Cindi Scoppe struck another blow today in the lonely fight to base public policy in South Carolina on facts. It’s not only a lonely, but a losing battle, since the people who are driving things in the State House have contempt for facts, preferring to “govern” on the basis of extremist ideology, which holds that facts are bunk.
Basically, she was answering this kind of nonsense:
Consider this analysis from an Upstate anti-government activist, speaking recently to The Greenville News: “Every year our state budget continues to go up, up, up, far exceeding our growth. So we’re getting more government, we’re getting higher taxes.
“They tell us, ‘We cut taxes.’ That’s nonsense. How can you increase spending and cut taxes and yet you claim that we also are not running a deficit? The numbers don’t add up.”
That certainly sounds like a sensible analysis. And there are circumstances under which it could be accurate. If, say, our population were remaining stagnant, or declining. Or if people’s income or purchases remained flat, or declined. But of course none of that is happening.
What’s happening isn’t that complicated. It just isn’t necessarily intuitive…
And what is happening is that tax rates have been lowered over and over for the past two decades. What is also happening is that, while the total amount of state funds spent on government is greater because of our skyrocketing population growth, the amount spent per capita is less and less:
South Carolina’s tax collections are the lowest in the nation, at $1,476.50 per capita; they dropped 18 percent from 2001 to 2011 — more than they did in 48 states. Our combined state and local tax burden per capita was less than all but one state, at $2,742. Our 2012 Tax Freedom Day — the date when we’ve earned enough money to pay all of our federal, state and local taxes for the year — was earlier than all but three states, at April 3.
This is simply not a state in which we’re “getting higher taxes.”
Ah, but our government is growing, right? Well, if by “growing government,” you mean that the total amount spent on state government each year is generally more than it was the previous year, then yes, it’s growing. With the exception of two years during the recession, state general fund expenditures (the money over which the Legislature has the most control) are growing — although this year’s $6.1 billion general fund budget is still down from the $6.7 billion in 2008-09, just before the recession hit.
But remember: While the general fund grew by 12 percent over the past decade, our state’s population grew by 15 percent. That means the Legislature appropriated less general fund money per resident, even without considering inflation, in 2012 than in 2002…
Ah, but what about all those “other funds,” from the feds and fees? Hasn’t that increased the size of government? Consider:
What’s a little surprising is that even with all that federal and other money, the total number of state employees is actually down, from 63,000 in 2002 to 56,000 in 2012. In fact, the total number of state employees has decreased over just about any period you look at during the past two decades, except last year, when it rose slightly from 2011, but remained well below the 2010 level.
So if by “growing government” you mean government is increasing the number of people on the payroll, it’s not.
If you mean government is providing more services, it’s also not. Our state is providing services to more people — Medicaid and food stamps, both funded primarily by the federal government, are prime examples — but it’s not increasing the services to each person…
Actually, you should just go read the whole thing.