Video “Open Letter to Governor Jerry Brown”

This video has great graphics half-way through (thank you Art), at about minute 2:00. Here is the text of the video. Please tell me what you think, and feel free to forward.

Open Letter to Governor Jerry Brown

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.

Sincerely,

Laura Wells

P.S. Along with keeping only the good of good old Prop 13 and getting rid of the 2/3 rule for revenue, here’s another favorite solution to our budget woes.

Implement a State Bank for California, a publicly-owned bank that would not only protect us from the destructive games of Wall Street, but it would allow us to invest in California. Imagine a bank run by professional managers with no incentives for risk taking — no super-sized salaries, no fabulous bonuses, no recurring commissions for a short-term focus on boosting profit for quarterly statements. The state-owned bank would partner with local community banks and credit unions, and make good loans to students, homeowners, and local businesses. There are 17 states that are exploring publicly-owned banks. The California legislature passed a bill last fall to establish a task force to study a state bank. Unfortunately, Governor Jerry Brown did not sign it.

 

About Laura Wells: Solutions
I ran for Controller in California in 2014 on a State Bank and Tax The Rich platform. I am part of the “No Corporate Money” Campaign, in which candidates pledge to take no corporate money and voters declare our intention to vote for no-corporate-money candidates. As a Green Party candidate for Governor of California in 2010, I was arrested outside a gubernatorial debate for “trespassing at a private party.” But we won't stop, and so let's create a "public party" where we debate solutions to California's finances, like implementing a State Bank and taxing the rich -- to reduce the disparity and open up opportunities. Twitter: @LauraWellsCA

12 Responses to Video “Open Letter to Governor Jerry Brown”

  1. barbara michel says:

    definitely on the right track. i’d put that wonderful pie chart about the 12% tax and the 7.8% tax at the beginning, or close to it because it says it all.

    • Thanks for the feedback! Speaking of “on the right track” one of my favorite metaphors is that the two huge political parties are the Titanic Parties, and their leaders are heading straight for the iceberg and not changing course. One hundred years ago, on April 15, 1912 the “unsinkable” Titanic sunk. Sooner or later our unsinkable Titanics will sink, but this time there will be enough lifeboats. The independent “lifeboat parties” get bigger every time another person comes on board. Thanks again.

  2. curtis4ca says:

    The “budget gap” is based in part on a parasitic global economic structure. I am suggesting the schools be reorganized as co-op structures as a way of side stepping the entrenchment(s).

    • I agree, and I am inspired by the focus on cooperative schools and enterprises that’s a part of places where changes for the better are happening. Three examples are Richmond, California, Latin American countries especially those with new constitutions, and the Occupy movement. Go coops!

  3. Pam Spevack says:

    This rational approach makes great points, now to get others on board and appeal to their emotions!

  4. ninalasant says:

    This is an educational and very clear presentation of some of the facts. We need to have more people other than the “young” people really hear them and be inspired. I will send out your message.

  5. Gary Mueller says:

    I’m new to the Green Party and a lot of its economic philosophy’s, your video letter taught me a great deal and I will strive to learn more.
    Can you recommend any books on the general economic blueprint of Green economics?

    • Welcome to the Green Party! This link will introduce you to a classic book from when the Green Party was being founded in the U.S. http://www.charlenespretnak.com/GreenPolitics/index.html I would also recommend the websites of the presidential candidates Jill Stein, Kent Mesplay, and Roseanne Barr, or mine from the California Governor’s race in 2010, http://www.laurawells.org. Other books generally about Green economics include Web of Debt by Ellen Brown, a colleague and friend who writes extensively about State Banks and other publicly-owned banks, and books by Hazel Henderson. We definitely need to move our money. Again, welcome.

  6. Caroline Yacoub says:

    I’m really proud to have voted for such an intelligent articulate person with the sense to see workable solutions to our problems. It’s too bad so many other voters didn’t.
    Caroline Yacoub

    • Sooner or later people will begin to vote for non-Titanic party candidates. It’s likely to reach a tipping point rather than change gradually. In other countries the fixed two-party system dissolved and things began to turn toward benefits to the people. It can happen here, so we keep going! Thanks for your encouragement.

  7. Mary Carleton says:

    I wish you had included specific information regarding Prop 13.
    It was initially presented, and is still referred to, as protection for aging residential property owners. My understanding is that it has provided much more tax relief to business property owners, because turnover of those properties is much slower than residential property. I have heard that over time this has shifted the proportions of property tax contributed by residential and commercial property, so that residential property is carrying a much bigger part of the load than it used to. I would like to learn more, and encourage you to present this information, clearly, concisely, and with links to thorough analysis.

    • More information about Prop 13:

      I’m hoping that soon everyone understands the effects of Proposition13 on property taxes as well as you do now. You may also know that even when a commercial property does change hands, there are loopholes preventing it from getting re-assessed, unlike residential properties, which do get re-assessed when sold.

      The other part of Prop13 that has hurt regular people over time is the 2/3 majority to raise revenue and that is what I have focused on.

      In Prop 13’s summary in the California Voters Pamphlet of June 1978, among all the language about property tax you will find these words, “Requires 2/3 vote of Legislature to enact any change in state taxes designed to increase revenues.” That line gives a 1/3 minority in the Legislature veto power over taxing the rich. A simple majority can reduce taxes, while it takes a super-majority to raise them. In boom times the Legislature is motivated to lower taxes, benefiting primarily the political donor class; then in lean times they cannot get the revenue back. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_13_%281978%29 and see the list of External Links for “California Voters Pamphlet, June 6, 1978”

      In 2010 George Lakoff and many others attempted to eliminate both 2/3 majority requirements: the 2/3 for budget approval instituted in 1933, and the 2/3 for raising revenue instituted in 1978. It was called the Democracy Act and had 14-words, “All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote.” Lakoff, a linguist, describes how wording in polls and in Attorney General Jerry Brown’s petition description affects understanding and opinion about taxes. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-lakoff/the-poll-democrats-need-t_b_537993.html

      Jerry Brown, who was running as a Democratic candidate for Governor, and John Burton, Chair of the California Democratic Party, backed eliminating the super-majority for budget approval, but not for raising revenue. When we heard that infuriating news in spring of 2010, the words that popped into my head were, “Bad budgets faster!” The Legislature would be able to pass the budget with a simple majority and would be punished if they were late, but they would not be able to raise revenue. The budgets would be “cuts only.”

      Among the many services and infrastructures that have made California such a special state was the system of free or low-cost higher education established by Governor Pat Brown, Jerry Brown’s father. By keeping the 2/3 vote for raising revenue, budgets would be “cuts only” and our excellent educational system would continue to face tuition hikes along with increased class size and reduced opportunities. Schools, parks, libraries, roads, health services, and safety nets would all be on the chopping block.

      The grid-lock blame game continues. The minority Republican Party blames the Democrats for budget woes, after the 2010 elections the Democratic Party hold all seven constitutional offices (Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Controller, Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner), as well as the nonpartisan Superintendent of Public Instruction and both U.S. Senators, plus the Democrats have held large majorities in both houses of the legislature for years. The majority Democratic Party blames the Republicans because they only need 1/3 of the legislature to block any and all taxes. Most Republicans have signed the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” which should more accurately be called the “Rich Taxpayer Protection Pledge.” http://atr.org/taxpayer-protection-pledge.

      In order to achieve power for We The People, we are developing a “No Corporate Money” pledge to be signed by candidates, and a “Declaration of Intention” for voters, declaring that they will vote for candidates who take no corporate money.

      This information should help for now, and I expect to add more later. Thank you for your question.

      Another world is possible,
      Laura Wells

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