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November 10, 2005 | South Carolina Headlines


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DeMint v. Tenenbaum: stark differences on taxes
Ralph Bristol
August 17, 2004

In today’s Greenville News, Dan Hoover reported, “Republican Jim DeMint and Democrat Inez Tenenbaum turned their U.S. Senate campaign Monday to taxes — how much and how you pay them. The issue represents one of the most stark divisions between the pair.”


Boy, does it ever. But the most important divisions won’t be easy for the untrained eye to detect.  Sure, everyone will know that DeMint favors a total overhaul of the tax system and Tenenbaum doesn’t, but it takes a bit more work to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Tenenbaum favors raising taxes. She will deny that of course. No politician since Walter Mondale has admitted openly that they favor raising taxes, except on the rich.


Tenenbaum has recently, and will continue to deny that she favors raising taxes, so one has to review some other things she has said to determine whether that is true.


As Cato Scholar Michael Tanner pointed out in an editorial today, Tenenbaum has attacked Jim DeMint’s support of Social Security reform. Borrowing a phrase that propelled Al Gore to obscurity, she called it a “risky scheme” that would "benefit Wall Street, but is not a good plan for Main Street." She promises never to "privatize" Social Security. She also promises to restore “fiscal responsibility” to Social Security and to never reduce benefits. If she keeps to those promises, she has left herself only one option – to raise taxes.


Tenenbaum will have some trouble getting out of her Social Security box, but she has made an even more explicit in support of tax increases. In discussing what she considers South Carolina’s school funding problem with SCETV’s Charles Bierbauer in March last year, Tenenbaum pushed for an increase in state and/or local taxes.


She started by informing Bierbauer that she has requested that the Governor and the Legislature come up with a committee to “decide collectively how we’re going to go about funding education.” 


Tenenbaum then began to educate Bierbauer that the problem started with Republicans cutting taxes. “Several years ago,” she said, “we had a property tax rollback initiative by the legislature.”  Tenenbaum charged the legislature may be violating the law by funding the Property Tax Relief Act before “fully funding” education.


Bierbauer:  “Would South Carolinians pay more for education if they were asked to?”


Tenenbaum: “I believe they would. I really believe when parents and community leaders realize the devastation – what’s this is doing to education, I do believe that people would pay more taxes.”  She continued, “The dilemma is where the money will be produced.  Is it going to be from local property taxes or is it going to be a mixture of property tax, sales tax and income tax?  And that is why I go back to having a commission….to look at…what it will take to fund it and where the sources will come from.”


DeMint and Tenenbaum do have one thing in common in their approach to taxes – the desire for a commission. While DeMint has proposed his own plan to replace the federal income tax, capital gains tax, corporate tax and inheritance and gift tax with a sales tax, he believes a commission, similar to the base closing commission, is a necessary vehicle to get any major tax reform.


DeMint want a commission to determine how to simplify taxes. Tenenbam wants a commission to determine how to raise taxes. As Hoover put it, the difference could not be more stark.

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DeMint is pushing a re-tread of a his idea that failed to get any real support in the House. The Greenville News reported today that the gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% is getting larger, but DeMint is worried that the bottom 20% are not paying their fair share of taxes. . . .

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