The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

MAY  2005

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







There is a better way.

by JC Bowman

My friend Drew Johnson has worked extremely hard on your behalf this past year to develop the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a Nashville-based nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute committed to responsible government. Drew is fighting not only to keep legislators from raiding the taxpayers' pocketbooks, but to prod your legislators to do a FEW things:  In Nashville this means: 

* Keep all taxes  low. According to an American Legislative Exchange Council study, the 10 lowest taxing states of the 1990s enjoyed the greatest economic growth, greatest state revenue growth, and are currently on better fiscal footing than the 10 highest taxing states.

* Save a little. Since business cycles are as predictable as summer thunderstorms, the Tennessee legislature should vow never again to spend everything it can during good times. That way, when times are not so good, instead of taxing the state into oblivion, legislators will have some revenue to get through. The Book of Proverbs has some things to say about the ant storing food for the winter. It's good advice.

* Enact a hard spending cap. The fiscal crisis of the 2001-03 was not caused by a lack of tax revenue. It was a result of the frivolous spending of the late 1990's. As the state economy returned to more standard levels of growth, the rate of government spending did not decrease to reflect the calming economy. Spendthrifts in the state capital point to the "Copeland Cap," as a tool for budgetary restraint, but it easily sidestepped - as it has 12 of the past 20 years - by a simple majority vote. Instead, state government needs to control its spending through a constitutional spending cap-such as a Taxpayer Bill of Rights - to limit spending to previous year's level plus population grown, plus the rate of inflation. Under this type of budget cap, legislators cannot bypass spending limits and put Tennesseans at risk of another government-induced budget fiasco.

* Reform TennCare. TennCare, Tennessee's Medicaid program, is a disaster. The system needs to be reformed. According to the U.S. Government Accounting Office, by 2025 Medicaid will bankrupt every single state in America if no substantive changes are made to its current administration. Worse, thanks to the cost of the administrative bureaucracy, the excessive number of enrollees and the high limits on services connected

J C Bowman

-J. C. Bowman, a native of Cleveland, is a well informed and outspoken conservative educator.  He is Director for the Center for Education Innovation at Florida State University. Prior to this, he served as the Director for the Florida Department of Education Choice Office and as the Chief Policy Analyst of the Education Policy Unit for Florida Governor Jeb Bush.


with TennCare, Tennessee stands to be the very first to drown in its Medicaid debt.

* Remember that Tennessee's population growth is a good thing. Don't be alarmed by statistics that 150 people a day arrive in the Volunteer State. News reports often act as if these new arrivals do nothing but drain public dollars. These new arrivals, in addition to demanding roads and water, also bring energy, labor, wealth, enterprise and tax revenue. Population growth generally brings wealth. It's only in countries where private property is not secured or legally protected by the courts that population growth is a burden.

Then Mr. Johnson points out legislators should do little else.  He suggests a simple strategy that "the legislature must weed out bad taxes or simply stay the course, doing nothing but naming a new state pie or state lizard."

Not a bad idea, huh?

If we could do this, perhaps we could teach their Washington counterparts to take a similar approach?  As April 15 came and went once again, and the hassles of Tax Day subsided for another year, one question crosses the minds of many Americans: "Isn't there a better way?"

Given the hours spent fretting over lost receipts, the long nights spent triple checking math over coffee and the last minute race to the post office, filing income taxes has become the Great American Chore.

According to the National Taxpayers Union, the average American filing a 1040A spends a mind-numbing 11 hours and 32 minutes preparing their taxes. Unbelievably, the 1040A is known as the "short form." Preparing a 1040 form with Schedules A, B and D, takes 28.5 hours on average.

American taxpayers recognize that the current income tax system is broken and desperately needs a comprehensive fix. It is time that Congress seriously considers the benefits of a federal sales tax. Lawmakers in Washington would be wise to write off the income tax, refund the hours Americans spend preparing their taxes and deduct the stress and inconvenience of Tax Day. 

Winston Churchill once said, "No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worse form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

Arguably, the worst thing about democracy is that elected leaders tend to believe they are responsible for a lot more than they really are. Like the little boy on his first plane trip "helping" the plane by flapping his arms as the Boeing 747 begins to ascend, legislators often seem to believe that somehow they run the economy and solve lots of problems.

In reality, government tends to muck up everything it touches. If a legislator is busy, it should be because he or she is busy repealing current laws and getting the state out of the people's business.  In fact, Drew suggest that elected officials should heed the words of Adam Smith: "Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things."

Today, Mr. Smith would probably also advise the Tennessee legislature to install hammocks in their offices, to relax, and maybe enjoy a good dinner on a lobbyist's credit card. The free enterprise system will do the rest. It's happened before and it will happen again.

I am a huge fan of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research and Drew Johnson.  Their work is unending, but not unnoticed.  I hope you will consider contacting them and letting the Tennessee Center for Policy Research know you support their efforts.  The Tennessee Center for Policy Research, can be reached by mailing PO Box 121331, Nashville, TN 37212 or email Drew Johnson directly at  If you really appreciate him, send that tax deductible check.   
--J. C. Bowman is a public policy analyst who resides in Tallahassee, Florida. He can be reached by email at: