Sales tax polar opposites (heads-up, Paulistas: This post mentions Ron Paul!)

One of our regulars sent this from out of town (I’m not identifying him for now on account of his being out of town):

    We’re up in New Hampshire visiting my mother.  Thought you’d be interested to  hear what I have observed — in four days of driving around the small towns of NH, I’ve yet to see a yard sign for McCain.  But I’ve seen at least ten for Ron Paul.  No Obama’s either. 
    And I don’t know if you’ve ever been up here but it’s a somewhat unsettling experience to go into Wal-Mart and buy $99.75 worth of stuff and pay ZERO sales tax.   And on top of that, NH has no income tax either.   How do they manage to survive without taxing everything?  (yes, higher property taxes but with much less government also).  If it weren’t for the snow, I think my wife and I would consider retiring here.   I hate snow almost as much as I hate taxes.

This message reminds me of something I meant to pass on from my recent trip to Memphis, which is the polar opposite of New Hampshire when it comes to sales taxes.

The first day we were there, I was driving to the new home of one of my wife’s kinfolks — way out past Collierville, I believe, to the very limits of suburban development, which if you know Memphis means way out East — and traversing all that sprawl caused me to work up a powerful thirst. So we stopped at a new Kroger (right across from a new Starbucks, of course), and I got a bottled water, and a diet Pepsi for my youngest daughter.

It got my attention when the total was exactly $3.00, so after I fed the three ones into the self-checkout apparatus, I looked at my receipt: Yep, 22 cents of it was sales tax. (See the receipt below.)

The reason Tennessee has such outrageous sales tax rates is that the state has no income tax, and none on the horizon (when ex-Gov. Don Sundquist tried to get one enacted, he had his head handed to him). We do have an income tax, but we are hard on Tennessee’s heels when it comes to sales tax. If Richland County manages to pass the penny for local transportation needs, we won’t be far behind.

The reason, in our case, is the severe restrictions placed by the state on local governments’ ability to raise revenue through other means, combined with South Carolina’s utter failure to come to grips with road construction needs at the state level. In the Volunteer State, local governments have wheel taxes and the like to fund roads and other transport needs and wants. (Also, local governments build and maintain far more of Tennessee’s roads; the state of South Carolina reserves to itself the right to mismanage most of our roads.) Or at least they did back when I lived there. If someone has more up-to-date info, it will be welcome.



19 thoughts on “Sales tax polar opposites (heads-up, Paulistas: This post mentions Ron Paul!)

  1. Lee Muller

    I had a friend from high school who was slowly building a business on the side, but SC taxes ate up all their working capital. They moved the business to Tennessee and became millionaires 15 years earlier than they would have in SC.
    A 6% sales tax is more than enough to run every function of state government, outside of highway construction, which can be sustained with 11 cents per gallon.
    In the 1950s, this state built an entire new school system for all the blacks, in order to justify its doctrine of “separate but equal”, with 1 cent of sales tax. When that construction was finished, it kept the tax to build new schools for whites.
    The state does not need the property tax or income tax to perform its legitimate duties. All that money is for welfare, graft and corruption. You won’t see any politicians trying to justify it line item by line item, and you won’t see any media lackeys trying to justify the spending, either.

  2. bud

    When I saw the plans for the Township Auditorim renovations I was simply floored. The audacity of our local government officials using “hospitality” tax money to fund a new $12 million atrium for this dinosaur of an arena. And not one penny to renovate the dated, dangerous arena. This has got to be the gold standard for wasting taxpayers money. Just give me a good-ole wrecking ball and I’ll demolish the damn thing for free!

  3. Lee Muller

    Scratch any project in Columbia and you’ll find a real estate and construction deal.
    Scratch it twice, and you’ll find the usual cronies, taking their turn at the public trough.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Not to get in the way of the libertarian rants, but I have another beef:
    How come a bottle of water costs the same as an equal-sized bottle of diet Pepsi?

