Budget & Tax

Trent England | February 2, 2017

Never Enough Revenue

Trent England

Samsung knows how much it cost to produce my phone (I have an older, non-exploding one). I’m sure someone at Toyota could search the archives and tell me how much it cost to make my car. Down at The Oklahoman, they know how much it costs for each step in the process of creating the newspaper and getting it into my driveway in the morning.

There is also a calculation made by each company when it comes to pricing those items. Revenue must exceed expenses, at least in the long run, or they’ll go bust. Prices and quality must be competitive or people with either buy another product or just hold on to their money.

Government is different. Nobody can decide not to buy it—we have to pay for it. In many ways, we also have to use it. This makes it nearly impossible within government to know what things really cost or what they are worth. This is true for big, socialist governments and it is true for smaller, limited governments. It is also true across all areas of spending, from public safety to social welfare to filling potholes.

This is a part of the explanation for why high-tax states often face revenue shortfalls. The Wall Street Journal on Monday ran a story on state budget shortfalls in 2017. Oklahoma, along with other oil and gas states, is on the list. But so are Minnesota and Vermont, two high-tax states that benefit from low oil prices. In fact, New York faces a budget shortfall this year despite the highest corporate income taxes and second-highest personal income taxes in the nation.

What does government cost? Often the only real answer is, Whatever politicians can convince us it costs. Maybe the politicians themselves are convinced. After all, without competitors and consumers making choices, it’s hard to say for sure.

Trent England David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow

Trent England

David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow

Trent England is the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he previously served as executive vice president. He is also the founder and executive director of Save Our States, which educates Americans about the importance of the Electoral College. England is a producer of the feature-length documentary “Safeguard: An Electoral College Story.” He has appeared three times on Fox & Friends and is a frequent guest on media programs from coast to coast. He is the author of Why We Must Defend the Electoral College and a contributor to The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Times, Hillsdale College's Imprimis speech digest, and other publications. Trent formerly hosted morning drive-time radio in Oklahoma City and has filled for various radio hosts including Ben Shapiro. A former legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he holds a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College.

Loading Next