Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Much has been said already about the StarTribune editorial opposing Governor Pawlenty's proposal to exempt all millitary pay from state income tax. But being a recently returned Vet, I have to add my two cents.

On the face of it, the Strib makes a good argument. The ridiculously massive tax code we currently have is the result of hundreds of thousands of good intentions. Taken individually, most of them make perfect sense. Taken collectively, they are the reason it takes us hours of paperwork to figure our taxes each year.

And there is also the danger of putting Vets into a seperate category, such as ordinary citizens vs Veterans. As much as I appreciate the folks who believe that we can't thank Vets enough, or give them too many benefits, we Veterans are mostly ordinary Americans, who put our pants on one leg at a time like the rest of the country. Perhaps it's because the percentage of those in the military is such a small amount of the general population that folks feel more indebted to Vets. Perhaps during the Civil War or WWII the feeling was different, since so many had been called on to serve. But I see a real danger in raising Vets so far above the rest of society. Most of us were doing what we felt was our duty to our country. Quite a few joined for the money or educational benefits.

These things aside, the Strib editorial falls flat on it's face when you consider the source.

This is the same editorial board that argued to lift salary caps on goverment workers. They argued to give subsidies to pro sports owners by way of a new tax funded stadium. They were in favor of a huge new educational spending initiative for early childhood education. And of course increased spending to retain quality teachers.

But the Strib editors need to do their homework. The state and federal government already excempt all military pay and compensation earned while in a hostile fire zone. The state of Minnesota offers a $5000 bonus for soldiers re-enlisting in the National Guard. And most dramatically, the state of Minnesota exempts all military income earned while the soldier is stationed outside of Minnesota. The Strib doesn't complain about any of these rules, likely because they didn't know they exist. Making all military income exempt will level the playing field among the members of the military in Minnesota, those who have served overseas and those who haven't.

But the worst failing of the Strib's argument is the classic liberal ideology. They assume that a tax break for one group means a tax increase for everyone else. They naively assume that the 25 million dollar annual estimated savings to Minnesota Veterans will mandate a need to raise taxes somewhere else. Setting aside the wrongness of that knee jerk reaction, look at what it means for the Strib editors.They believe it is more important to fund; more teachers, higher government salaries, and subsidies for pro sports team owners, than to give Veterans a well deserved tax break.

Anti-military, indeed.

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