California is in crisis. Like almost every state in the Union after eight years of Bush, it is bankrupt. However, California is especially stuck, because back in the late 70’s, it put the question of property taxes to the voters. Well, as we all know, people love to vote for higher taxes, don’t they? The aptly-named Proposition 13 passed, and the property taxes were frozen at a very low level.
The most significant portion of the act is the first paragraph, which capped real estate taxes:
“ Section 1. (a) The maximum amount of any ad valorem tax on real property shall not exceed One percent (1%) of the full cash value of such property. The one percent (1%) tax to be collected by the counties and apportioned according to law to the districts within the counties. ”
The proposition’s passage resulted in a cap on property tax rates in the state, reducing them by an average of 57%. In addition to lowering property taxes, the initiative also contained language requiring a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses for future increases in all state tax rates or amounts of revenue collected, including income tax rates. It also requires two-thirds vote majority in local elections for local governments wishing to raise special taxes. Proposition 13 received an enormous amount of publicity, not only in California, but throughout the United States.
Passage of the initiative presaged a “taxpayer revolt” throughout the country that is sometimes thought to have contributed to the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980. However, of 30 anti-tax ballot measures that year, only 13 of them passed.
A large contributor to Proposition 13 was the sentiment that older Californians should not be priced out of their homes through high taxes. The proposition has been called the “third rail” (meaning “untouchable subject”) of California politics and it is not politically popular for Sacramento lawmakers to attempt to change it.
So, not only is the Golden State suffering because of the housing crisis (California is where a lot of the overbuilding was done) and the credit crunch; it is also unable to make up the difference in tax revenues. Of course, the matter has not been helped by the tenure of Ah-Nuld, the Governator himself, who is using this crisis to suggest the type of spending cuts Grover Norquist and all his Social Darwinist throwbacks could only dream of, and who may have conspired with Enron to defraud the state of $9 billion, thus contributing mightily to the problem he is now bemoaning.
Unfortunately, one thing the people of California cannot count on is help from the federal government. Why? Believe it or not, the rationale is that the other bankrupt states might ask for help too! And what if Obama has to take time off from vacationing on the Cape, taking his wife out to dinner in New York, and most importantly, throwing trillions of dollars at the financial industry and the military-industrial complex to actually take care of the citizens of the country he is supposed to be leading? The Horror!
What is wrong with this picture? What happened to our priorities? When left-leaning people said they wanted to take their country back, was this what they wanted?
In a very broad sense, there are two philosophies of government which Americans embrace: the “conservative” philosophy of Ronald Reagan, that hangs its hat on individualism, “freedom,” “moral clarity,” and a hatred of taxes and “big government;” and the “liberal” philosophy of FDR, that promotes social justice, loyalty to the Constitution, Main Street over Wall Street, and sacrifice for the “greater good.”
When the Democrats took over Congress in 2006, many of us liberal types celebrated, thinking that “our” side, the FDR side, had been victorious. From the people’s perspective, it seemed certain that we had dealt the Reaganites a death blow (metaphorically speaking, of course). Exit polls stated that voters wanted an end to the war in Iraq, a restoration of the rule of law, and more social programs like universal health care. Bush’s attempts to use his “political capital” to privatize Social Security, one of the last remaining components of FDR’s New Deal, were met with absolute rejection from the American citizenry. We won! We won! And when Speaker Pelosi took the gavel and became the third most powerful politician in America, we thought that women were finally making strides towards equality.
And yet…the Democrats spent two years disappointing us. Bush and Cheney were not impeached, despite the laudable efforts of Dennis Kucinich in that direction. Without the impeachment of the President and Co-President, the war in Iraq could never be ended, nor could any of the desired social programs make it past the lockstep Republican Congress. Even the expansion of coverage for poor and middle-class children (S-Chip) was vetoed by Bush, despite overwhelming support for the program from his employers, aka, us. The excuses that were given for the Democrats’ lack of results were that they simply did not have the votes to do what they were elected to do, but the excuses wore thin after a while. It was almost as if they didn’t WANT to represent us, and were representing a different constituency altogether.
Luckily for the Democrats, in 2007, Barack Hoover Obama, the New Messiah of Progressivism, burst onto the scene. At first he didn’t make much of a splash, but after a big push from Oprah, the Party leadership and a relentlessly fantasizing and fantabulating media, people began to believe that he was different, a “new kind of politician.” He would save us from the corrupt system in Washington. He was an outsider, not stuck in the old ways of doing business like that “polarizing” Clinton woman. Obama was lauded as the new Lincoln, JFK and FDR, though he shared neither the accomplishments nor the ideological bent of any of these American presidents. Indeed, early in the campaign he professed his profound admiration for…Ronald Reagan. Rather than raising the hairs on the back of the fauxgressive Obamasphere’s necks, this apparently caused them to love him even more. (It couldn’t be because almost all of the owners of the big blogs were Reaganites and/or Republicans at one point, could it? Of course not!) Our soon-to-be Salesman-In-Chief was just convincing enough to be elected President in 2008; even though Obama cracked the Party wide open and PUMAs went running for the hills, the electorate at large saw that “D” in front of his name, and assumed that he therefore subscribed to the traditional Democratic idea of government.
Unfortunately, the electorate was wrong. And now, it’s not just PUMAs that are finding themselves adrift without a Party – it’s people who voted for Obama as well, who still feel that the FDR way is the right way. They are seeing that Obama, through his actions if not always his words, supports torture, warrantless wiretapping, the so-called “war on terror,” the privatization of Social Security and Medicare, the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor, illegal immigration, extreme corporatism, the Unitary Executive theory, and the marginalization of all perceived “minority” groups, such as women and LGBT. Our Progressive Messiah is in full support of the Reagan philosophy of government.
This disconnect between what we expected and what we got is the cause of the tone of despair that is now ringing throughout the left blogosphere. We PUMAs swing back and forth between wanting to scream “We told you so, you idiots!” and numb, horrified anguish, as we obsessively note the ways in which the Obama administration is channeling Bush II, Reagan and Nixon.
How can we get America’s government to reflect America’s soul? We know that we cannot do it simply by switching Republicans and Democrats, since they have now, clearly, both embraced Reaganism. To me, the only way is to unite women, LGBT and those who support us, and build up a large voting bloc that can support candidates from any and all Parties who still believe in the FDR philosophy of government. Until we have the numbers, we will be in no position to make demands of either Party, or even to support a third Party (which I would love to do) in time for 2012.
Thankfully, our numbers are growing every day. Good thing we PUMAs didn’t slink away after the election the way you wanted us to, now isn’t it, Obots? We crazy, menopausal, right-wing Republican racists…might just be your only hope for your soul.