Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

In California, the Winners Aren't Apologizing To God For Being Liberal

While Barack Obama celebrated his re-election with a wooden victory speech that was more about Christian American God than the human beings who stood in lines to keep him in the White House, in California nobody is apologizing for big liberal wins. Governor Jerry Brown worked his Proposition 30 tax increase hard, constantly flying up and down the state on Southwest, speaking Latin and Greek to the delight and confusion of media people, and making it very clear (in English) that the rival Proposition 38 was a scam funded by a multimillionaire wingnut. Brown's tax on the very rich won, by eight points, and Brown claimed victory with another phlegmball about "Kool-Aid of the market ideologues." (The scam proposition, 38, was rejected by 72% of voters.)

Throughout the state, Democrats crushed entrenched Republicans, and even entrenched suburban right-wingers like Congressman Howard Berman (a registered Democrat and hawk), who lost a $13 million campaign to keep his long-safe seat in San Fernando Valley. Meanwhile, the Democrats got a little bit closer to the fearsome Sacramento Super Majority that will finally stop the rural Republicans from blocking budget and tax measures. (This is all the miserable legacy of Proposition 13, the proto-Tea Party anti-tax voter initiative that gutted the state's once-great public schools and infrastructure.)

Why, in the nation's most populous state, is it okay to be a liberal again?

22 Comments / Post A Comment

That's my Moonbeam!

samiam (#239,236)

I had to register an account to explain how many things are wrong with this post. Howard Berman is a liberal democrat not an "entrenched suburban right-winger" and much more of an intellectual leader of his party than Sherman, who is seen as a lightweight on the hill (both men are Democrats and were redistricted into the same seat)–that's why almost all of California's Democratic Congressional delegation supported Berman, not Sherman.

Prop 38 was not a "scam," it raised taxes more aggressively than Brown's proposal and on a broader base which would have preserved a more stable funding stream for the state government. California allready relies heavily on taxes on the rich. That's a problem because their income is more volatile than that of merely well-off people and tends to nose-dive right when the state needs money the most. Every liberal policy expert who looked at it said 38 was better policy, if worse politics. Its sponsor was misguided politically, but she's very liberal and Prop 38 wasn't some kind of machivellian plot to thwart Brown's initiative. Finally, Democrats didn't "get a little bit closer" to a super-majority, they actually took one outright unless recounts reverse results in one of a few close seats.

It is indeed a big deal that voters are finally willing to raise taxes (though the super majority ironically makes their agreement to do so unnecessary for the next two years) but this post otherwise pretty much gets everything about California's election wrong.

synchronia (#3,755)

@samiam It's cute when The Awl tries to cover California.

Pete Davis@twitter (#239,237)

@samiam dude, thank you. I couldn't even begin to wrap my head around this post, let alone comment on it.

riotnrrd (#840)

@samiam Calling 38 a "scam" is silly, but it was a broken proposition funded by a single billionaire. Its flaws included: not actually addressing California's budget problems and being inflexible. It also wouldn't stop the $6 billion in funding cuts to education that would take place if Prop 30 failed, and it is impossible for both Proposition 38 and Proposition 30 to become law. 38 wasn't a scam, it was just a shitty ballot prop. I agree with you about broadening the tax base, but in the end I'm very glad it went down.,0,2923644.story

jfruh (#713)

When will Dan Lungren finally be put out of his misery??

phil@twitter (#239,202)

Samiam is flat out lying when he says "every liberal policy expert who looked at it said 38 was a better policy" — that's just blatantly untrue.

BadUncle (#153)

It bears noting that during his run as governor, Jerry Brown became a Proposition 13 booster, and Howard Jarvis – the bill's author – became his number 1 fan.

deepomega (#1,720)

Haha what? The entire first and last third of Obama's speech were about the people who got him elected. I think he mentioned god like three times. Sorry!

whateverlolawants (#19,108)

@deepomega Yeah, this post lost me with that first sentence. Did Mr. Layne and I watch the same speech?

deepomega (#1,720)

Also any policy in CA that doesn't address public pensions isn't going to save us. The end.

riotnrrd (#840)

@deepomega Although the Republicans are on the wrong side of nearly every issue, at least they are actually talking about the public pension problem. My Democratic homies doesn't seem to have any plan at all.

deepomega (#1,720)

@riotnrrd "Hoping nobody notices you can't tax your way out of the pension funding gap", is technically a plan. Just a bad one.

