Two tales of taxes, but is there really a story here?

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Are both presidential campaigns so focused on winning the day that they’re losing the country?

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
WEST CHESTER — Depending upon who you talk to, Pennsylvania is already a dead issue or it will be a key swing state in the 2012 Presidential election.

While the media buy decisions of the Romney campaign — virtually no TV commercials were purchased here for August — makes you think he’s moved onto to greener pastures, local surrogates continue to ratchet up the war of words as if the whole election rests on how Chester County votes.

While it may be a political reality that Pennsylvania is sliding inexorably into President Barack Obama’s column (although one major change in economic news or some other game changer could still stop that), neither side benefits from suggesting that the race is over.

Both sides, aside from honestly opposing the other’s candidate, want to keep their voters excited and engaged so that they turn out on election day (traditionally a bigger concern for Democrats in Chester County) and support down-ballot candidates for Congress and the state house.

So despite the fact that ad money is going to places such as Ohio and Florida, both campaigns will still be bringing in high profile surrogates for their candidates in “persuadable” counties — which Chester County clearly is, after going for Obama in 2008 after a generation of support for GOP presidential candidates.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell talks tax police with Pocopson resident Kris Hoover as West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta looks on following Friday morning’s event in West Chester in support of Barack Obama.

Such an event was held Friday morning in West Chester, when Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who is also the chair of the Democratic Governors Association, came to stump on behalf of Obama. He was joined by Chester County Democratic Committee chair Michele Vaughn, Sixth District Congressional candidate Manan Trivedi, who is again seeking to unseat Jim Gerlach and West Chester resident, Karen Wilson Lynch, to talk about taxes.

Markell went after the former Massachusetts governor on his tax plan, citing a a recent report by the Brookings Institute that the plan would raise taxes on the lowest 95% of wage earners while cutting taxes for the wealthiest.

“His approach differs fundamentally from the president’s,” Markell said. “Mitt Romney’s approach favors the rich.”

In fairness, the Brookings Institute report makes some assumptions about programs and tax deductions that would have to be cut, such as college tuition credits and mortgage interest deductions, although Romney’s plan does not specifically call for those cuts. Obama’s camp suggests that Romney would be forced to make such cuts, or explode the deficit by — they say — $5 trillion.

“He wants to drive down taxes for the wealthy, but how do you pay for it?” Markell asked.

The Obama campaign also used the event — one of likely many similar events around the country — to unveil its tax calculator, which it claims will show people how much more or less people will pay depending on the two candidate’s tax plans. Of course, in fairness, the Obama calculator uses a lot of supposition and, as always, your milage may vary.

And of course, getting wind of the Democratic event, the Republicans asked for equal time for someone on their side, offering up new Delaware Republican Party Executive Director John Fluharty to rebut, arguing that Obama and the Democrats have no solutions beyond raising taxes.

Fluharty, who took his new post at the Delaware GOP after a stint with Newt Gingrich’s Presidential campaign, didn’t take long to lay into Markell for campaigning out of state and suggested the the Democrats weren’t paying attention to Friday’s job numbers — which were better than expected but still considered weak — and sticking to an old playbook.

“When you look at these job numbers, tax cuts for those who create jobs can really help,” Fluharty said.

He went on to rip Markell for spending so much time campaigning in other states while people in Delaware are hurting with the poor economy.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this sort of dialogue from both sides and “win the day” conversation was repeated on a local level across America and is likely to continue for the next three months.

The problem, though, is that neither party has clean hands when it comes to the current economic mess. Elected officials in both parties seem to think voters have a short memory about how many times they ducked solving tough issues from entitlements to defense spending. Instead, they have often just passed the buck downstream to the states, which in turn have passed them down to counties, school districts and municipalities — a little bit of a twist on the theory of “trickle-down economics.”

One hopes, probably in vain, that some sort of substantive conversation can take place about the future. But, to be honest, it seems like we’re in for another fall season of one-upmanship.

* * *

In terms of that, at least to some extent, I’m looking for reader guidance regarding the missives sent to us by varying political groups and campaigns. Most don’t really fit into our normal editorial package here and yet, I’m bothered in not finding a way to offer them.

Would there be interest in a weekly collection of the political and campaign releases and statements issued, reprinted as sent without editing? While we never lack for space, editing and formatting of content takes some time, so generally, we haven’t been publishing everything — but we could just copy and paste the info, once weekly, to give you a fuller, unvarnished sense of what is being said by parties and candidates.

I’d like your thoughts — either comment on the end of this column, or send me an email at mike@chescotimes.com

* * *

West Marlborough became the fourth Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Community to institute an earned income tax. With four of seven now already collecting the tax, are we close to a tipping point that signals to the school district that the time for its own EIT has come?

Personally, I tend to think that EITs are a very regressive tax and fall unfairly on workers and less so on the wealthiest people in our community. But, while I think it’s probably out of place as a municipal tax and far too easy to abuse (see Kennett Township), one can make a more nuanced argument for it when it comes to schools.

For a school district, an EIT falls more on families likely to have kids in school and less likely to fall on retired folks with fixed incomes. It can be used, as is the case in the Kennett Consolidated School District, to smooth out property tax hikes.

While until now, an EIT has met with little in the way of enthusiasm by school board members (seeing it as politically dicey at best), with a majority of municipalities in the school district now collecting the tax, I’d be very surprised not to see a closer look taken at adopting an EIT in the coming months.

And of course, with all of last Monday night’s discussion about “unintended consequences” — that one vote could lead to a fairly large tax increase not just in West Marlborough, but across the school district.

Think of it as the local government equivalent of “the Butterfly Effect.”

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