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Misrepresenting government spending


D.W. Tiffee February 16th, 2011

I see that Brandon Dutcher (Commentary, “Counterpoint: A matter of perspective,” Jan. 5, Gazette) is gloating over the prospects for further cuts in Oklahoma spending, which is already third to last in the nation.

According to the Census Bureau, the national average for combined per capita state and local spending (2007) was $9,338, versus $7,519 for Oklahoma. We would have to spend an extra $6.82 billion to reach the national average, $890 million to equal Texas and $3.8 billion to match Colorado (that’s before the 15 percent cut of the last two years).

Perhaps Dutcher can explain why his Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is misrepresenting government spending in Oklahoma: “spending per capita in the state has been above several key neighbors, including Texas and Colorado … the per capita spending of state and local governments should be brought in line with Texas and Colorado” (January 2008). The 2008 edition of the Statistical Abstract of the U.S. (Table 429) notes that Oklahoma was actually dead last in the nation in combined spending.

Dutcher says April 6, 2010, was “the day the average Oklahoman had finally earned enough money to be able to pay the federal, state and local tax collectors. That burden ranks 30th among the 50 states.” The Tax Foundation makes no such claim; the date is just the total tax collection divided by total income, and because of progressive taxation, the average taxpayer pays 14.2 percent of income for effective federal taxes (CBO), not the 20.5 percent effective rate of all taxpayers that the Tax Foundation uses. The Tax Freedom day for the average taxpayer in Oklahoma is actually 22 days earlier, or March 15.

In 2007, the Tax Foundation ranked “Oklahoma’s tax burden — federal, state and local taxes as a share of income — as 50th among the 50 states. … Oklahomans will pay 27.8 percent of their incomes in taxes in 2007, about 5 percentage points less than the national average of 32.7 percent (Tulsa World; April, 29, 2007). But now the Tax Foundation claims that in 2007, Oklahomans were paying 10 percent of income for state and local taxes, versus the national average of 9.9 percent, and makes the completely bogus allegation that “Oklahoma’s taxpayers have gone from 42nd to 19th in the tax burden rankings over the period of this study.”

The Tax Foundation arrived at this preposterous conclusion by adding taxes allegedly paid by Oklahomans to other states, a statistic for which there is no credible source. Oklahomans are supposedly paying $2,280 in per capita taxes to Oklahoma, and $1,481 to other states. It is literally the dumbest thing I have ever seen in my life.

—D.W. Tiffee

Norman

Tiffee ran as an independent for U.S. Congress in 1994.

 
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