Tag Archives: california

Is Sarah Palin Coming to Your Neighborhood? (California, Here She Comes!)

palin.terminator1.If I’m correct that Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska governor in order to lead a right wing movement that is ostensibly independent of the major political parties, then the next question is: where will she establish her new home and base of operations?

The Northeast is too liberal, the South is too connected to racial politics (and there’s too much competition for conservative leadership and not enough big money), Washington, D.C., is too much of an enemy camp, and the Midwest doesn’t have enough access to the media.

Texas is certainly a possibility, but I don’t think she’ll want to compete for power with the Bush clan.

Florida also is a possibility, but I don’t think she’ll want to compete for conservatives with both Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.

Utah is solidly Mitt Romney and Mormon territory, and Arizona belongs to former running mate (and now political rival) John McCain.

And while Idaho might have the most ideologically receptive population, it is so far off the media radar that she might as well stay in Alaska.

That leaves California.

Specifically, Southern California.

And more specifically, Orange County.

Orange County is rich, conservative, and close to Los Angeles’ enormous media network.

And California has no nationally known conservative political figure (Arnold doesn’t count) to offer her any real competition.

In fact, the California Republican Party is so fractured because of the budget battle and the hang-them-all ideology of its tea party militants that the Republican establishment wouldn’t be able to offer any real competition to Palin’s brand of radical right-wing conservatism.

It might be very bad news for more moderate Republicans like Meg Whitman and for the statewide chances of the Republican Party, but you can bet that John and Ken would welcome her with open arms (and air waves).

Are you ready for the new Terminator?

California, here she comes!

The New Attack on Democracy: What the Founders Knew But We’ve Forgotten

constitutionOne of the foundational principles of American democracy is under attack.

When the nation’s Founders crafted the United States Constitution in 1787, they were careful to include a requirement that:

“The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States.” (Art I, Sec. 6, Clause 1).

A similar provision for compensation applies to the president:

“The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.” (Art II, Sec. 1, Clause 7).

The Founders understood that providing compensation for the new government’s elected officers was not a trivial matter, but an essential and cutting edge principle of the new democracy that they were striving to create — and one that directly and profoundly affected the kind of people who would be willing and able to serve as representatives of the people.

They knew too that no other nation on earth insisted on compensation for its elected officials.

In England, members of parliament as a rule served without pay.  In colonial America, candidates for public office usually followed the practice of their English counterparts and promised to serve without compensation.  In the states themselves, only Pennsylvania provided for “wages” from the “state treasury” to “all lawmakers.”

The Founders knew that this English aristocratic practice of not paying public officers created an enormous disadvantage for less wealthy candidates who could not afford to serve without receiving an adequate income for their efforts.

The Founders did not want public service to be a genteel avocation reserved for men of independent wealth, as it was in England, but wanted instead to create a system in which – as James Madison said – public office would be open to “those who have the most merit and least wealth.”

Fueled by the rhetoric of anti-government and anti-egalitarian demagogues (mostly in or allied with the Republican Party), this foundational and deeply American egalitarian principle is now under attack in this country – especially in California, where voters are responding to the state’s budget crisis by cutting the salaries of legislators and city officials, and where our billionaire governor constantly rails against legislative salaries and supports a 10 percent pay cut in legislative compensation.

But as the Founders knew – and we clearly have forgotten – adequate compensation for public officials is an essential element of a democratic government.

Cutting the salaries of public officials will mean that only the rich will able to serve – and when only the rich can serve, we will have the opposite of the government that Madison envisioned – one in which our representative have “the most wealth and the least merit.”

The Founders would not be pleased that the people are now so willingly – even eagerly – abandoning one of the fundamental principles of the American democracy that they fought to create.

Orange County Republicans Shed Crocodile Tears Over the Effects of Prop 13

croctearsRepublican crocodile tears flowed this weekend in Orange County as a group of city officials called F.I.S.T. – “Fight Insane State Theft” – comprised of 14 Orange County mayors and 42 city council members, nearly all of them Republicans – protested Republican Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan to take away billions in state property tax revenue from their cities.