  5. just saying

    “How come a bottle of water costs…”
    The soda companies are smart and know the people will pay it. The people, meanwhile, apparently have lots of disposable income. (Similarly, soda in a machine right next to the office fridge costs a dollar, but you can almost always find a can on sale for 25 cents and keep it in said fridge for free.)

  6. Lee Muller

    Brad, are your socialist instincts steering you towards government
    * setting the price at something you think is fair
    * setting the price at something you can afford
    * making it free to those who “need” bottled water
    * outlawing it.

  7. Richard L. Wolfe

    The reason the Ron Paul signs are still up is because of the disaster the next four years are going to be. It doesn’t matter which democrat gets elected, Obama or McCain the country will pay the price. So, in the next election, we Paulista’s will get into double digits. We will keep doing this every election until we get him elected. He will probably be about 110 years old but patience is a virtue. Ha!

  8. Karen McLeod

    That bottle of water costs $1.50 because people are foolish enough to buy it. Never mind that the water out of the tap is perfectly drinkable; never mind that the unrefillable, non-returnable bottle is a contributor to roadside litter, not to mention further enlarging our carbon footprint; people have come to believe that they’ll be healthier drinking that than if they drank water from the tap. And so, it becomes harder and harder to find a place where you can get a cup, ice, and tap water for a minimal price.

  9. mlmvh

    Hey, Brad, I like your picture! But, it’s time to treat yourself and go buy yourself some new, smaller, hipper glasses!

  10. Lee Muller

    He’s probably waiting on Obamacare to give him new glasses, paid for by cutting some taxpayer’s private insurance.
    I bet those Govco glasses will be stylish. Yeah.
    It gets back to the notion of value. Soviet communism was the first system where a pair of shoes was worth less than the raw material to make them.

  11. Brad Warthen

    When the government supplies our eyeglasses, we’ll all have to wear little, round, John Lennon-style glasses, and we will all LIKE it!
    I will, anyway. I used to have some glasses like that, but I can’t find them any more.

  12. Herb Brasher

    Brad, I could try and encourage myself by sending around pictures that are 20 years old, but I think you should get back to reality.

  13. Ellen

    Well, isn’t it nice that someone seems to know the quality of all of the drinking water in the U.S.
    I live in a state where the water is undrinkable, and much to my chagrin, I am FORCED to buy bottled water. I am not foolish, I am extremely intelligent and do not drink the water because of known health hazards, so get off your high horse, you sanctimonious snot, and butt out of things of which you have no knowledge.

  14. Lee Muller

    Ask Mr. Energy Party what kind of car he drives, the next time he tells you that you have no right to buy the vehicle of your choice that you can afford.

  15. Leonardo

    Hangover from the 4th, Brad? Not to worry, it’s just a slow news day.
    Try a dose of Dr. Paul Liberty pill; it will do you good.
    “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” Declaration of Independence IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

  16. Freedom Pundit

    TN sales tax sucks and is self defeating… why spend 4.00 in gas to drive to spend 10% more in purchase price to buy something -when in most cases you can get it cheaper (even with paying shipping) by buying online from out of state. Not to mention online shopping is just a lot easier.
    Now the wheel tax, I don’t mind that and am reminded of that anytime I cross the state line. Our highways and interstates are the smoothest I’ve seen anywhere. We have to put up with a lot of construction for that but oh well. We have GREAT pavement to drive on and my achy breaky back appreciates it. Nothing like the relief felt entering TN after driving through KY and IL’s rough roads.
    Most of TN is nothing like Memphis!

  17. Lee Muller

    The system of competing states is one of the great features of America. When one state tries something and it fails, the other ones are supposed to learn. When one state had excessive taxes, people can vote with their feet, and vote with their pocketbooks, by moving their incomes and purchases to other states.
    SC has run off 100,000 engineers, skilled trades and project managers with its silly attempts to double tax income earned elsewhere. The no-skill politicians and media pundits can’t figure out why the state can’t attract, keep or grow technology-based businesses.

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