony Soprano had a certain perverse charm. But even in Taxifornia, especially in Taxifornia, there’s nothing charming about a politician who taxes you out of your job, your home and your home state. Capice?
John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for NewsMax.com.
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