Monday, March 26, 2012

How the anti tax argument is framed

Well. The Sacramento Bee certainly found a conservative voice for the attack on the proposed tax measures  to be faced by voters in fall 2012.  Lets look at the distractions Ben Boychuk  throws up and the issues he chose to not discuss in his piece in the Sacramento Bee for March 22,2012.
First,   in arguing that “Progressives are deluding themselves”   he describes  Governor Brown and SEIU as moderates, then he labels the California Federation of Teachers as  “ far left”.  The reason for this name calling approach to argumentation?  To criticize the compromise tax proposals worked out by Governor Brown, the various unions and the California Federation of Teachers  last week.
 Boychuk    goes on to make the argument that the very wealthy should not be taxed more  and to claim that those who argue for more taxes are “ far left”.  This is a ploy.
If you are standing as far right as the Boychuk’s employer the  Manhattan Institute then almost everyone appears to be on the far left. See the conservative Manhattan Institute web page at   Under the label “make the rich pay” Boychuk  accurately  calculates  how much the wealthy currently pay, but he does tell you that the wealth pay less as a percentage of the income on taxes than do all the rest of us- the 90%. 
A report of the California Budget Project notes that “measured as a share of family income”, California’s lowest-income families pay the most in taxes. The bottom fifth of the state’s families, with an average income of $12,600, spent 11.1 percent of their income on state and local taxes.  In comparison, the wealthiest 1 percent, with an average income of $2.3 million, spent 7.8 percent of their income on state and local taxes.”

California, like most states, needs additional revenue to fund schools and to invest in the future.  California public schools are in crisis - and they are getting worse. This is a direct result of massive budget cuts imposed by the legislature and the governor in the last four years.  Total per pupil expenditure is down by over $1,000 per student. The result-  massive class size increases.  Students are often in classes too large for quality learning. Supplementary services such as tutoring and art classes have been eliminated.  Over 14,000 teachers have been dismissed, and thousands more face lay offs this fall.
California schools are now 47th in the nation in per pupil expenditure and 49th in class size.  Our low achievement scores on national tests reflect this severe underfunding.
Of course the economic crisis of 2007 to the present caused by bankers and  their advocates  made matters worse.  The state took in some $30 billion less in taxes due to the crisis  and thus had less to send to the schools.  School budgets have been cut by some $10 billion.  K-12 education receives about 40% of the California budget.  Thus any decline in the state budget leads directly to cuts in school services.
The question for the anti tax advocate such as Boychuk and the Chamber of Commerce,  and ultimately for California voters is can the economy prosper with a poorly educated work force. California grew and prospered from 1970- 1994 based upon a well educated work force.  Then, in the period between 1994-2008 over $10 billion in corporate tax cuts were passed  making the current crisis much worse.  California suffers from a decade of disinvestment in education and in infrastructure.  Today, instead of continuing our state’s once great commitment to education, conservative anti tax forces have imposed a Mississippi model on California schools.
The California economy needs to invest in roads, bridges, telephone lines, communications systems, clean energy and quality education.  These are the down payments that make prosperity possible. Conservative opposition to any new tax ignores the undeniable, historic fact that prosperity depends upon having a viable educational system and a well functioning infrastructure. Rather than invest in something that pays itself back many times over, the Republicans have led the effort to starve public education of desperately needed revenue.
There are economic issues to be debated such as the grandiose salaries of new CSU Presidents, U.C. Chancellors, and the tax abuses of a few managers in pension programs.  But these are issues to be dealt with, not reasons to underfund our schools and our future.
As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said,   "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.''  I will vote for the new tax proposal and pay a little  more taxes to have a civilized society. 
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