California’s “Proposition 82” and how to best raise taxes

Californians (and expatriates like me whose last US residence was in California) vote tomorrow on a number of things, including Proposition 82. Proposition 82 would create a special income-tax increase to pay for universal preschool throughout the state.

Even as much as the general citizen might like young children, few will want to fork over more in taxes specifically to pay for it.... especially those without children. That's why one might suspect this proposition to be doomed from the start, but no, it won't fail. I predict it will pass with the force of a mandate.

It will pass because this proposition's key point is “You don't have to pay -- others will pay.Proposition 82 increases the State tax by 18% on income over $400k. The very vast majority of those that vote on it (including me) won't be subject to any additional tax. So heck, why not vote for it -- if other's pay, it's free!

History has shown that the “others will pay!” method is a fantastic way to get new taxes passed. Heck, thats how the 16th Amendment was so easily passed in 1913. (The 16th Amendment, you'll recall, authorizes the federal government to levy and collect its income taxes.) It's sad to say, but most people simply don't have the moral fiber vote against something that's so clearly wrong (the many ganging up on the few). As George Bernard Shaw noted, “A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

California's November 2004 election illustrates this lack of moral fiber well:

  • One proposition (#63) was to enhance mental-health services for the entire population, but be paid for by a special tax affecting only about one tenth of one percent of the population.

  • Another proposition (#67) would help maintain the availability of emergency medical services (e.g. hospital ERs) for the entire population, and paid for by most anyone with a telephone (at a rate of about six dollars a year).

The goals of both are laudable, but they try to achieve them differently. The first uses the “others will pay!” method, while the second tries to spread it out relatively evenly among those likely to benefit.

In the end, one of them was passed by the voters, while the other was crushed with a 75% “no” vote. Can you guess which one failed? (Hint: “others will pay!” never fails).

I find this kind of thing simply disgusting, and this election's Proposition 82 is no exception. I've already voted by mail, and I certainly voted “no”.

To be clear again, passage of this Proposition wouldn't have any negative impact on me (it wouldn't raise my taxes), and in fact it might benefit me, as I have a preschool-aged child and I may yet spend considerable time in California (we still have a house and many friends there).

It might benefit me, but it's morally reprehensible. I voted no.

As if that wasn't enough, besides the insidious way this Proposition funds itself, it seems to be more concerned with strengthening the Teachers' Union and putting non-Union educators out of work than with the wellbeing of the State's young children. But hey, if others will pay, it must be okay! (sigh)

My brother Steve has an informative writeup on Proposition 82, including links to the “for” and “against” camps.


One comment so far...

What’s that other quote? Something along the line of “it’s like 5 wolves and an elk voting on what’s for dinner.”

— comment by Marcina on June 6th, 2006 at 4:48am JST (11 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink
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