Andrea Neal’s editorial in the Indianapolis Star yesterday was a reminder that evidence is no match for strongly-held beliefs.
Neal seconded Governor Pence’s ill-considered call for a ten percent reduction in Indiana’s income tax. Even the Republicans in the General Assembly have recognized how harmful such a tax cut would be in a state where cities and towns are already strangling, thanks to the even more ill-considered tax caps Mitch Daniels managed to enshrine in the Indiana constitution. Neal made a familiar argument: lower taxes will lead to more economic growth and more job creation.
This argument sounds logical. Leave businesses with more cash and they’ll spend it to expand and hire. I remember being persuaded by that theory myself when I first became involved in policy and political life. The problem is, the evidence refutes it.
A recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic policy confirms previous research. As the Institute reports,
States that levy personal income taxes, including the states with the highest top rates, have seen more economic growth
per capita and less decline in their median income level over the last ten years than the nine states that do not tax income.
As any economist will confirm, the factors facilitating economic growth and job creation are varied; despite the almost religious belief in the supernatural power of tax policy, most studies suggest that tax levels are only one of a large number of factors that influence business decisions. The availability of an educated workforce, a location near suppliers or large customers, the existence of a market for one’s goods or services, cost of living, and the general quality of life all play a part.
For many employers, the availability of public transportation so that employees can get to their place of work is extremely important; indeed, decent public transportation would do far more for the Indianapolis economy than a tax cut that further erodes public services and the quality of life.
Think about it: how low would taxes need to be before you’d move your business to Mississippi?