Carey seems to think that the Arizona tax credit is an unusual and inherently “corrupt” deviation from the “well-established process for spending public resources.”
Nowhere in the post did I say that tax credits are “inherently” corrupt. I said that the Arizona program is specifically corrupt, because is it. Greene offers no evidence otherwise, because the program’s corruption is blatant and well-documented.
Greene also says that if I’m against giving parents a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations to their child’s private school I must also be against the mortgage deduction and the child care tax credit. That’s silly. Standard deductions and tax credits are means for the government to give people money to support a particular activity. They’re no different than cutting people a check. The Arizona tuition credit, by contrast, turns people into private appropriators of the government’s money. They can’t give it to themselves, they can only give it specially-created non-profits which in turn hand out scholarships. Now, it’s true that a number of parents quickly figured out how to circumvent those restrictions by entering into logrolling arrangements with other parents whereby Parent A would donate money to a school with the understanding that it be designated for the child of Parent B, who would then reciprocate for the child of Parent A. But that’s just one of the (many) ways in which the Arizona program is corrupt.
Greene also deems as “frightening” the idea that “the government owns all of our money except what it deigns to let us keep.” This is useful illustration of the essentially childish relationship that people like Jay Greene have with the idea of government. The American government isn’t a monster hiding in your closet or under your bed. It’s not an oppressive foreign power or an alien coming to abduct you. The government is us and we are the government. Not in totality, of course. But they’re not wholly distinct, either–that’s what democracy means. The government doesn’t own all of your money but it does own some of it. Greene offers no counter-argument to this idea, because there isn’t one.
More broadly, it’s worth considering how the Arizona tuition tax credit really fares with respect to conservative values. Apparently, Greene not only believes that Arizona taxpayers should be coerced into providing millions of dollars to support private schools, but he doesn’t even think that impulse should have to be adjudicated through the normal process of public budgeting. Instead, he wants empower individual citizens to direct tax dollars where they like. Where does that end, exactly? Is it really a recipe for a judicious, limited government?