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I post my sudden thoughts and second thoughts here from time to time -- usually having something to do with Philadelphia and governmental accountability, but occaisionally on something more (or less) interesting. Check out my Recent Writing for issues of the day and take a look at some more in-depth writing in Brett's Books. Or, view the Bulldog Budget, which represents a wonderfully visual way to conceive and account for how our government works (or doesn't work) for us.

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Most recently, I wrote
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Reassess This Mess

Philadelphia media is once again trumpeting stories detailing reports that city real estate tax assessments are inaccurate. These inaccuracies are forcing many neighbors to pay too much while giving others an unfair tax break. If this sounds familiar it is because this has been the case for all of our lifetimes. While some would pass this off as simple Philadelphia governmental incompetence, it is actually much more problematic. It is corruption. The assessment inaccuracies are not bugs in the system, they are features of the system. Incompetence is unfocused and unintentional. Corruption is purposeful and systematic.

I am not suggesting that officials are extorting bribes or that property owners are making payoffs to produce favorable assessments (although such things are not unheard of in Philadelphia). But corruption is not simply bribery and extortion. Practices that operate to favor or harm a portion of the population through mechanisms that are apart from an official decision-making processes are fundamentally corrupt. 

Maintaining a system of taxation that systematically forces certain taxpayers to pay more than they should to benefit taxpayers who do not pay their fair share is an intentional and deliberate -- and corrupt -- policy of Philadelphia government. While an effort a half-decade ago to improve the accuracy of city real estate assessments definitely made some progress to address the problem, the city's total failure to routinely administer accurate annual property valuations demonstrates that this broken and unfair system works just the way city leaders want it to.