TABOR must die for Colorado to survive

Jeff Rice Journal-Advocate columnist

Editor: Another uninformed idiot who wants to raise taxes so you can pay more.
Jeff Rice Journal-Advocate columnist

I couldn’t help but notice that on this page last week CU economist Barry Poulson made numerous false claims about the “benefits” of TABOR refunds. That’s what conservatives do when the facts don’t support their doctrine. They … well, um, in the interest of not name-calling a fellow academic, I’ll just say that they tend to stretch the truth. A lot.

Poulson says that, if TABOR funds are returned to taxpayers in Colorado, you and I will enjoy between $50 and $100 refunds. Per year. And he says that will stimulate the state’s economy.

Fifty bucks? Seriously? Because I live in the real world, I personally know dozens of people who live at or below the federal poverty level, and to say that $50 a year would make a difference in their lives is an insult. They spend that on cigarettes every payday. That’s one tank of gas a year. A year!

Here’s the problem: Like most professional academics, Poulson doesn’t live in the same world you and I live in. His world is theoretical, and there are certain theories that are sacrosanct. Never mind that dribble-down economics (the poor are grateful for the crumbs of the rich) has been discredited in real life so often that even most conservatives have abandoned it. Poulson hangs onto it because (1) he’s paid to do that and (2) he hasn’t read a book on economics since 1997.


Where would the money go if you and I don’t get our walking-around coin? Poulson says it’ll go to “special interests.” Of course, he doesn’t name those special interests, so I will. Start with Colorado Department of Transportation, which still needs to replace about 60 miles of I-76 (and they can start with that damned stretch between Atwood and Merino!) Then there’s the Colorado Department of Corrections, which no longer offers certain educational programs because of budget cutbacks. (And if you want real world effects on that, start with yours truly who now makes several thousand dollars a year less because those education programs are no longer offered at Sterling Correctional Facility. My money spends just like everyone else’s even if it does come from taxes. And I’m spending less in local businesses these days.) Oh, and how about your local school district? Now there’s a special interest group for you!

But why, you must be asking yourself, would a man with so many letters after his name say things that aren’t true? Because Barry Poulson has sold out. He’s a professor emeritus, and that means he’s retired, so tax money no longer pays his salary. He’s paid by “think tanks,” which do everything but think – they’re propaganda mills for the fat cats who want the state to be too poor to enforce regulations that cost them mega-profits.

Look, I don’t have all the fancy letters after my name that Poulson has, but I was raised in farm country, and I know the smell of what Barry Poulson’s peddling. I was trained to be a journalist and a scholar of rhetoric, so I know propaganda when I see it, and what Poulson is spouting is pure propaganda. I also know the principle at the heart of all propaganda: A lie, any lie, told often enough and stirringly enough, will begin to look like the truth.

Poulson says TABOR will be the salvation of Colorado’s economy. Don’t believe it. TABOR will not save Colorado, it will kill us. It is already killing us. Poulson has made a living touting TABOR, and yet small towns, school districts, and counties across Colorado have voted by overwhelming margins to exempt themselves from the ravages of TABOR.

If you want Colorado to thrive, work now to kill TABOR. Give the state the funds it needs to provide education and infrastructure so small businesses can prosper. Then hold the state accountable for those expenditures. That’s not as easy as meekly accepting beer and pizza money, but it’s a whole lot more beneficial in the long run.

Jeff Rice is a former newspaper reporter and editor.

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