It was sad to hear of the passing of Harry Morgan. I really liked him as Colonel Potter, and I think I’ve seen some Pete and Gladys episodes somewhere. As far as my favorite character, I’m torn between Colonel Potter and Officer Bill Gannon of Dragnet. The Gannon role was a good balance to Sergeant Joe Friday (Jack Webb), but Gannonwas always in agreement with that famous phrase, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Well, at least he would have been, if Friday had ever actually said that phrase.

Joe Friday never uttered those words. He actually said most often, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” It’s easy to make up the thought that Friday actually said, “Just the facts, ma’am,” because it sounds like something he might have said. Reminds me a lot of the deceptive technique opponents of the Missouri Taxpayer Relief Plan employ to mislead people!

You see, they say things that “sound right” but really aren’t. The “factoids” sound convincing and like they could be true – thus creating what the opponents want, which is confusion and doubt. Confusion and doubt are the best friends of those who want someone to vote “NO” on anything.  It doesn’t matter whether the information is entirely accurate or even applicable, as long as it serves its purpose.

A good example of the latter statement occurred at a debate between myself and Jim Moody, who represents the Coalition for Missouri’s Future (which would more appropriately be called the Coalition for Missouri Falling Further Behind). The coalition is upfront about its opposition to the tax reform and jobs plan represented by the Missouri Taxpayer Relief Act but offers no alternative other than the status quo. The status quo is failing Missouri on many levels. If you are going to be against a policy proposal, that’s OK. But when you offer nothing but the status quo, it’s not OK.

The debate was before a full house at the Ozark Chamber of Commerce. Jim provided his usual slide presentation with a couple of extras added.  The extras made me wonder if the opponents aren’t confused themselves. (More on that in a second blog posting.)

Jim usually talks about a lot of things that have no bearing on the measure or the use of comparisons to Tennessee.  For example, he always refers to the Tennessee Excise Tax (corporate tax) and the Privilege Tax (which professionals like lawyers and doctors pay). He presents them as though they are a necessary component to the Tennessee sales tax model – they aren’t.  They are in fact additional sources of revenue to Tennessee, but they have nothing to do with the sales tax model we are discussing.

He also discusses a couple of things that are at least sales tax issues and differences between the Missouri Taxpayer Relief Act and the current Tennessee model: most notable, the “single article” tax and the 8.25% sales tax on satellite TV. The problem with using these as a “measure” of why the tax reform proposal won’t work is that the facts just don’t add up.

The “single article” tax brings in $38 million out of $6.4 billion. I can tell you that in the state budget, you’re almost talking about a rounding error.  It’s not a factor in the tax reform propsal and it’s not necessary to generate adequate revenue, as I demonstrated here.

The satellite tax example is even sillier.  Jim’s message is that Tennessee taxes satellite services at 8.25%. It brings in a whopping $40 million out of $6.4 billion. Unlike the “single article” tax, the tax reform proposal will tax satellite services at 7% rather than 8.25%. In other words, we will tax satellite services at 85% of the rate Tennessee does today. Not much of a shortcoming!

I”ve often said that there is nothing wrong with disagreements. People and groups often have different opinions, and there is nothing wrong with that.  However, even Sgt. Joe Friday and Officer Gannon would tell you that you are entitled to your own opinion but not to entitled to your own facts.