Page 11


working for free for the profit of a private company was not even dealt with in Farabee’s bill. Would that the legislature had been half as cautious and studious with these issues as it has been with something like tax equity which is being studied into the ground so that nobody has to vote on it. But as it is, even liberals seemed willing to go along for the experiment. “I’ve been to the Texas prisons and I know how bad things are,” said one lobbyist for church issues and social spending. -Perhaps someone else could do a better job [than TDC]. I don’t see how it could get any worse.” One reason the bill was difficult to oppose was because of the prevalent despair about the ability to bring true reform to the TDC. Private prisons are a false hope. Worse than that, the proposal leads away from a discussion of what true prison reform would be. The United States, which holds about 750,000 prisoners behind bars, and Texas, which imprisons about 38,000, continue to deal with crime by locking up more and more people. Yet putting more people away is not the only way to approach the crime problem. The government could take a far more constructive role by concentrating on out-of-prison punishment and restitution methods for nonviolent citizens. But Reagan Republicanism seeks to curb government intervention, as if all the world were one big marketplace. Privatization is essentially a vote of “no confidence” in government. D.D. DIALOGUE More Democracy I agree with my old friend Senator Ralph Yarborough \(TO, our Texas judiciary should be elected and nOt appointed by commissioners or commissars of any stripe. Every general election year all incumbent judges should have their name listed on the ballot so the people could vote and every judge. This should apply to all courts including the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the American people to prune the deadwood and sapwood. Supreme Court vacancies should be filled by naming a panel of the nine senior elected Chiefs Justice of the 50 states with each voter voting for but one of the nine thereby ranking the replacement panel. This plan of election would be easily understood and relatively inexpensive and judges would not be running against each other but against their own performance record as perceived by the people. California has a remove/retain system for reviewing its incumbent Supreme Court justices but it operates only once every six years which is much too long for each justice to *sit without being subject to popular review. It is worth noting that in the 1986 bloodletting both conservative and liberal justices survived with the casualties being limited to the sociologists who practiced “air law.” Democrat Thomas Jefferson spoke of “an aristocracy of ability” and Democrat Woodrow Wilson advised “if democracy seems not to be woi’king the prescription is more democracy not less democracy.” Thomas B. Caldwell, III Mount Pleasant Heavy Hitters Thank you for publishing Ralph Yarborough and Bob Eckhardt in the same issue. Texas has need to recall those capable gentlemen who served Texans so long, so well. Elza Gardner Tax College Station Darn Tootin’ The Observer is to be congratulated for the complete airing in the most recent issue \(TO, problems facing Texas. I may not be in wholehearted agreement with the Honorable Bob Eckhardt on his proposals for a corporate income tax. But, I darn sure agree that the franchise tax needs reforming. I’ve noticed of late also that it’s more than just a handful of progressive thinkers who are talking about tax reform in Texas. Maybe some of the ideas are spreading to the corporate board rooms. Bob Bullock Comptroller of Public Accounts Austin For the Income Tax Texas must adopt a state income tax that applies to personal as well as business income. The people who discussed tax reform in the Observer \(TO, Even worse, the best argument for the adoption of a state income tax was not even mentioned, and another important argument was noted only indirectly. Let me set forth the two most important arguments in favor of adopting a personal income tax, and limiting reliance on the sales tax \(the only major 1. An income tax is fairer than the sales tax because the sales tax is regressive \(the more people earn the rises, people spend less on consumer products so the rate of sales tax paid decreases under any form of a sales tax. The Texas version of the sales tax, which applies to goods but not services, is even more pernicious because as income rises more is spent on services and less on goods. This suggests that even a non-progressive state income tax is preferable to the sales tax. Anyway, recent changes in the tax laws have made the federal income tax much less progressive, which should reduce opposition to a progressive income tax. 2. Primary reliance on an income tax, together with a reduction in the amount of the sales tax, represents the most sensible tax policy for Texas because of changes in the federal income tax law. Until 1986, both income and sales taxes qualified as deductions on the federal income tax return. Starting in 1987, dollars paid in the form of state income tax are deductible, but sales taxes are not deductible for federal income tax purposes. For individual Texans, the cost at the state level of a dollar paid in the form of an income tax and a dollar paid as sales tax is identical. On the federal return, however, a dollar paid in state income tax is treated more favorably than a dollar paid in sales tax. The practical result is that continued reliance on a sales tax will cost Texans in deductions annually. I can think of no good reason for Texans to needlessly pay billions of dollars in additional taxes to the federal government. A state income tax should be tied to the federal income tax. Thinking liberals should resist the temptation to make the state income tax “fairer” by deviating from the federal system. Simplicity is essential to acceptance. People of all political persuasions can agree that a system of taxing individuals that is incomprehensible to normally intelligent adults is a disgrace. With regard to a corporate income tax, the often stated myth that the absence of an income tax attracts businesses to Texas needs to be demolished. To begin with, state taxes are a minor factor in locational decisions 4 APRIL 17, 1987