Open Letter to Governor Jerry Brown
January 5, 2012 14 Comments
I heard your voice on the radio saying that if more cuts are needed, they will come from education because “that’s where the money is!” The reference was to the oft-quoted answer to the question, “Why do you rob banks?”
That little joke, right there, points to the heart of our budget disasters and to the thinking that keeps the disasters in place.
Where is the money? In cuts to public education? In cuts to welfare and childcare? No, the money is in the hands of the super rich. Not in public schools where California’s spending is near the bottom of all the states.
Every single time that you speak about the budget you have a chance to improve the system, or not. You and your Democratic Party colleagues hold huge majorities in both houses of the legislature and 100% of the statewide offices from Governor to State Controller to Insurance Commissioner. Every time you speak and do not condemn the two-thirds majority required to raise taxes, you are selling out the 99% and pandering to the 1%.
I cannot wait until representatives in Sacramento – the current batch or new ones we will elect – catch up with the rest of us. Led by the young people of Occupy, the social movements have shifted from the plea of “Stop The Cuts” to demanding the solution, “Tax The Rich.”
Statistics are readily available to explain to people who love old Prop 13 and its two-thirds vote requirement that their love is misplaced and unrequited.
Explain that California has 94 billionaires with a total wealth of $311 billion. Only 10% of that wealth would close the budget gap. Although it would be a hardship for 6 people since they would no longer be billionaires, and would only have $900 million, they would probably get it back within a year. California would not have to cut welfare, childcare, and schools.
Explain how our tax structure is upside down. As updated every year by the California Budget Project, when you look at family income and all state and local taxes, not just income tax, the poorest 20% pay a higher tax rate than the richest 1%. Families who average $12,600 pay 11.1% and those who average $2.3 million pay 7.8%. That’s where the money is. Wealth like that used to be taxed at higher rates, and in those times people could still get richer.
Explain that a bipartisan budget agreement in favor of the 99% is a fantasy and will never be reached when slightly more than 1/3 of California legislators have signed a pledge that they will never vote to raise taxes. The 2/3 requirement gives that 1/3 minority veto power over taxing the rich. The only bipartisan budget agreement operating right now is the silence about the rotten parts of old Proposition 13.
You were Governor in 1978 when Proposition 13, with all of its damaging unintended consequences (unintended by the voters), was voted into law. It is only fitting that you should undo its damage now.