True Progressive Live is a new online video show dedicated to a discussion of California government issues and the restoration of a viable system of government in California that is truly accountable to the people, not the special interests.
In this broadcast:
Section #1: What is a “progressive”?
Section #2: California’s “Tax Revolt”
Section #3 Government Inc. vs. the Taxpayer
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a new movement emerged that became known as the “progressive era.”
The main objective of the Progressive movement was the elimination of corruption in government.
The movement targeted political machines and their bosses, according to a great summary by Wikipedia on the “Progressive Era.”
In California politics, the movement reached a critical mass with the emergence of Hiram Johnson and the progressives.
Johnson was elected to be California Governor in 1911 and ushered in a series of sweeping reforms that changed the face of California politics for the decades to come.
Perhaps the best know reform was the enactment of the “initiative process” to serve as a safety valve to control public interest control of California government and the Southern Pacific railroad political machine that dominated California politics.
Johnson ran on a reform platform and his goals were broadly humanitarian and pragmatic, according to renowned historian Spencer C. Olin, Jr.
Johnson wanted to develop an efficient public service which reflected the public good and not the good of the special interests, and to use the immense resources of California government on behalf of the people rather than exploiting them for private gain, according to Olin.
But the irony is that same civil service system set up by Johnson has now been transformed into perhaps one of the strongest political machine’s the state has ever known—the domination of California politics by the far-left public employee unions and their bosses.
And the initiative process, which was intended to give the people a direct vote and prevent corruption, is now used primarily as a vehicle for the special interests to fool voters into passing measure that result in the gifting of public funds to private interests.
The progressive era in California politics is fascinating, and perhaps represents one of the few windows in California’s history in which widespread political change was enacted with the goal of returning power to the people.
It is in the spirit of the “progressive movement” and the unquestioned moral character of Governor Hiram Johnson that inspired this show—True Progressive Live—and the need for another movement in California politics similar to the breadth and scope of the Johnson years in Sacramento in the years following 1911.
I would encourage folks to do some more research and reading on the “progressive era” because it provides a great model for political reform, and political action, that is truly progressive. Some additional resources will be provided soon in accompanying materials.
Link to Wikipedia report on “Progressive Era”:
Books on Progressive Era:
California’s Prodigal Sons: Hiram Johnson and the Progressives, 1911-1917, by Spencer C. Olin, Jr.
The California Progressives, by George E. Mowry
An Inside Look at California Politics, by Gladwin Hill
Section #2: California’s “Tax Revolt”
I now want to talk about a very interesting article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week titled “The Terms of Surrender in California’s Tax Revolt,” written by Joel Fox, former president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association.
Fox discusses the huge number of state and local tax measures on the November 2016 ballot in California, which total more than $30 billion in additional financial burden’s place on California taxpayers.
Fox and a recent report by Cal-Tax estimate that there are more than 427 local measures, in addition to a series of statewide ballot measure that all seek to raise taxes, and more than 80% of local tax measures passed in June.
Fox concludes that “California’s public-pension problem is what really drives many of these campaigns. State and local pensions are deeply in debt because of the generous giveaways elected officials have offered government workers.”
And while the money is not said to go directly to pensions for purposes of marketing to voters, the additional money in most cases frees up additional resources that could be used to pay for skyrocketing public employee benefit costs, particularly pension costs.
I am an expert in public budgeting and even created a multimedia documentary series called Insolvent Film, www.insolventfilm.com, on this issue, because I believe Fox and others have touched on what is likely the touchstone issue in California politics, and perhaps national politics as well, for our generation.
California’s tax burden continues to spiral out of control, and it appears it will take another grassroots political movement similar to the tax revolt of the late 1970s to provide any type of relief.
Both public debt, as well as our tax rates and overall revenues are at record levels, yet mainstream Democrat political establishment says we need to send taxes even higher to pay for unsustainable public pension costs, and unchecked government spending.
California currently has the highest taxes in the nation. We have the highest income tax at 13.3%, the highest sales tax at just under 10% in many jurisdictions, the highest corporate tax at 8.87%, the highest tax on small business at 13.3%, the highest gas tax, and among the highest property taxes.
Notwithstanding all this, we also have the highest fee and regulatory burden, combined with the highest cost of living and housing in the nation.
The current political establishment has place California in an impossible situation, in which we are doomed to failure unless we can break free from this self-imposed “tax and spend” cycle.
The situation is not unlike that which the state found itself in more than 40 years ago which culminated in the passage of Prop. 13 in 1978 and has since been dubbed “California’s tax revolt”—a movement with national historical significance that was copied and admired by the entire nation.