Mari D (#239,239)

I love how all the non-CA living, non-CA-real-estate owning bloggers are always happy to explain to us CA natives how "bad" Prop 13 is.

I personally–along with most people east of La Brea in Los Angeles–couldn't own a home if Prop 13 wasn't in existence. Without it, the last real estate bubble would have put us all out on the streets.

The bottom line: A tax that has no relationship to current income is insanely unfair.

foxbat91 (#9,832)

Prop 13 also included commercial real estate, and required a supermajority to raise taxes while retaining a standard majority to cut them. Those are the two components of the prop that have systematically drained funding from the state and left us in such a shitty procyclical financial position. Prop 13 was sold politically on the valid premise that people should not be taxed out of their homes by rising real estate prices, but it has done its damage in the attached measures I just mentioned. It was a bad proposition. Fixing it doesn't mean that you'll be priced out. It just means understanding that supermajorities that lock in only revenue decreases are idiotic and lead to financial disaster sooner or later.

Ken Layne (#262)

@Mari D Oh hi, I've lived in California and been a registered voter there for decades. Sorry for clumsy punctuation implying Berman is a Republican; he's a right-wing hawk "Democrat." As for Obama's speech, anybody who missed the God God God parts should watch it again, it's on YouTube! I haven't counted, but it sure seemed like Obama mentioned God way more than Romney did. (Although maybe Paul Ryan is Romney's god now?) And Jerry Brown is both exasperating and delightful. But his implementation of Prop 13 reality was not "support" so much as dealing with the cards that were dealt.

Mari D (#239,239)

@Ken Layne
yes, and how much property tax do you pay? AND how much did you pay for your home? Oh, and while I'm at it, what percentage of your income do you pay in property taxes?

Just curious.

Mari D (#239,239)

Please explain further about commercial real estate.

Why should a small business–one that's struggling, lets say but still managed to buy a building–get put out of business because its office is suddenly worth a zillion dollars in a real estate bubble?

Why levy taxes on the building? Instead of the income?

lbf (#2,343)

@Mari D You could not own a home without Prop 13, a law that's been in the books for 30+ years? Any chance home prices would look a tad different without that market-distorting behemoth?
That's how populist policy works: you LOVE IT, even though it's terrible. We may not live or own property in LA, but some people outside of CA know a thing or two about tax policy, too.

johnb78@twitter (#11,834)

@Mari D the business in your example can sell the building for a zillion dollars; it'll be just fine. If it's an old lady having to sell the family home, that's a problem; if it's a business having to make business decisions, that's not a problem at all.

Mari D (#239,239)

Jesus, Am I the only person on the Awl that pays property tax? Or owns commercial property?

Its irrelevant whether Prop 13 distorts the market or not–of course it has an effect–the point is property should not be taxed in the first place.

What exactly is the principle behind taxing an object rather than actual income?

Am I–as a homeowner or a business owner– supposed to get into debt to justify owning something whose value I have no control over?

Lets say you buy a house that is within your means, you make the payments, all is well. You make provisions for the hated property tax. Then the real estate market goes nuts and suddenly the state decides you are rich! Whether you're a business OR an individual.

But where is the money going to come from? MY salary certainly didnt increase during the bubble.

Unless the GOAL is to MAKE me sell my house or business? I see no other logical explanation.

Again, what exactly is the principle? I'd love to hear it. Why not just tax my gold jewelry? Or anything else I have of value?

chris4d (#10,180)

@Mari D at the most basic level, real estate is a fixed, finite and unique resource, and the best way to encourage people to make more productive use of land is to tax them based on how much land they own (and where). Real estate costs more in CA than Iowa because knowledge workers produce more value per square foot than corn farmers, and they compete for more limited space. The property market does occasionally "go nuts" but the solution is to fix real estate bubbles, not ditch property taxes.

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