The 18th-century Scottish lawyer Alexander Tytler is often credited with the following maxim: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury.”
Whether Tytler originated the thought or not, the message remains relevant today. Consider what’s going on in Arizona when it comes to teacher compensation.
Arguing they are underpaid, Arizona teachers in March held a series of high-profile walkouts designed to elicit public sympathy. After a few weeks of protests at schools and the State Capitol, the governor caved and agreed to a legislative package that would increase teacher salaries by 20 percent over the next few years. In early May, lawmakers backed a bill that would fund $273 million in raises — primarily through higher vehicle registration fees — on a conditional basis.
Not surprisingly, it wasn’t enough. It never is and never will be. Simply put, there is no amount of money that will ever satisfy the architects of the nation’s struggling education establishment.
Arizona teachers have now vowed to launch campaigns to replace certain reticent lawmakers. Fine. That’s politics. In addition, “a coalition of teachers, parents and education advocates” has now coupled with a progressive Illinois public policy group to gather signatures for a ballot question that would force additional teacher raises, according to the Arizona Capitol Times.
The proposal would jack the state income tax by a whopping 76 percent on individuals earning more than $250,000 and double the levy on those making more than $500,000. The initiative would also mandate that 60 percent of the estimated $690 million annual take be diverted to teacher salaries.
In other words, Arizona teacher union activists and their hard-left allies are trying to use the democratic process to forcibly extract hundreds of millions of dollars from the pockets of productive private citizens in order to transfer the money to their own bank accounts.
It doesn’t get any clearer than this. How nice it must be to have the opportunity to simply vote yourself access to someone else’s money. Where is the moral distinction between this and outright theft?
Whether the tax measure qualifies for the ballot and passes remains to be seen. But Nevadans should watch closely because, if this effort succeeds in Arizona, we can expect a similar proposal to migrate our way.
The matter of teacher pay certainly warrants a serious policy and political debate. That’s what lawmakers are for. But the Arizona initiative reeks of a shakedown gussied up in the mantle of democracy. At least a mugger is honest enough to use a gun.