Sunday, October 14, 2007

Propositions and Propaganda

Here in Washington, we practice a form of direct democracy in the form of binding citizen initiatives. It's tempting to say that we practice it, because we're nowhere close to getting it right, but I suppose that's true pretty much everywhere, and is really just the simple nature of the beast. One of the initiatives up for a vote in the next election is "Sound Transit (as in Puget Sound, meaning the greater Seattle area) and Regional Transportation Investment District Proposition Number 1 - Regional Roads and Transit System." The long and short of it is raising taxes to put in some new mass transit and roads infrastructure, with the aim of cutting back on congestion and the like.

Of course, there are people who support it, and people who are against it, and they're both planting signs like posies all over the place. One of the anti-"Prop 1" signs states that passage would double sales tax and car tab fees, but wouldn't actually help anything. You can argue all three points, but the first one is patently false - in the way that most people use language, anyway.

The sales and use tax will be raised by .1%. This small percentage isn't going to effectively double this tax. So I can only assume that as of this time, there is a sales and use tax of .1% earmarked for roads and transit projects. This would mean that the proposed tax increases would double the roads and transit taxes collected. This is, in fact exactly what critics of the plan say that it does. But that's too much to fit into a convenient and easy to remember sound bite. So what you wind up with is the somewhat misleading statement that it "Doubles the Sales Tax."

It's all semantic in the end, dealing with how you use the term Sales Tax. But I've always wondered about shortcuts like this. After all, it doesn't take more than a moment's thought to realize that there's no way on Earth that anyone would put to a vote a measure that doubles the entire sales and use tax. So why damage your credibility with such a statement?

No comments: