Letter to the editor: Stand with Occupy Movement and Fix the Budgets

Maintain and Control?

In the Oakland Tribune’s article on Occupy Oakland, Mayor Jean Quan focused on maintaining safe and sanitary conditions, and controlling vandalism.

Maintain and control? After years in city government, Mayor Quan must know the city has been harmed tremendously by the same 1 percent the occupiers are fighting. City Hall is both strapped for cash and handcuffed by restrictions on the ability to create good budgets.

Rather than shut the occupiers down, I wish Quan and every other city official would stand with the 99 percent and let everyone know that voters alone have the power to pass state propositions to keep the good parts of the old Proposition 13 — passed in 1978 to keep people from losing their homes due to rising property taxes — and fix the rotten parts. Prop 13 enabled billionaires to pay state and local taxes at a lower rate than the lowest income families, and enabled majority Democrats and minority Republicans to blame each other while California sinks.

The mayor could provide portable toilets and Dumpsters — they will cost far less than helicopters and police. Then stand with the 99 percent and stop Prop. 13’s terrible effects: upside-down taxes, centralization of decision-making, and gridlocked and excuse-ridden governments.

Laura Wells

Oakland

[Published in Oakland Tribune, 10/28/11, letter to the editor, page A7 and online, http://www.insidebayarea.com/opinion/letterstotheeditor/tribune/ci_19207280

Occupy Movement Will Not be “Arrested”

The Occupy Movement will not be “arrested” – meaning stopped. The 1% has gone too far. People, especially young people, are too wise.

It reminds me of when I was arrested outside the gubernatorial debate a year ago. The private security guard told me, “You don’t belong here.” That was not the magic phrase to get me to move. Yes, as a Green Party candidate for Governor, I did belong there, and we of the Occupy Movement do belong here.

My crime was “trespassing at a private party.” Perfect. That’s what our democracy had become, a private party. This year people are arrested for disturbing the peace, but as Daniel Ellsberg said, what we’re doing is disturbing the wars.

All the oligarchy is doing with their arrests is to firm up our resolve to keep going. We won’t stop. Even if the movement seems to falter or stall, there’s no need to waste our time and energy wondering if it will continue. It will. We’ll use our time and energy (while maintaining our health and happiness!) to do everything we can to pull out from the oligarchy and their corporations pushing junk and destruction, and we’ll create another way.

Power of a Good Example that the Oligarchy Does Not Want Us to Believe

There are precedents for the kind of positive change we can achieve in the U.S. Of course the oligarchy has lied to us about good examples. And of course the good examples are not perfect! But just this morning I heard another South American president who was not the U.S. first choice got re-elected. This is excerpted from the British newspaper The Guardian, link:

Since [Cristina Kirchner] and her predecessor as president, her husband Néstor Kirchner, first moved into Argentina’s presidential palace in 2003, the income gap between the country’s rich and poor has been reduced by nearly half. Meanwhile, according to the International Monetary Fund’s numbers for 2002-2011, Argentina’s real GDP has grown 94%, the fastest in the western hemisphere and about twice the rate of Brazil, which has also grown substantially, the economist Mark Weisbrot said.

People Power Formula – that the Oligarchy Hates

In a future blog I will write about the formula for positive change most hated by the oligarchy: People Power = Social Movement + Electoral Movement. Latin America has changed in ways not expected 13 years ago. People most responsible for positive change were formerly disengaged from both the electoral process and social activism. Ironically, they understood the problems of the system the best, because they were the ones hurt by it. Then the breaking points occurred and things began to change for the better. People took to the streets, and began to vote for people and proposals that were not corporate-and-oligarchy backed.

The Occupy Movement will not stop. We will create a new way, and achieve the people power needed to keep it growing into the future.

How to Tax The Rich in California!

We need to wipe out Sacramento’s excuses for why they are not taxing the rich, and are instead giving us cuts-only budgets. Republicans are blaming majority party Democrats for our financial situation, but wait a minute –  Democrats are blaming minority party Republicans. How can that be?

First thing to remember is California is a wealthy state. For one thing, the number of billionaires in the state has grown to 85 with a total wealth of  $287 billion (10 times the California budget gap – think about that for a minute).

There’s no excuse for California to be in the financial situation it’s in, with bad budgets, terrible credit ratings, high unemployment, reduced educational opportunities, and a growing disparity of wealth.

What Can We Do?

Unlike voters in Wisconsin and other states, voters in California gave Democratic Party leadership big majorities in both houses of the Legislature, and 100% of statewide offices: Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Controller, Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and both U.S. Senators.

Could this group of elected officials stand together and make sure everyone knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what has happened to California? Of course. What if everyone knew with certainty that groups who’ve been blamed are not the root causes of our problems? Groups like welfare recipients, immigrants, school administrators, convicts.

“Honey, I love you, but you’ve got to change.”

That’s my valentine to old Prop 13. Keep the good parts, and acknowledge and fix the bad parts.

Proposition 13 was approved by voters in 1978 to keep people in their homes, especially seniors on fixed incomes. Thirty-plus years later a movement is afoot to fix problems caused by flattening property taxes, and do an even better job of keeping people in their homes.

Prop 13 had another rotten part. This one line in the ballot statement set the scene for the next 30+ years of bad budgets: Requires 2/3 vote of Legislature to enact any change in state taxes designed to increase revenues.

The State Controller, Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, majorities in the Legislature along with the Governor could show us step-by-step how the 2/3 vote requirement for matters of revenue reduced taxes on the richest, raised taxes on the rest of us, and forced cuts in everything from budgets for schools to budgets for fixing pot-holes. Only voters have the power to fix it, by passing a state proposition.

Years ago California had taxes that were much more fair, and the richest 1% were still able to get richer. We can enact those taxes again when we understand and demand a change in old Prop 13. We can stop the gridlock, stop the excuses, and tax the rich!

Great Information:

California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It, by Joe Mathews and Mark Paul, 2010, 192 pages, http://www.californiacrackup.com/

California Budget Project www.cbp.org. Sign up for their blog, California Budget Bites.

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