According to the Orange County Register, the group held a rally this past weekend in Placentia, joined by an array of Republican front organizations posing as anti-tax crusaders, including Citizens for a Better Placentia, Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers, and Yorba Linda Residents for Responsible Representation.

The Register notes that the protesters are “particularly concerned about losing funds for roads and other transportation projects.”

But it is the Republicans themselves – and their corporate funded anti-tax allies – who are themselves directly responsible for giving the state the power to take away property tax revenue from California cities.

Prior to 1978, local governments in California (as elsewhere in the nation) could set their own property tax rates and spend the money that they raised on local needs.

But the Republicans did not trust local governments or local voters with the power to tax local property or to spend that revenue as they thought appropriate.

So they decided to give the state the sole power to set property taxes and to give the state legislature the sole power to decide how that money would be spent.

Prop 13 took away the cities’ power to set property tax rates or levy property taxes, and gave all such power to the state — where it would be subject to Prop 13’s strict limits and the 2/3 rule – in other words, subject to the statewide anti-tax minority’s veto, regardless of the wishes or needs of local officials or voters.

Now our local Republican elected officials and Republican anti-tax front groups are outraged about “losing funds for roads and other transportation projects”  — which, by the way, tend to benefit large landowners and developers more than local citizens — because the state wants to spend that money elsewhere.

This latest instance of Orange County Republican hypocrisy reminds me of an exchange from Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot:

Estragon: We’ve no rights any more?
Laugh of Vladimir, stifled as before, less the smile.
Vladimir: You’d make me laugh if it wasn’t prohibited.
Estragon: We’ve lost our rights?
Vladimir: (distinctly). We got rid of them.

So I ask our Orange County Republicans: Having given up our rights, are you now ready to amend Prop 13 to return the property tax power to local governments and local voters?

Democrats Should Be Joining the Tea Parties

obama-taxes1

Democrats are responding to the growing nationwide phenomena of anti-tax “tea parties” protests by mocking them and by pointing out that they are prompted and run by right-wing organizations.

Neither response is a winning political strategy.

It is pure political stupidity — and bad economic policy — for Democrats to treat the tax protests with derision or contempt.

Rather than mocking the aims of the tea parties, Democrats should follow the lead of presidential candidate Barack Obama, who promised to “provide a tax cut for working families” and “restore fairness to the tax code and provide 95 percent of working Americans the tax relief they need.”

Obama also promised to provide tax relief for small businesses and startups by  eliminating “all capital gains taxes on startup and small businesses to encourage innovation and job creation.”

What Obama recognized – and Democrats already seem to have forgotten – is that working families are in fact being over-taxed while the super rich have gotten a free ride – and that voters will cast their ballots for the party and the candidates who they believe will create a fairer tax code and reduce their tax burden.

And while it is certainly legitimate to point out that the anti-tax tea parties are being manipulated and guided by right-wing groups and talk-show hosts whose agendas are not the same as working and middle class voters, this point is devoid of political impact unless it is accompanied by a commitment to do a better job than these groups of protecting working class and middle class economic interests.

For too long, Democrats – especially in California – have allowed Republicans to dominate and set the terms of the tax debate.

As a result, Democrats have allowed Republicans to paint them as the party of higher taxes – and have allowed the super rich to pretend to defend the economic interests of working families and the middle class while in fact shifting the costs of government to those who are least able to afford it.

Instead of responding to the tax protests with mockery and contempt, Democrats need to insist on talking about the kinds of taxes that the government imposes and who pays them.

We should insist that all taxes be progressive and focused on overturning the Republican’s outrageous favoritism of the super rich.

Especially in the midst of the current recession, we should oppose any increases whatsoever in regressive taxes – such as the sales tax, the automobile tax, and the gasoline tax – that disproportionately hit working and middle class families, unless and until the state and federal tax code is revised to require that the super rich pay their fair share.

