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February 27, 2007


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Mr. Lessenberry concluded this column by saying:

"Nobody likes paying taxes. Over the weekend I figured out mine. Turns out I owe about $400 dollars. For a moment I was dismayed. But deep down I know I should pay more. I think I have a solution to all this silliness. Repeal immediately the word taxes. From now on, what we have are user fees.

Would you pay higher user fees for better roads? If a user fee might help your daughter’s school, would you pay it? I thought so.

We all know that you get what you pay for. The truth is, there can be no progress without taxes. And truth in packaging would be a very good thing."

The one good thing about the difference between "taxes" and "fees" is that in general, we can think of "fees" (or costs, or prices) as being what we pay by choice in the private sector, versus "taxes," which is what we pay under compulsion in the public sector.

So if instead of paying school taxes, we paid "tuition," that is all well and good. A long as we are clear on who it is being paid to. If we are funding public schools, then let's call a tax a tax, and not pretend it is a "user fee." I'm all in favor of "user fees" when there is a choice about "use." That would be truth in advertising to me.

As for unemployment rates, Mr. Lessenberry should know that there is wide divergence among EU member-state employment rates. But in general, EU unemployment is hovering at a rate above Michigan's unemployment rate, and is therefore higher than the U.S. in general. The EU is hardly a model for Michigan, particularly insofar as the EU is a good example of the truism that a state cannot simultaneously operate a highly generous welfare state and also maintain open immigration.

You make some good points, Anonymous.

The school issue is a tricky one. If you went to Michigan schools when you were a kid, others paid your tuition. In my opinion, an educated citizenry is an amenity well worth paying for.

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