Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Moonbeam, billionaires, high school seniors, and workers - the tax increase initiative competition

And the great owners,...the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.
                        -John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Many types of uprisings occur when the working class feels aggrieved and oppressed. Certainly today we are beyond the French Revolution, making use of the guillotine. In a political system that basis itself on "democracy", many "pressure relief valves" have been created to keep the ruling oligarchy free of the falling knife blade.

For instance, we here in California have the initiative, which we are using to create our own metaphorical Reign of Terror. Right now there are over 100 "active" ballot measures that have been submitted to the Attorney General's Office (see the list). The web site explains: "The Attorney General provides the official titles and summaries to the Secretary of State for all measures cleared for petition circulation."

Besides taxes, these measures cover every subject from social issues like abortion and marijuana to economic issues like car and health insurance to government reform and pensions and, of course, to "fixing" in incredibly horrific "three strikes law" approved by the voters based upon prejudice, bias, and sound bite advertising paid for by special interests.

Most of these new proposals are complex laws which if adopted would have far reaching impacts on the lives of many, negative social impacts that could not be explained in a book much less in a post. California voters will vote on these measures based upon sound bite advertising appealing to bias paid for by special interests. (Hence my comparison of the initiative process to the French Revolution and its Reign of Terror - that popular rule run amok.)

A number tax revenue increase initiatives have been proposed for the November 2012 ballot, most of which are considered "millionaire taxes," heavily targeting taxable annual incomes above a quarter of a million dollars or oil and gas well production.

In passing, I have to note that some call the measures taxing higher incomes a "millionaires tax." Confusion exists on what constitutes a "millionaire." says:

If a millionaire family is one that has a million dollars in assets (wealth), then at the beginning of 2008 California was full of millionaires. Significant numbers of families owned homes valued over $500,000. By the time you add in some furnishing, cars, electronics, savings and investment, it was possible to be a millionaire without even realizing it - particularly when you had a big mortgage, car loans, and a lot of credit card debt.

Extra taxes on a married couple with taxable earnings of $250,000 and over is probably pretty much a tax on millionaires in the state, just not all. "Taxable earnings" by definition excludes a lot of money.

If by "millionaire" you mean any "very rich person" ... well... even after the recent crash the Forbes list of billionaires residing full or part-time in California is pretty long. Unfortunately, by today's standards being a millionaire isn't all that unusual - kind of an upper tier of middle-class.

But apparently the teachers unions think being a millionaire is rich enough to tax. Who am I to argue with those entrusted with the minds of our children? So taxing millionaires means a meaningful increase the income tax on couples who make more than $250,000 a year.

I'm also a little confused about how many such initiatives ultimately are going to be circulating to get signatures, much less be on the November 2012 ballot. But that's normal in advance of the deadlines for signature submission.

Right at the moment, the following tax measures have been submitted, listed in order of date filed with the Attorney General, using my descriptive titles and the official file number as the link to the text of the measure:
  1. The Nickle (5¢) Tobacco Tax Increase to Fund Cancer Research and Other Stuff  Initiative (approved for the June 2012 ballot). 09-0097.
  2. The California Center for Public Policy 15% to 25% Extra Personal Income Tax on Annual Pension Income Exceeding $100,000 Derived from The California Public Employees and Teachers Retirement Systems Initiative (currently circulating). 11-0021.
  3. The Community College Professor's Oil and Gas Severance Tax to Fund Education Initiative (currently circulating). 11-0044.
  4. The Happy Pills Tax Initiative (currently circulating). 11-0045.
  5. The Occupy-the-Elections Severance Tax on Oil and Gas to Create a North-Dakota-Type California State Bank Initiative (currently circulating). 11-0051
  6. The Unity High School Senior Class Free Resident Tuition for State Colleges Paid from Tax Increases on Incomes over $250,000 Initiative. 11-0086.
  7. The California Teachers Association Increase and Equalize Property Tax Values on Non-Residential Non-Farm Properties by Splitting the Property Tax Rolls Initiative. 11-0087
  8. The Activist Heiress's California PTA Supported Proposal to Tax Millionaire Dad & Friends for Schools Initiative. Version 1 11-0088 was recently replaced by Version 2 11-0100 apparently in an effort to get more political support.
  9. The Moonbeam Complex Free Up General Fund Money and Fix Nothing Tax Increase Initiative. 11-0090.
  10. The California Federation of Teachers & Friends Tax Millionaires for Education, Social Services, Safety Services, and Road and Bridge Maintenance Initiative. 11-0091.
  11. The California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton's Oil & Gas Severance Tax, some for Higher Education (⅓) and most for the General Fund (⅔) for the Legislature to Play With. 11-0096.
Obviously many of these titles reflect sarcasm on my part. I want to emphasize that each one of them offers in preambles lofty language and sincere, laudable goals. Some of them may even be worth considering seriously.

In future posts, I'll offer analysis on these proposals. And when new ones are submitted, I'll add them to this post and offer analysis. I do expect new ones. For instance, The billionaire's beauty and barber shop tax proposal hasn't even been submitted yet.

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