Pieces of the Puzzle
Updated: Feb 7
There's an article from the Tax Foundation that seems very discouraging to me. The title is, No Good Options as Chicago Seeks Revenue. A cursory search of related articles come with the same bad news, but without the same catchy title getting to the heart of the issue.
What's that issue? Seemingly, it's that Chicago has a huge budget shortfall to the tune of $838 million, and the only solutions are to drop a hoard of new taxes like a flock of seagulls flew overhead. Causing this budget crises is a long list of expenses that demand huge sums of money -- money the city government is apparently without unless there are new streams of income. You might have noticed I said this is seemingly the issue. At a quick glance, it certainly is. If one peers a little longer, however, the real issue is something else entirely.
The true issue at hand is a puzzle being put together without all the pieces. As seen time and again around the world, taxation is being relied on as the example of government revenue. The reality is that taxation is but only a piece of the whole puzzle. Most of society, it seems, has conditioned itself into thinking taxes are what make government revenue -- the whole puzzle, while omitting the fact that non-tax alternatives are also sources of government revenue.
Government revenue is a large family. Taxation is just one member of it. When we think or speak in terms of government revenue, it would help to use the words government revenue more often, instead of defaulting straight to taxes or taxation. Language plays an important role in how people think and the actions they take. Automatically using the word tax instead of the words government revenue can easily condition us all into thinking taxes are the only form of government revenue out there. Government revenue is a huge puzzle, and all the pieces should be considered, not just one. There is a reason why the backdrop of this blog's website is a dollar bill broken into puzzle pieces. It's to reflect this very concept.
My advice to the Chicago government? It's this:
1. Start using the term government revenue in place of tax, taxes, and taxation. (That's my advice to everyone, actually). This one change, alone, can do wonders for the brain to start considering other possibilities, especially if done for prolonged periods of time.
2. Initiate more non-tax alternatives, instead of taxes. It's not true that no good options exist for Chicago. This is because there are many non-tax sources of government revenue ready to start collecting money, and they are all good options. I know of a great ebook that lists every one of them. This includes fixing non-tax sources already in place and currently broken or not being used to their full capacity. Will it be enough to raise all the revenue Chicago needs? That doesn't matter, because every non-tax solution used in place of even just one tax is another (good) option that can be used instead of saying there are no other options but to tax. Best case...it brings all the revenue needed. Worst case...it supplements and reduces a larger need for taxes. In either case, every non-tax source comes without compliance costs or non-compliance costs and develops more empowerment given directly to the people. That's a win-win-win, and then some.
3. This whole issue is because of a long list of expenses. Take a closer look at the list and be honest about what's really needed. Reduced spending is actually a form of non-tax revenue, as it keeps more money in government's pocket (and everyone else's, since less is needed).