Beware of indoctrination in the split roll fight

By Jon Coupal | It’s no secret that public sector labor organizations hate Proposition 13 because it remains one of the few barriers to their unfettered access to our wallets and pocketbooks.

A weekly column by Jon Coupal

Whether in the courts, legislature, initiative measures or “public education” campaigns, their relentless resistance to that landmark initiative has continued unabated for over forty years.

Much to their frustration, however, Prop. 13’s popularity has remained consistent during that same period of time.

Today, the most significant threat to Proposition 13 is the proposed “split roll” initiative which is currently in the signature gathering phase. This proposal, labeled as The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020, is a $12 billion property tax increase. It dismantles one of Prop. 13’s most important protections, the limitation on annual increases in taxable value. Under Prop. 13, the taxable or “assessed” value of property can only increase two percent per year. This provision provides predictability and stability in tax liability for all property owners, whether the property is residential or commercial.

A key backer of the “split roll” initiative is, not surprisingly, the California Teachers Association, one of the state’s most powerful special interests. They are the chief purveyor of the myth that, somehow, Prop. 13 is the cause of the decline in educational quality. Fact check: California now spends 30% more on a per-pupil inflation-adjusted basis than it did in the mid-’70s when California schools were some of the best in the nation.

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Bonds are a risky way to deal with pension woes

By Jon Coupal | Recently, this column exposed the foolishness of two proposed statewide bond measures: A $15 billion school bond, which will be on the March 3 ballot, as well as a “climate resiliency” bond.

Both are horribly flawed for several reasons, not the least of which that it makes no sense for California to go further into debt when we have a large surplus.

But at the local level, taxpayers need to be aware of a recent resurgence in the use of pension obligation bonds, a risky financing method that fell out of favor during the recession but is now making a comeback.

Fortunately, there is more scrutiny on this form of debt financing than in years past, which may help to dissuade our elected leaders from making ill-advised decisions.

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It’s just more of the same in California state budget proposal

By Jon Coupal | With all the breaking national news, many taxpayers have little bandwidth in their attention span to focus on the state budget. Moreover, the state budget process can be indecipherable even for political insiders. But taxpayers should be paying attention for the simple reason that it’s their money that is being spent.

With no pretense at being comprehensive, here are the most important things taxpayers should know about the state budget proposal that was introduced by Gov. Gavin Newsom on January 10th.

First, the proposed 2020-2021 budget submitted by the governor in January almost certainly will be different from the final budget, which must be enacted by June 15, 2020. There is much wrangling among politicians to be done before we get a final spending plan. Also, unlike years past, the budget will likely be on time. Budget stalemates are now rare given that California is awash in taxpayer dollars and legislators no longer get paid if the budget is late.

Second, the governor’s budget is huge. Its proposed $222.2 billion in spending is larger than any in California history. What else would one expect?

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Foolish California bonds put taxpayers at risk

By Jon Coupal | If you had just won the lottery, would that be a good time to go further into debt or would it be smarter to pay down the debt you already have?

Most Californians would like very much to be debt-free, and the thought of being able to pay off their mortgage, car loan and student debt is surely attractive.

In some respects, thanks to the forced generosity of California taxpayers, California has won the lottery.

Our highest-in-the-nation tax burden has left our treasury full with billions in surplus revenue.

One would think that with all that revenue, our elected leadership would be a little more circumspect in taking on new debt or at least manage the debt we have more effectively. But this is California.

The Golden State is awash in debt consisting mostly of unfunded pension obligations. Unfortunately, our leadership continues to press on the accelerator in taking on new debt.

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More Californians ponder leaving

By Jon Coupal | In the ‘80s, a punk rock band, The Clash, had a catchy little hit entitled, “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” As Californians start a new decade, many are asking themselves the same thing.

For a few, the decision to leave is easy because of better job opportunities or the desire to escape California’s high cost of living. But for many, it is a difficult choice. Older Californians often stay because this is where their children and grandchildren are. But recent college graduates who would prefer to stay in California for the lifestyle and recreation are nonetheless compelled to move because of ridiculously high housing costs.

While California has the highest level of net domestic out-migration in the nation, totaling well over one million people in less than eight years, the decision to leave the Golden State remains personal and no one factor will be determinative for most people.

Hard decisions compel people to weigh the pros and cons of bailing out. But here are some of the considerations:

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In California, more laws mean less freedom

By Jon Coupal | Progressives in California, more than elsewhere, forget the history and inspiration behind the founding of the United States. Our very system of government – with divided powers among the three branches of government – reflects an effort to ensure that political power never becomes consolidated in one person or institution.

The same is true with respect to the federal government’s relationship to the states. Again, the national government is (or was intended to be) a government of limited constitutional powers, and powers not specifically enumerated in the Constitution were reserved to the respective states. And capping it all off was a Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

If it isn’t obvious by now, it should be. The primary function of government in America, either at the national level or by the states, is to preserve liberty. But to progressives, this simple statement sounds as foreign as ancient Greek. To them, the primary function of government is to redistribute wealth and expand government into all aspects of our lives. They possess the false belief that decisions by elites who control our public institutions are superior to the decisions made by ordinary citizens.

