Political Animal


October 19, 2012 10:28 AM Here’s A Check. Now Lower My Taxes.

By Ed Kilgore

One of the most alarming trends in a generally alarming landscape for campaign finance is the recent realization of many rich-as-Croesus conservatives how much fun they can have dumping huge sums of money into state politics. A New York Times piece today by Nick Confessore draws attention to another state-level would-be game-changer, Missouri’s Rex Sinquefield:

Since 2008, when Missouri abolished contribution limits, Mr. Sinquefield has donated more than $20 million to local candidates and political action committees, driving the political debate on issues like education, upending the political world here and making him perhaps the most influential private citizen in the state. More than half of that money has gone to advance his signature cause: eliminating state and local income taxes in Missouri, a major source of government revenue, and replacing them with sales taxes.

Much of Confessore’s article involves Sinquefield’s effort to dominate the outcome of the Secretary of State contest, a priority because the outgoing incumbent, Democrat Robin Carnahan, issued a ruling on the wording of a ballot initiative that ultimately frustrated his efforts to get the state income tax abolished by referendum.

That’s the level of detail rich ideologues can get into in state politics: choosing an objective with immense public policy implications and then just systematically removing obstacles to the implementation of your point of view. Confessore notes Sinquefield is a chess enthusiast; it’s obvious he’s found Missouri politics to be a fine chessboard.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Brian on October 19, 2012 10:51 AM:

    As a resident, I can attest that rural Missouri is comprised of far too many low-information voters.

  • Josef K on October 19, 2012 10:53 AM:

    Why is it there seem all the multi-billionaires involved in this disgrace are nothing but right-wing idealogues?

    And if indeed all the resources are on the far-fringe-right, what's left to counter them? I'm not asking out of a sense of hopelessness, but of genuine interest.

    What's to be done to stop these decrepit idiots?

  • c u n d gulag on October 19, 2012 10:57 AM:

    This, THIS, is why we need a top end tax rate of 90%!!!

    Let there rich motherfeckers spend whatever wealth is left over paying Tax Attorney's and CPA's to find loopholes - instead of spending it on trying either create new loopholes, or end their own taxes, via ads to influence voters towards certain politicinas, and/re bribes to the politicians themselves, via contributions.

    If these "Job Creators" weren't so busy spending money trying to be still greater "Wealth Accumulators," maybe they could spend a few bucks creating jobs.

    Instead, the spend their easily-earned riches influencing votes and politicians.

    90% upper-end tax rate, PLEASE!!!

  • schtick on October 19, 2012 11:00 AM:

    MHO is that these richie rich people that toss millions into politics to get their taxes lowered are all just like Willard. Born into richie rich and didn't earn a dime of any of it except to steal more by hook or by crook. The money they pour into politics to get their taxes lowered is a joke. Their taxes don't amount to spit in the wind compared to what they dump in politics.
    It just goes to prove, no matter how much money you have, you can't buy class and you can't buy common sense.

  • Mudge on October 19, 2012 11:07 AM:

    How wonderfully regressive. I suggest those who advocate such taxing schemes be called Regressives not conservatives. Come to think of it, repealing the New Deal and overturning Roe v. Wade are also regressive.

    Regressives..I like the ring.

  • SmackJack on October 19, 2012 11:16 AM:

    The guy is involving himself in local civic affairs.
    He is creating jobs in advertising, printing, and other areas.
    He is exercising his free speech.
    What is the problem?
    Maybe a sales tax is better than income taxes.
    Make the counter arguement or do you believe that the people are too dumb to undestand it?
    The people who belive that can't accept the fact that they are too dumb to make a valid counter case.

  • Robert on October 19, 2012 11:30 AM:

    The future of our country is being shown to us by Mittens and the rest of the 1%...It is being shown to us bit by bit...there is a clear picture emerging on what is really happening behind the closed doors of our political/corporate overlords...it is looking like an ugly future these corrupt folks have in store for us...This is just the beginning of our "tribulation" phase, especially if the R/R ticket gets in...it may not be the end of the "Biblical" world, but it would be the end of any reasoned approach to the country's problems...

  • Josef K on October 19, 2012 11:51 AM:

    From SmackJack on October 19, 2012 11:16 AM:

    The guy is involving himself in local civic affairs.

    A reasonable (if slightly grotesque oversimplification)

    He is creating jobs in advertising, printing, and other areas.

    Which will last how long after the election closes?

    He is exercising his free speech.

    Again, an oversimplification of the overall phenomenon.

    What is the problem?

    The same problem with producing propaganda for the Khmer Rouges and paying individual voters $500 for their vote. Both are completely legal, and both are deliberate moral and ethical subversions to our civic culture.