Of course these tax protest “tea parties” are a Republican sham — the Republican anti-tax activists not interested in reducing the tax burden on the middle class and working families, but in keeping the Bush tax breaks for the rich — but that does not mean that the underlying middle class protest — even rage — at their tax burden should be ridiculed. On the contrary, it means that the Democrats should insist on seizing the debate and turning it against the Republicans — as Obama did.

Democrats can win the tax debate – if they take the tax protest “tea parties” seriously.

Related posts:

Why I Love Conservative Talk Radio’s John and Ken Show

The Charge of the Democrat Light Brigade: California Democrats Caught in Republican Tax Trap

Why the Republican Anti-Tax Movement Doesn’t Care About the Taxes that YOU Pay

Why the Republican Anti-Tax Movement Doesn’t Care About the Taxes that YOU Pay

I listened recently to Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, on the Los Angeles NPR radio program “Air Talk with Larry Mantle.”

jarvisThe specific topic was the tax increase ballot measures, such as Proposition 1A, that were part of last month’s budget deal and are coming before California’s voters in a special election on May 19.

But Coupal wanted to talk about California’s taxes in general, and he made the claim that California’s taxes are the highest in the nation.

Wait a minute, I thought.

If Coupal is correct about Californians being so outrageously overtaxed — more than 30 years after the passage of Prop 13 – isn’t he admitting that both the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and its primary accomplishment – Prop 13 – have been dismal failures?

In fact, neither Coupal nor the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association really care about the amount of taxes that most Californians pay.

What they care about is the kind of taxes and who pays them.

And that’s far from the same thing as caring about taxes in general, or the taxes paid by the average Californian.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and Prop 13, was initially a project of Los Angeles’ biggest apartment landlords.  Jarvis himself was a lobbyist for the Los Angeles Apartment Owners Association – initially concentrating his efforts in attempting to destroy rent control — and ran the campaign for Prop 13 from the Apartment Owners Association’s office.

The goal of Jarvis and his allies was not primarily to limit the taxes paid by California’s homeowners – at least not those who actually live in the houses that they own – or to limit the taxes paid by middle class Californians.

Instead, the goal of Jarvis, the anti-tax Republicans – and of Prop 13 – was to limit the taxes paid by the largest and richest commercial landowners and landlords.

By that measure – and only by that measure — his work and the work of his successors such Jon Coupal — has been a tremendous success.

Of course, as a direct result of Prop 13’s cap on business and commercial property taxes – and its equal treatment of all property taxes regardless of the kind of property owned – the rest of our taxes have increased.

In particular, Californians have been pummeled by increasing regressive taxes, such as the sales tax, the gasoline tax, and the vehicle registration tax.

But the Republican anti-tax movement doesn’t care – and has never cared — about those kinds of taxes.

And by talking about taxes as though all taxes were the same and applied equally to everyone, the Republican anti-tax movement continues to protect the giant landlords whose taxes they’ve keep down and to bamboozle the middle class voters whose taxes continue to rise.

The next time you hear one of the anti-tax Republicans – or an avid John and Ken Show listener — strike a phony populist pose as they complain about California’s high taxes, ask them this:

How have the Republican anti-tax crusaders  limited taxes on the middle class or the average Californian?

Why do they make no distinction between taxes on owner-occupied property and taxes on business, commercial and landlord property?

Why do they insist on making no distinction between progressive taxes – which require the richest Californians to pay more – and regressive taxes – which require us all to pay the same?

When you don’t get an answer to these questions, ask yourself this one:

How stupid do they think we are?

Based on their success in protecting the landlords and the rich by foisting California’s tax burden on the middle class, I’d say they have good reasons to think we’re pretty damn stupid.

The Charge of the Democrat Light Brigade: California Democrats Caught in Republican Tax Trap

charge-of-the-light-brigade-posters2Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
— Alfred Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Like the Russians did to the British at Balaclava in Tennyson’s famous poem, California’s Republicans have set a deadly trap for Democrats that they won’t be able to escape.

