When you hear people complain about California taxes, try asking a question: how much exactly did you pay in state income taxes?
You almost certainly won't get an answer. People don't know their own burden -- even though they complain about it. Heck, why don't you ask yourself the question? Unless you got an extension, you filed taxes fairly recently -- Monday was the deadline. How much did you pay in California income taxes?
This question-- first suggested to me by my California Crackup co-author Mark Paul -- is a reminder that much of our budget debate in this state, which centers on taxes, is hot air. Pavlov-style, people have been taught to bellyache about taxes, even ones that hurt them so little they don't know how much they are. This white-hot debate about taxes crowds out more serious debates that we could be having -- about the economy, education, and even taxation. Instead of quibbling over tiny changes in rates, couldn't we talk about how to change the tax system in California to promote economic growth while providing stronger revenues for infrastructure and schools?
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That's a more important question.