Beginning in the early 1970s it became apparent that many average Californians were simply getting taxed out of their homes with property tax assessments increases exponentially from year to year.
And nobody in Sacramento, including then Governor Jerry Brown, lifted a finger to do anything about it.
It took the likes of two political outsiders, Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann, to run a grassroots low-budget campaign that shocked the Sacramento political establishment in 1978 with the passage of Prop. 13, which set strict limits on property taxation and the ability of politicians to raise taxes.
Prop. 13 was opposed by the entire political establishment, and business community.
The only question is where will the leadership come from to oppose the current Democrat establishment?
A movement needs leaders, and nobody in the existing political establishment is stepping out, so it will likely take a small group of political outsiders to spark another taxpayer revolt in California.
Insolvent Film, documentary series on unsustainability of California government, www.insolventfilm.com
“The Terms of Surrender in California’s Tax Revolt,” by Joel Fox, Wall Street Journal, link: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-terms-of-surrender-in-californias-tax-revolt-1477524053
“The Consequences of Raising the White Flag to the “Tax and Spend” Interests Behind Prop. 55,” by David Kersten, No on Prop. 55 Campaign, Link: http://www.opposeprop55.com/blog/-the-consequences-of-raising-the-white-flag-to-the-tax-and-spend-interests-behind-prop-55
Prop. 13 Case Study, Inside Source, Link: http://www.kersteninstitute.org/inside-source.html
Section #3 Government Inc. vs. the Taxpayers
In California and elsewhere there has been an increasingly alarming trend whereby government has essentially become a money making enterprise that uses taxpayer resources to raise even more tax revenues on the general populace.
I call this Government Inc.—a government that is more about it’s own self-preservation and pursuit of a special interest agenda, than about serving the public interest.
There are countless examples of this during this election season, many of which have not come to public view. But the evidence indicates that California government itself is increasingly becoming a militant special interest that will stop at nothing to raise taxpayer dollars to further its own self-preservation and enrich the public servants, who are supposed to serve the public interest.
A recent Sacramento Bee report tells the story of the Sacramento City Unified School District which used robocalls, funded at taxpayer expense, to promote two major tax increases on the November 8 ballot, including Measure G and Proposition 55.
Furthermore, the district used its standing in the community, as well as public resources, to make a case that voters need to pass these measures to raise money for essential school programs and services that would otherwise be cut.
The robocalls failed to mention that revenues are at record rates, and that first draw on these funds will most likely be to pay for public employee pension costs, raises, and out of control benefit costs for district employees.
A student at Victor Valley College Victorville, CA, a community college reported that he was extremely concerned about aggressive marketing by the community college district in support of Proposition 55, which is projected to raise more than $4 billion annually for school districts in California.
The student reports that the college has dedicated a whole bulletin board in the computer lab to support “Yes on 55”, complete with brochures, stickers, buttons and fact sheets. And all college staff, funded at taxpayer expense, are wearing Yes on 55 buttons and lanyards.
The student says he did his own research of education law and this appears to be a violation of using public resources to support or defeat a ballot measure on the state ballot.
In the Bay Area, State Senator Steve Glazer reports that he has filed an ethics complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission regarding the use of public resources in support of the $3.5 billion bond (Measure RR) for improvement of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART).
Glazer received an email from BART, a public agency, entitled “Get Informed about Measure RR,” and it included a link to a video called “It’s Time to Rebuild” and other propaganda in support of the system improvements proposed in Measure RR.
In the complaint, Glazer stated the following: “I believe these communications, produced and disseminated by BART at public expense, violate Section 89001 and Regulation 18901.1 of the Political Reform Act.”
Taxpayer advocate Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, urges all state taxpayers to “be alert to the lies, distortions and illegal expenditures of taxpayer dollars when considering any request for higher taxes.”
Coupal states that many public agencies and tax raisers have become experts at gaming the system to pass local tax and bond measures. These measures are commonly put on the ballot at the last minute to prevent opponents from organizing or even filing an argument opposing the measure.
Coupal acknowledges that public services require public dollars, but asks voters to not vote yes on any tax increase without asking themselves why it is that nearly all other states have markedly better public services without the high price tag.
The emergence of Government Inc., is perhaps the biggest racket in the California economy today and is essentially results in the widespread defrauding of California taxpayers to fund what has essentially become a multi-billion special interest enterprise, that we still call government.
That’s it for this edition of True Progressive Live.
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