When the state’s more than $40 billion shortfall and budget stalemate was resolved last month, it was on condition that several tax increase propositions — most notably Prop 1A — be placed before the voters.  Governor Schwarzenegger has set May 19, 2009, as the date that the voters will decide the fate of these propositions in a special election.

Schwarzenegger and the state Democratic leadership support these tax increase propositions.

The Republicans – who acquiesced in both the budget and its tax increases by permitting the minimum number of their party members to vote for the deal that ended the stalemate – are now likely to oppose them.

Joining the Republicans in urging that voters reject the tax increase propositions will be the state’s powerful and well-funded anti-tax organizations, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

As a result, the voters will see an intense, expensive, and high publicity campaign leading up to the May 19 special election that pits Democrats (and their union allies) arguing for higher taxes against Republicans (and their anti-tax allies) calling for no increase in taxes.

Once again, the Republicans will be the party saying no to taxes and the Democrats will be forced to be the party of tax increases.

To most voters, it will not matter that the budget deal was explicitly premised on the state getting the increased revenue from these taxes.

Nor will it matter to the Republicans that they tacitly agreed to these tax increases when they signed off on the state’s budget.

Instead, the Republicans will seize the opportunity of the special election to make amends to the state’s anti-tax forces – which are mad as hell at them for agreeing to the state budget – and to paint the Democrats – once again — as profligate spenders who want to tax Californians to death.

To make matters worse for the Democrats, the propositions that are going before the voters on May 19 are mostly hikes in regressive taxes and state fees – including increases in the state’s income tax, sales tax, gasoline tax and vehicle fees – that hit middle class pocketbooks hardest.

Again, it will not matter to voters that it was the Republicans who insisted that if the state’s revenue is increased, it be increased by the most regressive kinds of tax measures.

Nor is it likely to matter to voters that for decades the Republicans and the state’s anti-tax forces have forced the middle class to bear the brunt of the state’s revenue needs because of Prop 13’s constitutional command not to tax commercial or business property differently than owner-occupied homes, and the Republicans’ steadfast commitment to protecting the rich by opposing any form of progressive taxation.

The reason that these facts are unlikely to matter to voters is that the Democrats have done a terrible job of making these arguments in the past, and specifically failed to make these arguments during the heat of the most recent budget battle.

California’s Democrats should have taken their cue from the Obama campaign and insisted that the state’s already battered middle class be protected from any tax increase.

And like Obama, California’s Democrats should instead have called for balancing the state budget through higher taxes for the very rich who have benefited so disproportionately from both the Bush tax cuts and the financial deregulation that has led to our national economic crisis.

But it’s probably too late to do that now.

The tax trap is set.

And California’s Democrats are riding right into it.

Orange County Republican Mayor’s Racist Email — “You Gotta Laugh”

Los Alamitos’ Republican Mayor Dean Grose recently sent an email to friends that showed a picture of the White House with a watermelon patch imposed as the White House garden under the title “No Easter egg hunt this year.”

watermellon

Image sent in email by Los Alamitos' Republican Mayor Dean Grose

One of the people who received the email was local business woman Keyanus Price, an African American.  She said she was horrified and appalled.

I won’t pretend that I’m appalled.

In fact, I’m delighted.

Once again, Orange County’s Republican officials have exposed themselves as among the most racist, and moronic, politicians in the country.

If I were a Republican, I’d be deeply embarrassed.

But I’m not.

Grose said that he didn’t think the email was racist.  “The way things are today, you gotta laugh every now and then,” Grose said when the email was made public.

Now Grose has said that he’ll resign.

No doubt the Orange County Republican Party will find another brilliant public servant to take his place.

UPDATE

It now appears that Dean Grose is planning to resign only from his ceremonial job as mayor, not from his seat on the Los Alamitos City Council.

Grose is also not planning to resign as a director of the League of California Cities Orange County Division and the Southern California Association of Governments (where he represents the communities of Cypress, La Palma and Los Alamitos).

You can tell Grose what you think of his email by sending him an email of your own:

dgrose@ci.los-alamitos.ca.us