    Maybe a sales tax is better than income taxes.

    That predicates people will have enough money to actually buy stuff on a continuing basis. You might as well offer a "consumption tax", which is even more regressive than plain old debtor's prison. The less you make, the more you have to spend just to be feed your children, the higher you're taxed, and thus the less you ultimately have to spend. A vicious cycle, to say the least.

    Make the counter arguement or do you believe that the people are too dumb to undestand it?

    Not so much dumb as simply not thinking things through to their logical ends.

    The people who belive that can't accept the fact that they are too dumb to make a valid counter case.

    Okay, here's the counter-argument: these right-wing plutocrats use their wealth to employ literally hundreds of proxies to print, broadcast, and repeat outright lies in service of their selected candidates. The sheer volume drowns out any opposition or correction to their message, and thus destroys any notion of an informed electorate. They literally dominate and have bought the entire media market, making it impossible to adequately inform voters about the lies and distortions involved.

    If that doesn't constitute a deliberate subversion of democracy, I'm not sure what does anymore.

    That a strong enough argument for you?

  • Mimikatz on October 19, 2012 12:19 PM:

    It isn't all bad. Wealthy gays and wealthy people sympathetic to the cause have done is for years, systematically removing some of the most virulent anti-gay politicians at the state and to some extent federal level. And supporting marriage equality in several states, see Michael Bloomberg's new fund and the hedge fund guys who pushed equality in NY.

    And liberals need to do a much, much better job of selling the electorate on the merits of progressive taxation and smart spending on things like education, public works and green tech, as well as gay and other civil rights.

  • Mitch on October 19, 2012 2:34 PM:

    "... eliminating state and local income taxes ... and replacing them with sales taxes."

    I've been hearing this a lot from my "conservative" friends across the nation. Why, just the day before yesterday I had a conversation with an old pal of mine. He makes only about a dollar more than federal minimum wage but works perhaps 25 hours each week, so it's not like income tax should even be much of an issue for him. Nice guy, but hooked on Faux and Limbaugh and apparently horrible at math.

    Pal says, "If we just have a sales tax, then thing'll be more fair. Because the rich spend way more than we do."

    Mitch says, "Partner, you currently don't pay much into taxes and you spend 100% of your income. That means you would be taxed on 100% of your income, if it were all based on sales. I make five times the money that you do and am VERY frugal. I spend about 70% of my income. So I would only be taxed on 70% of the money that I make. Someone like Romney might spend a couple percent of his income, if that. So tell me again how fair this is?"

    "B-b-but the rich spend more than I ever will," stammers my pal. I can hear the gears turning in his head.

    "Sure," I laugh, "And so do I. But you need every single cent that you make in a way that I do not. In a way that someone who is really rich never, ever, ever will. Let's say we kill all income tax, and go just to sales tax. Well, my bring-home will shoot up dramatically. But I won't need to spend any more than I do right now. The extra burden of sales tax won't balance it out. I'll end up with a lot more money. You'll end up spending more money on nearly everything that you buy. Tell me, can you afford to do that?"

    My pal sighs, "I never thought about it that way. Won't it ... won't you spend more money because you, you know, have more money to spend?"

    I laugh again, "Not likely. More than likely I'll save it for a rainy day, or future vacations, or something. I have everything that I need and most things that I want right now. Not much of my extra income is going to be trickling down, that's for sure. Money in the bank is more useful to me than anything else right now."

    "Hell, I'd like to have some money in the bank," he says.

    "I know it. But you've gotta spend every dime you make just to stay alive. Well, you'll be paying sales tax on most of those dimes. Me? I'll be sitting pretty as my savings go up and up. So do you still think that sales tax is better than income tax?" I ask.

    "I dunno. It sounds like a bad deal for me," my pal admits, "But why haven't I heard this on the news or something?"

    "No offense, brother," I reply, "The news isn't going to think for you. And everyone on that screen makes more money than I do, let alone you. They'd all be swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck. You? You'd end up barely able to buy clothes at Wal-Mart."

    "I can already just barely buy clothes at Wal-Mart," my pal scoffs, "I guess it would be even worse if my sales tax were a lot higher."

    "Exactly," I say. Then change the subject. My pal is sounding very depressed now, and his life is tough enough as it is. I don't want to make it harder on him.

  • Theodore Wirth on October 19, 2012 3:43 PM:

    Sinquefield should butt out and move to New Hampshire or Alaska, the only two states without state income or state sales taxes.

    Or, he can get his way and have a front row seat and sit back and watch as Missouri crumbles around him.