Dateline Sacramento — in a surprising move, Democrats in California shocked veterans of the state political scene by proposing a totally unique solution to the state’s diminishing budget problem. After two years of the Schwarzenegger administration, in which the Governor reduced a $48-billion deficit to a minimal amount without raising a single dime in new taxes or fees, the Democrats came up with their own solution to the rapidly disappearing problem–raise taxes. What is so unique about the Democrats proposition is that it was so unexpected. No one in Sacramento could have believed that the Democrats would ever propose an increase in taxes, especially now when the state seemed to be pulling out of its budget problems.
Or not . . .
This week’s announcement by Senate Democrat leader Don Perata that he is in favor of raising taxes to increase state spending is the classic dog bites man story. Democrats wanting to raise taxes? Shocking–so outside the box, so innovative–when have they ever proposed that?
Every year, every time, no matter what the circumstances, the Democrats in the California legislature have proposed raising taxes. Record surpluses in the late 1990’s? Raise taxes on the rich because they are not paying their fair share. Record deficits in the early part of this decade? Raise taxes on the rich because that is the only way the state can close the deficit. Finally pull out of the deficits, see a balanced budget, solve the whole budget problem without a single increase in tax rates? The Democrats again propose raising taxes. Newspapers and television and radio stations throughout the state gasped at the innovative approach to the state’s budget problems this week. How brilliant a solution. Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Impressive, thoughtful, imaginative.
They’re not wedded to any single tax idea. They’ve floated the ever popular “tax the rich” idea, even though we just did that last November. They would like to remove Prop 13 protections from business property, driving up the costs for employers. Most disruptively, they’ve introduced AB 9, which the Democrats have already passed out of one policy committee, which would place a sales tax on services provided by attorneys, accountants, architects, consultants, security, engineering services and computer support services!
It is the first page of the Democrat’s playbook. It would be funny if it wasn’t so predictable. No budget year is complete unless, at some point, some Democrat leader appears at a press conference, and announces that he or she thinks that you are not paying enough taxes. All of our problems would be solved if tax rates were increased they say. Schools would teach students, traffic congestion would disappear, state government would actually help you, the sun would rise in the east and set in the west without interruption, if you would just give government more of your money.
Tax increase strategies are also the easiest solutions. They require no imagination, and little political will. The people who focus on politics (the ruling class) actually like tax increases. Only the voters control that natural impulse of the ruling class, and it takes a lot to make people upset enough to throw out the bums who raised taxes. Raising taxes is really the path of least political resistance. This has always been so. Tax cutters are Robin Hoods of history. Tax increasers are the King Johns. Even Jesus enjoyed the occasional poke at the tax collectors!
A few years ago, I was traveling through Italy with some of my Democrat colleagues, and in the city hall of the town of Perugia, there was a large bronze plaque from the Etruscan era of Italian history, above the chair of the Mayor of the town. Our guide said that the Etruscans wrote important government edicts on bronze to make sure that they were preserved. This plaque, still revered in Perugia, was signed by the local Etruscan government, and relieved the populace in 300 B.C. Italy of an oppressive tax. It was the Prop 13 of 500 B.C. Here was the proof, I told my Democrat colleagues, people honor tax cutters for thousands of years. They overthrow tax increasers. My Democrat friends were not amused.
And so, in the tradition of oppressors everywhere, Democrats once again have are proposing tax increases. It is a dog bites man news story. Another year, another tired Democrat budget strategy.
[This piece originally appeared at CaliforniaRepublic.org.]