Private businesses and citizens are scrambling to protect their pocket books as local politicians seek ways of dodging the real problems of public transit (e.g. government supplied transportation) — an inefficient and bloated socialist model — by using a drink tax to dump the problem on the backs of local citizens who deserve better.
Libertarians do not support dumping the cost of one persons’ needs on the backs of others. It also does not support pitting citizen against citizen in fights like this.
In this case, the drink tax proposal pits two groups against each other. First there are those who would benefit from the drink tax:
- The riders of public transportation;
- The unionized Port Authority Transit (PAT) employees who monopolize public transportation services;
- the politicians who garner votes from both of these constituencies.
Then there are those who pay for it:
- Those earning a living serving drinks;
- Those consumers who enjoy a drink out.
Now, let’s be clear: The root problems with public transportation are being dodged by your current local politicians, and their objective is to saddle unsuspecting taxpayers with more of the transportation bill so they get more votes from two key constituencies — the riders and PAT employees. These politicians also want you to believe the problem is — as it always is — that there is not enough money, and that a new source is needed or else all will fall apart.
The LP of Pittsburgh disagrees with this cop-out solution because it does nothing to solve the core problems, and it makes worse others. We note the that the real problems are as follows:
- Existing laws prevent open competition in public transportation, providing a monopoly to those who are politically connected. It is quite literally illegal to compete in some areas of public transportation, keeping taxpayer costs artificially high. This results in overall costs that would translate into fares that would far exceed what the market tolerates — and taxpayers have been forced for years to cover the difference.
- The taxpayer paid subsidy to PAT further exacerbates the monopoly, making it impossible for entrepreneurs to offer competitive alternatives in those areas where it is legal to compete;
- The PAT government employee’s union has a monopoly on labor supplied in PAT-related transportation. Those contracts far exceed the free market wage and benefit rate, and those excesses are not passed on to consumers, but are instead piled onto the struggling backs of taxpayers year after year;
- Consumers are subsidized, and are therefore price-indifferent except when a larger portion of the real, bloated costs are liable to be passed on to them through higher fares. Compounding this problem is that consumers are provided no choices due to the aforementioned monopolies.
Libertarian candidates will address these problems without dumping their consequences on unrelated parties who have enough tax burdens on them already. We agree with those complaining: a drink tax is a cop-out and politics as usual in Allegheny County. It risks providing yet another reason for business and taxpayers to seek greener pastures elsewhere. Worse yet, it does so by favoring some citizens at the expense of others — an immorality native to poor governance and warned of by our founding fathers.
Libertarians believe Pittsburgh and the overall region needs less taxes and politicized redistribution of wealth from hard working citizens and the functioning economy, and into the bottomless pit of the government trough.