Press Talk: Who else got a 7 percent raise?

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 
photoLou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor.

So, I was minding my own business the other day (yeah, right) when the boss comes up to me and says, “Hey, how would you like a 7 percent raise?”

Well, I almost fell over because I know how bad the economy still is —particularly in the newspaper business.

But Mama didn’t raise no fools, so I asked the boss if he wouldn’t mind pinching me just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

He did. And I was.

There ain’t no 7 percent raise coming. Or any raise coming, for that matter.

Life is still very tough for most of us.

Of course, that’s not quite the case for government. How do I know? Well, that 7 percent raise I was dreaming about? It was what raise the government asked me to give them from my property taxes.

OK, they didn’t exactly ask me. They told me. Yes, indeed. The tax man cometh. And that tax man taketh away.

Yikes!

• • • • •

Now, don’t get me wrong. I not only accept being taxed, I understand the importance of taxes. But I’m less sold on the idea that taxes should regularly outpace raises.

• • • • •

Taxes are complicated. They really are. And it’s exactly how the government wants it. OK, that’s my opinion, at least. But the way I figure it, the more complicated things are, the less we all are able to understand it and the more likely we are to throw up our hands and say, “Nothing we can do.”

If you sit down with governmental tax types, they would be happy to explain things to you like millage rate, valuation, bonds, levies and even how voters only have themselves to blame for much of the tax bill.

True, true and true.

But in the end, life is all about the bottom line. No zigging, no zagging — what the heck is it going to cost me?

And this year, it’s going to cost me 7 percent more.

It was simple math, really. What was my bill last year? What’s my bill this year? What’s the difference? Again, 7 percent.

Some folks will argue I can’t just look at one year. It’s probably an anomaly.

Yeah, right.

But OK, I went back and looked at my last five tax bills to see what was going on. Well, there’s been a 20 percent increase, or on average 4 percent a year.

Again, ask yourself this: Have you averaged 4 percent raises in the past five years? I thought not.

Governments will argue their needs are growing and when you add in inflation, they’re barely keeping up with that extra 4 percent a year I’m giving them. Of course, us working saps might also argue our needs are growing and our no-raises incomes are certainly not keeping up with inflation.

But that’s of little concern to governments. They keep piling on.

Now, this 4 percent a year is my tax bill. You’re welcome to look at your own tax bill. Not everyone’s bill will have gone up 20 percent in five years. I’m certain some will have gone up less and some will have gone up more.

And I’m also certain there are a bunch of other complicating factors that I’m not aware of that is causing this gush of money to leave my pockets.

Still, it is what it is.

I’m not sure what the answer to this is. We do need to pay some taxes. But in the end there is only so much we can do before we all get squeezed dry. It’s just math, really. Eventually the pot of gold will dry up. Then what?

And if you think politicians out there will get this mess under control, fugetaboutit. Republicans and Democrats have been around forever, and they still have no clue on how to have revenues meet expenses without asking for more.

Of course there’s always the possibility that we’ll all get 7 percent raises next year. That’s the ticket.

Yeah, right.