Column: Random thoughts on sales taxes, car commercials and more

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 18, 2002

Once in a while, I wind up with a few random thoughts bouncing around in my head &045; nothing substantial enough to fill all this space if I were to write about it, but things I feel like venting on nonetheless.

This leads me to introduce my first installment of &uot;Random Chunks,&uot; where I will occasionally present a rapid-fire succession of unrelated topics. They say you can’t please everybody, but if I vary it up enough, maybe there will be one thing in here that each person can agree with or identify with.

-My first Random Chunk is a reaction to something in Friday’s Tribune.

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“A sales tax is the most regressive form of taxation,” said Albert Lea resident Paul Moore. “A property tax or income tax is based on one’s ability to pay, while the sales tax is applied no matter what one’s income is.”

This begs for a response.

The sales tax is not applied to most food and clothing, and does not affect housing or vehicles. So, basically, the things you absolutely need are not taxed. Property taxes, on the other hand, are paid on your residence. That means everyone pays for having a place to live. And people like farmers and seniors on fixed incomes &045; not exactly those with the most means these days &045; are hit very hard. Great idea. In a community like this, a property tax is about as punishing a tax as there is.

Sales taxes are very fair taxes. If you don’t have money to spend on stuff you don’t need, you won’t be taxed. If you can afford lots of goodies and toys, you will pay more. Plus, the sales tax responds to volume. In general, the more you buy &045; because you have more money &045; the more you are taxed. Sounds fair to me.

-Here’s something that’s been annoying me: When you see car commercials on TV, there’s always a disclaimer on the bottom that reads &uot;Professional driver on closed course. Do not attempt.&uot; Okay, that makes sense when it’s footage of somebody driving underwater, plowing through a muddy field or skidding through an obstacle course. But I just saw a commercial with a car just driving at a reasonable speed down a regular-looking road &045; with the same disclaimer.

Do not attempt? I should not attempt to drive my car 35 miles an hour down a two-lane street? Car people, you’re starting to get a little too cautious here.

-Here’s a nice Chunk. It was an inspiring experience to hear the good things said at the Greater Jobs, Inc. annual meeting last week. The leaders of that organization are talking about some positive work, like finding a good way to capitalize on Freeborn County’s water resources to encourage development. They are also avoiding excuses. They are looking at the aftermath of the Farmland fire as an opportunity &045; potentially, we could get a new, bigger and better plant, along with a nice use for the old site. What’s the old clich about one person’s disaster being another person’s opportunity? I don’t know, but you get my point, anyway, right?

-More on the state’s refusal to let Albert Lea vote on a sales tax: We’ve already established that St. Cloud, for some reason, is apparently immune to the rules that iron-fisted tax-committee overlord Ron Abrams uses to govern the rest of the state. It’s also interesting to me that all this talk of a Twins stadium includes discussion of city- or county-wide restaurant taxes in the Twin Cities to pay for part of the ballpark. Now, I’m all in favor of a new stadium, but isn’t it funny that it’s OK for the metro cities to have their own local sales taxes, but not Albert Lea? People talking about a statewide policy change on local sales taxes are on to something. Giving it to some people and denying it to others is bogus.

-Here’s a &uot;shameless plug&uot; Chunk: Have you checked out our new Web site? I’ve heard almost all good things about it. I want to point out one particular feature that has been greatly improved, however, which I think more people should use: The reader forums are great. We have cleaned up all the problems that plagued the old forums and set things up in a much nicer format. Users can even log in and set up their own on-line opinion polls about whatever topics they want. It’s pretty slick. And you can use it to post responses to stuff you read in the Tribune. Just click on the article and choose &uot;post a comment&uot; at the bottom of the story, and it will take you straight to the forums.

You can even use it to trash me if you think this &uot;Random Chunks&uot; concept is for the birds.

Dylan Belden is the Tribune’s managing editor. His column appears Sundays. E-mail him at