Well, okay. Lots of people. One of the crowning strategies to rouse the rabble is to ream the property tax. Fair enough. But in some states like New Jersey, the property tax is unpopular, likely because the property tax is just as high as the state income, business, and sales taxes.
But some states have a lifeline for tax efficiency, equity, and progressivity. Yet because we live in strange times, state governments get the shakes regarding property tax. So instead, they throw themselves upon regressive, volatile, or inefficient taxes. Not surprisingly, these taxes hit parts of society that are powerless or don’t vote.
The property tax can trace its unpopularity to simple (and fixable) quirks in most states: the bill comes due once a year. There are legitimate concerns over what happens to people on a fixed income. The house’s value may go up, but there’s no cash flow to pay for a tax bill that goes up.
It’s too easy for a northeastern US observer to have an overbearing and infuriating attitude regarding Mississippi. Unfortunately, Mississippi has a laundry list––or a butcher’s bill if you like, of past sins that stick in the craw of humanists and the respecters of justice alike.
That said, no one is innocent. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed (after getting hit with a brick in Chicago), “As long as the struggle was down in Alabama and Mississippi, they could look afar and think about it and say how terrible people are. When they discovered brotherhood had to be a reality in Chicago and that brotherhood extended to next door, then those latent hostilities came out.”
So, we ought to look at the current problems in Jackson, Mississippi, bloodlessly and try to keep emotions out (I’m not saying it’s easy). What happens when a group surrenders political power but economic power remains the preserve of the privileged? Perhaps, it will turn out that political power is often no power at all. Instead, it takes politics and economics for political economy like two elements forming a chemical compound producing different behaviors.
Along with New York City, Newark, New Jersey, possesses one of the best locational advantages of any city in the United States. Founded in 1666 by Connecticut Puritans, the town grew by leaps and bounds; the Industrial Revolution sparked a meteoric increase in population and a multi-sector industrial and commercial base. First, canals and then railroads converged into the city. With a population of 8000 in 1820, people poured in, swelling the city’s population to 367,000 by 1910.
Your faithful correspondent returned from the Legislative Summit of the National Conference of State Legislatures, held August 1-3, 2022.
Since our mission is to present politically neutral and “just the facts, ma’am” research, it’s a blessing to meet and break bread with a political, national, and otherwise diverse audience. We like to build relationships with people on both sides of the aisle because they see that the land value tax serves the communitarian and free market philosophies.
We have been asked to study the property tax systems of several communities in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. Mercer County is located in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania. Historically, it has been the home of gritty factory towns, mining, and agriculture. Mercer County, PA has 19 municipalities, three of which are cities: Sharon, Hermitage, and Farrell. Like much of the industrial Midwest, community and individual prosperity peaked around 1960. As a result, the population has been in decline, from 127,000 in 1960 to around 110,0000 in 2022. Statewide, the PA population has increased by 12.4%, while Mercer’s has dropped by 8.5%.
North Adams is one of of dozens of similar towns spread across New England, and similar to small Pennsylvania manufacturing towns centered on steel, coal, and railroads. However, cities like North Adams, Lowell, Pawtucket, and others also produced a broader range of goods which supplied the world with textiles, clocks, brass, firearms, and 20th-century electronic components.
What happened in New England factory towns also happened in Pennsylvania towns and in other rustbelt towns. It’s an old story: factory closures or relocation combined with changes in global trading patterns. The result? Subsequent impoverishment and depopulation of communities.