Economist pans Ga. transportation tax

Monday, April 23, 2012 3:37 PM
Last updated 9:01 PM
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ATLANTA -- The conservative economist and columnist Walter Williams doesn’t necessarily embrace two of Georgia business community’s biggest goals, deepening the Savannah River and a sales tax for transportation.

Williams, longtime head of the economics department at George Mason University, said Monday that Savannah became a major port in Colonial times without federal investment and so he thinks Washington should stay out of it now.

“It was a major trading port for the South. How in the world did it get there without the federal government?” he asked. “I always ask people when they say, ‘We’ve just got to have something’ what did we do before? Nobody really asks that question.”

Williams regularly argues for lower taxes, and he wasn’t impressed with having voters do the raising for the transportation sales tax rather than elected officials. He noted that the country’s founding fathers warned against the masses using ballots to take what they want.

“You might we tapping into the public will more through a referendum than through legislation. I don’t know that tapping into public will is a good thing,” he said. “... Our founders had utter contempt for democracy. You don’t find the term democracy anywhere in our founding documents because majority rule is just another form of tyranny.”

The question is to weigh how else the money could be used to boost the economy, such as for healthcare or personal consumption, he said, adding that he wasn’t prepared to provide an answer.

Williams, who frequently fills in for talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, answered questions while in town for a pair of speeches, including one sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. That organization is pushing a vote in July to raise a 1-percent sales tax to fund various transportation projects and a separate campaign to convince Washington to fund the bulk of deepening the shipping channel in the Savannah River.

Chamber officials say both initiatives are needed to revive the state’s economy.

Georgia’s pace of job creation is at the level of 10 years ago, according to Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, another champion of both causes.

“We’ve been known as Hotlanta,” said Sam Williams, no relation to the economist. “Our heat is dying out.”

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 04/23/12 - 05:08 pm
Williams is absolutely

Williams is absolutely correct — and especially about the referendum about the transportation tax (aka TSPLOST). Money will be taken from individual consumers and distributed to non-elected bureaucrats in regional politbureaus to be distributed to favored developers. Accountability will be nil.

Most of the money slated for the Augusta area will go to fund Augusta's bus system. That's not going to help the vast majority of us.

Vote NO! on TSPLOST.

socks99 04/23/12 - 05:28 pm
Jones may characterize GA's

Jones may characterize GA's business community as supportive of both the Savannah dredging project and any/and all TSPLOSTS, but I imagine many in private business, in fact, oppose both projects.

The Chamber of Commerce and the Governors office do not really represent business in GA. And supporters of the TSPLOST have a LOT of money to spread around. Recipients of these funds, then, are not the GA business community but those who will benefit from the spending.

Strictly-speaking, when the government uses its powers to bid away capital, this worsens the situation for private business. All government spending is consumption, in addition; this means all of the capital will be used up and NOT available for private investment.

Imagining that government, per se, does a good job of investing contradicts the larger body of evidence. Boosting the GA economy simply with another "borrow and spend" package probably worsens an already muted economic prospect. First, such spending cannot continue indefinitely; and when it ends -- as it must -- the economy is likely to be in worse shape than if the money had been stockpiled as capital available for productive uses.

If Jones could simply trace the money and contractors in favor of both projects, then he'd realize that self-interest is not the same as the conventional wisdom within the "GA business community." (If indebted political or other leaders are able to secretly siphon graft from the spending, then that might indicate a motive other than the purported one of "helping" GA citizens.)

rmwhitley 04/23/12 - 07:00 pm
Where there's a hand in

Where there's a hand in someone's pocket stands a politician.

Dixieman 04/23/12 - 09:59 pm
TSPLOST is dumb. It just

TSPLOST is dumb. It just raises taxes and says okay, we will only spend that revenue within the TSPLOST district boundaries, never mind where we need it. This is going to lead to a lot of roads to nowhere, pork barrel spending and gov't waste. Vote no.

itsanotherday1 04/23/12 - 10:24 pm
Careful socks, you are

Careful socks, you are talking WAY over the average Obama supporters' ability to comprehend.

DuhJudge 04/24/12 - 07:07 am
Sorry but I disagree with

Sorry but I disagree with Williams about me having a vote in the decision to raise my taxes. And I will be voting NO. And it is not because I think the founding fathers were wrong. It is because what we have now is not what the founding fathers intended. We no longer have a represntative democracy. Why? Because government employs so many citizens and because the voting districts have been managed to maintain a new status quo .... parity.

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