This “government is better” thinking is reflected in several of the new laws that take effect on January 1st. For example, the controversial Assembly Bill 5, which severely restricts the use of “independent contractors,” has the potential of inflicting real damage to California’s gig economy as companies will no longer be able to contract with individuals who seek part-time or seasonal work in a way that provides people with flexibility over where and when they work.

Two more new laws which restrict freedom include a mandated increase in California’s minimum wage, which forces employers to pay more to their employees than the market would otherwise require, and a new rent control law prohibiting owners of rental housing from raising rents more than a certain amount annually.

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Correcting ballot measure deception

By Jon Coupal | A few weeks ago, this column recounted how progressive labor interests and their allies in government have stacked the deck against taxpayers in their efforts to qualify and pass the infamous “split roll” initiative. The measure, entitled the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020, would remove one of Proposition 13’s most important protections — the limitation on annual increases in taxable value — from business and commercial properties. The increased tax burden would be passed along to consumers and taxpayers who are already struggling with California’s high cost of living.

A weekly column by Jon Coupal

Proponents of this massive $12 billion property tax increase have surpassed collecting 25 percent of the signatures needed to place the measure on the November 2020 ballot.

One-party rule in California allows the proponents of split roll to tip the scales in their favor in two significant ways.

First, rather than discharge his duties to prepare a fair and objective title and summary for the initiative petitions, Attorney General Xavier Becerra has, once again, revealed himself to be little more than a partisan politician. The biased title he assigned for the initiative petitions themselves does not say that the measure increases taxes, merely that it “increases funding” by “changing tax assessment.”

Is it really so hard to simply say, “increases property taxes?”

To read the entire column, please click here.

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While you slept, the US government created ‘internal passports’

By Peter C. Earle, AIER | The deadline of yet another, and perhaps the most insidious, element of the post-9/11 initiatives (a partial list of which includes the establishment of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and a never-ending international war against a nebulously-defined, noncorporeal enemy, “terror”) is less than one year from coming to fruition. Beginning no later than October 1, 2020, citizens of all US states and territories will be required to have a Real ID compliant card or US passport to board a commercial plane or enter a Federal government facility. Pundits citing the inevitability of what amounts to a national ID card have, regrettably, been vindicated.

To be sure, some states have resisted, but dependence upon federal aid and other programs administered from Washington D.C. makes their ultimate surrender and compliance inevitable.

Looking back, Social Security numbers and the cards bearing them broke ground for the path to a national identification system — thank you, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For decades there have been pointed reminders that the cards were intended to be account numbers and not integrated into a government registry of American citizens.

Repeated efforts, starting in the 1970s, to forge identifiers from the Social Security system have been rebuffed: in 1971, 1973, and 1976. The Reagan Administration indicated its “explicit oppos[tion]” to a national identification system. Both the Clinton healthcare reform plan (1993) and a provision of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 requiring Social Security Numbers on driver’s licenses were rejected (the latter in 1999) to some extent upon the basis of tacitly constituting national identifiers for Americans.

There are any number of reasons why the alleged tradeoff between liberty and security that a national ID card represents are being misrepresented. Any system designed, maintained, and run by human beings is ultimately flawed, and in any case corruptible. The existing documents from which the information fed into the Real ID program are eminently vulnerable to forgery. To provide just one example: tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of Americans don’t have verifiable, “official” birth certificates.

And people can become radicalized after being issued their Real ID card.

The Real ID also represents the “last mile” in the ability of the state to track individuals in real time. With various electronic, social media, and cellphone tracking measures, there is always a delay; and one can choose not to use social media, not to own a cellphone, and opt into other methods of extricating oneself from the prying eyes of the NSA or other government agencies. But the Real ID — in particular, coupled with biometrics — fulfills Orwellian conceptions of the total surveillance state. 

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Watch last night’s city council meeting

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Fullerton City Council Meeting
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‘Afghanistan Papers’ confirm critics’ worst fears about war

By Steven Greenhut | It’s been 18 years since the United States invaded Afghanistan in what officials promised to be a decisive mission to uproot a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. You’re totally not shocked to learn that things didn’t quite work out as promised, and that the government repeatedly misled the public about its level of success, about the fundamental purpose of the endeavor and just about everything.

Steven Greenhut

Like I said, you’re not surprised. That’s how government behaves – not that many readers believed anti-war libertarians as we warned about such things at the time. I’m surprised it took so long for anyone to notice, and that the latest evidence – a meticulously reported project by the Washington Post – has been met with yawns. It’s hard to compete for attention with the ongoing impeachment proceedings, but the “Afghanistan Papers” should cause heads to roll (or explode).

We’ve all devolved into members of bickering high-school cliques who snipe at each other on social media and don’t trust any information from others, but there are worse things. I recall the morning my wife called me into the TV room to watch the burning World Trade Center. “Uh, I think I better get to the newspaper right away,” I said. For years after those attacks, Americans seemed united as we trusted the government to wage its war on terrorism. A little bit more bickering and distrust might have been a good thing.

On the Orange County Register editorial board, we issued our warnings about overseas commitments – the costs in lives and treasure and the impossibility of turning impoverished backwaters into modern democracies. We were accused of basically being bad Americans. Yet the Afghan and Iraq conflicts turned out pretty much as we and other critics predicted, as the Post report reveals in maddening detail.

To read the entire column, please click here.

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