Who’s minding the store?
By Quentin Kopp
In the aftermath of last month’s elections, I’m reminded of the unusually effected scare tactics presented to local newspaper readers who expect accuracy in reporting and opinion writing.
As observed by a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Constitution Day this year, Thomas Jefferson in 1789 wrote: “Wherever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”
Bear in mind, however, that 71 percent of Americans can’t identify the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land, according to a 2012 Xavier University report, and 10 percent of college graduates, according to a 2015 American Council of Trustees and Alumni poll, thought Judith Sheindlin (a.k.a., “Judge Judy”) is a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Only 32 percent of college graduates could name all three government branches, and 33 percent couldn’t name a single branch, according to the 2018 Annenberg Constitution Day civics survey.
As I have previously reminded readers, California’s gasoline tax was instituted in 1922 as a user fee for the specific and sole purpose of employing proceeds to build and maintain state highways, county roads and city streets. That’s good government.
Instead, the California legislature and governor last year collaborated to enact a 12-cents-per-gallon tax increase, the proceeds of which would also be used for public buses and other forms of transportation, which will be paid for by vehicle drivers and certainly not as a user fee.
The California attorney general wrote a deceiving summarization of state Proposition 6, which would have repealed the use of gasoline taxes for non-highway, road and street purposes. That summary is, by law, the Voter Information Pamphlet information presented to voters.
California courts have been reluctant to interfere in litigation to stop the falsifying of the attorney general’s summarization.
Proposition 6 opponents spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat it because they’re the road construction, engineers, designers and unionized workers who receive the taxes paid by drivers.
Regarding transportation, on Aug. 8, 2018, the Wall Street Journal pointed out that California spends 10 times more on electric car subsidies than on clearing dead trees, which result in flammable ground cover – $335 million for electric car subsidies and only $30 million for clearing 60,000 acres of forests.
Similarly, governments use taxpayers’ money to confer on massive corporations, like Amazon, billions of dollars, as New York City did last month for a “second headquarters” for Amazon. San Francisco waived property taxes for technology corporations on Market Street. New York City granted Amazon $1.5 billion in cash and property tax credits. As pointed out in The Week, Kansas and Missouri spent $500 million in tax incentives for companies, thus taking money from schools and infrastructure.
Once government grants a corporation property tax forgiveness, why shouldn’t it grant the same exemption to other corporations? It’s the antithesis of good government.
So is the behavior of the city government of San Francisco. In November, one supervisor declared intent to establish yet another new office for curing alleged “racial” inequality. She’d call it the “Office of Racial Equity,” avowedly to end alleged discrimination in employment practices at City Hall and housing policies. That means more office space, more city employees than even the current 30,000, and more taxpayer subsidization.
On the state level, legislators henceforth needn’t live in the district each represents. Senate Bill-1250 enables politicians to claim residences outside their district. While the U.S. Constitution contains no residency qualification for House of Representative members, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill after pardoning a former legislator who was elected in a district outside his residence.
The honest method to effectuate such a policy, contrary to the California Constitution, would be a constitutional amendment for voters to approve. That, however, means the rule of law in a “sanctuary state,” which refuses to recognize illegal immigration in jails and prisons.
As a new governor commences his responsibility next month, people ask me what to expect. I’m not a soothsayer. I can’t answer. I know California has the highest poverty rate in the country, laws benefiting criminals and illegal aliens, releases of criminals from detention and the erasing of criminal records.
California possesses more than 4 million illegal aliens and the National Economics Editorial estimates they pay $3.5 billion in taxes, but cost California about $30 billion yearly. That’s 17.7 percent of California’s annual budget, with welfare, food stamps, meals, free immunization, low-cost housing and in-state tuition fees.
Meanwhile, the Festival of Lights (a.k.a., Hanukkah) begins Dec. 2 for eight days, and Christmas still occurs on Dec. 25. