If you've been waiting with bated breath for a column from me on the various State of Whatevers, I'm afraid I am here to disappoint you. A combination of illness and growing political anhedonia have made it harder and harder for me to focus on speeches like President Barack Obama's State of the Union or Gov. Nikki Haley's State of the State or Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr.'s State of the City.
It's not surprising, though. On the most recent Election Day, I was even too tired to watch the results, something I'm prone to do each cycle. These days, there's too much noise and not enough signal — all in all, a sad indictment of our political system and the media which slavishly serves us such slop.
I must admit that a small part of me missed watching these various speeches and the moments of applause that punctuated the hollow platitudes of pusillanimous politicians. But the truth is you can fill a thousand speeches with the empty promises laid out in every single State of the [Insert Political Entity Here] speech. Besides, all the proper things were already said by the pundits who really matter, so who am I to insert my pithy ponderings into such vaunted and valued estimations of political prowess?
What did catch my eye, though, if you'll allow me to step away from my ramblings for a moment, was Gov. Haley's plan to fix our roadways.
As part of her concession that South Carolina's roads just might need some attention, Haley stated she was OK with a slight increase in the state's abysmally low gas tax. Of course, such a raise in those revenues would be tied to a restructuring of the Department of Transportation (you can read that as, "We need to make sure I can centralize control over a state agency and place it in my office") and a 2 percent drop to the highest income tax bracket in the state. Or, as I said a couple of weeks ago in a column, the working people of South Carolina are going to pay for the roads that make the upper class money.
But that isn't even the most staggering part of Haley's plan. The best part is that the governor insists that the state's income tax can be cut and it won't impact all the spending that goes into running the state of South Carolina. If you're interested in numbers, what Haley is saying is that we can cut the state's income by 25 percent without cutting spending. I'm not the first person to think that proposition is preposterous.
From the people on the Right who champion Gov. Haley and other tax-cutting politicians, the cry often goes out that government should function like a family or a business. That's great, actually. Let's see Nikki Haley slash her annual income by 25 percent and maintain her family's lifestyle once they're out of the Governor's Mansion in Columbia. And let's ask her corporate constituents if they could cut profits by 25 percent without raising prices or cutting staff. It goes without saying that they couldn't and that the Haley family would be very, very upset.
What's plain for all to see is that the machine that powers the right-wing's tax fantasies is now running on fumes. Today's Republican Party can't even be bothered to come up with ideas that make even the tiniest bit of sense. After all, Haley didn't even bother to go with the old GOP standby of "cutting taxes increases revenue in the long run." In fact, what she actually said was that her new tax idea wasn't reflected in her budget, which was released prior to the formal announcement of her road proposal, "because we just came out with the plan."
I'll wait while you re-read that quote again.
And then a couple more times.
You back with me?
Gov. Nikki Haley basically just said that her entire method of running the state of South Carolina is made up as she goes along. This might help to explain why there appears to be a complete lack of any math from Haley showing just how much revenue will be generated by the gas tax increase. Of course, why would we be given any figures detailing just how much more we're going to pay in gas taxes when the important thing is that the highest income tax payers are going to save billions each year?
According to the S.C. Department of Transportation website, the agency netted $458.6 million from "motor fuel revenue" in the 2014-2015 fiscal year. At the current state tax rate of 16.75 cents a gallon that means that South Carolinians are set to consume about 27 million gallons of gas this year. Not taking into account that consumption will likely go up, it means that a new tax rate of 26.75 cents a gallon will boost SCDOT revenue to $722 million, for a difference of around $264 million. That's money we will all pay at the pump, while the wealthiest South Carolinians will receive a $1.8 billion income tax cut. So much for having skin in the game, I suppose.
In short, Gov. Haley's proposal doesn't even begin to make sense. But, as usual, even the most nonsensical of political plans often work out in favor of the crazed politicians floating them. On the off chance Haley's roads plan succeeds, she can say, "See, I'm a genius." If it fails, she's sure to blame her favorite bugbear, the federal government.
But if the governor is thinking about climbing back onto the national stage in the next year or so, as NBC News suggested in a piece recently, she might want to leave these kinds of dimwitted, content-free tax plans behind here in South Carolina.
Oh, wait, who am I fooling? Her current tax plan is endorsed by right-wing tax reform darling Grover Norquist.
Maybe she's actually ready for her close-up after all.
For more from Mat Catastrophe, please visit his blog, The Short Form Catastrophe at mat-catastrophe.tumblr.com. You'll find posts that are too-long for tweets and too short for columns.