Monday, January 27, 2014

Soup Dives Into California Politics, Starting With Prop. 13

This week I chose the LA Times article ‘California Sees Big Tax Boost In December’ because I thought it spoke to many of the same issues raised in the assigned ‘Failed State,’ and can easily be connected to one in the Atlantic online magazine. The main issue in my chosen article is that the last six months have left California with quite a bit more income tax revenue (8% more, in fact) than even the most progressive liberal might have hoped the slight increase approved by voters during Brown’s term would yield. This unexpected boon leaves the same progressives and their less lefty relatives ready to spend the whole chunk, much to the consternation of the Governor (not to mention the ‘Jarvis-Republicans’), who has advised the Legislature to mind their P’s and Q’s, and  save something for a rainy day. Or, in case there Are No More rainy days.  Or if all the libertarian-wealthy leave the state in a new tax revolt. California finds this surplus because we rely on a recent minor increase in the taxation of the states wealthiest ‘people’ (a term I use lightly, in case some of these people are corporate people, in which case they are not persons but people in the eyes of the law). The main actors are Gov. Brown, his budget, the legislative body, and the taxpayers of California.
The article ‘Failed State’ addresses the lack of centrism in California politics since around 1978, and attributes this largely to the passage of Prop 13 (“Proposition 13 drastically scaled back property taxes by revaluing residential and commercial property at their 1975 values, allowing assessments to rise from that point a maximum of 2 percent a year and to be taxed at a maximum of 1 percent that year”). This, the author says, has led to the last thirty years of California being nearly ungovernable. Prop. 104, passed the next year, put a limit on how much the state could spend, effectively handing power to entrenched business and lobbying interests- ending partisanship in California and leading to a ‘crumbling’ of schools, bridges, and other publicly-owned resources. To again quote the article: “The business leaders even deny the obvious--that, by calculating taxes on old homes and factories on the 1975 basis and new homes and factories at prevailing market rates, Proposition 13 has rewarded economic stasis and penalized new investment.”  California has many long-term problems; most seem to stem from Prop. 13 and the resulting ‘conservative populism’ preventing tax increases of any kind (see again, Jarvis Republicans, whom I think of as Norquislings).
In my morning exploration of the news online January 25, I found this excellent piece from the Economist (‘California has won breathing space…’) To quote the article: “Campaigning in 2012, Mitt Romney compared California to European basket-cases like Greece. He would not do so today.” This was something brought up in class; to the point, an inconsequential increase in taxes did not make the sky fall, but instead buttressed California against the current economic turmoil. It goes on to make the point that ‘California is not cured’ and many long term, even ‘chronic’ problems remain. One of these problems is the reliance on a few wealthy for the revenue necessary to provide essential public services; another is public pensions; another is rising poverty. My opinion? Drought may be something that cannot be cured with an increase in property tax rates, but SO MANY of the problems our state faces are symptoms of Prop. 13 and its ideological antecedents. I agree with what I take to be the general tone of ‘Failed State’; a repeal of Prop. 13 and a revaluation of the properties owned by the most politically-connected industries might even lead to that new era of prosperity that Gavin Newsome envisioned in his pre-state-of-the-state. Without raising income taxes.


Article Analysis Assignment

First, read a news story from the newspaper or the Internet.  Answer the following questions regarding your news story: 1) What is the main issue, who are the main actors being discussed;  Then, choose one of the assigned articles you read for this week.  Answer the following questions regarding the assigned article: 1) What are the basics of this article (who, what, when, how, why, etc.);  2) What is the overall main point the author is trying to convince you of?  3) Do you agree with the author’s argument?  Why?  Why not?   Finally, tie together your news story with what you learned from the assigned article, textbook readings, podcasts, videos, etc. for this week.  Type your answers in the box below using your own words, no outline or bullets, complete sentences and paragraphs, single-spaced, full-page. 

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