Wealth’s Control: Christie and the NJ TTF

Deb, about whom I’ve previously written under, among her other noms de guerre, Dubious Deb and New Jersey Deb, posted this story on Facebook not long ago. She was protesting the politics of a deal just reached by Chris Christie and the New Jersey Legislature to fund the NJ Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) with a 23-cent increase in the state gas tax.

When I read the headline on Facebook, I was motivated to read the full story by a mostly subconscious prediction that the wealthy were profiting most from this deal.

Sure enough, I was right. And it’s blazingly obvious.

Christie said state lawmakers have reached a deal to reauthorize the Transportation Trust Fund for eight years at $2 billion a year. The deal includes various tax cuts, including a reduction in the sales tax and an eventual elimination of the estate tax.

The estate tax “has been a drag, in my view, on economic growth,” Christie said. Under the deal, it will be phased out over the next 15 months, and will be eliminated altogether as of Jan. 1, 2018.

Sales tax reductions include an incremental reduction on Jan. 1, 2017, when it will go down from 7 percent to 6.875 percent. The following year, the sales tax will go down another quarter of a point under the terms of the deal.

I bolded the important piece.

As miniscule as it is, the sales tax reduction will helpful to the rest of us[1].

But elimination of the estate tax — that’s a giveaway to the wealthy. It only lets them accumulate more wealth without offering or helping to fund any needed more general social benefits. I love most of Kanye’s music, but I don’t think his kid should get 100 percent of his daddy’s earnings. That certainly gives one a massive head start in life. Sometimes wealth unearned by the recipient could serve a more helpful use than letting another spoiled brat run around with Mommy and Daddy’s millions of dollars.

As for Christie’s argument that the estate tax is a drag on New Jersey’s economic growth: come on. Get a grip. That is the most delusional economic reasoning since economists thought markets arose from bartering. How does taxing the money that goes to Kanye’s kid when he dies create a “drag . . . on economic growth”?

And think about it: If the wealthy aren’t going to be paying to fund the TTF, who do you think will be? That’s right. Us[2]. The not-wealthy. There’s a glaringly obvious of that in this story, too:

The gas tax is regressive — it hurts more the less you earn. Think about it: A greater share of your income is spent on gas than a millionaire’s, even if you both buy the exact same amount of gas for the exact same price.

The wealthy are in control.

In fact, what does the TTF do? Fund infrastructure? Who gets the contracts to rebuild roads and bridges our elected leaders have let deteriorate?

They’re getting us coming and going — and while we’re there.

[1] “Us” being regular, non-super-rich folks in New Jersey since I don’t live there.
[2] See footnote one.

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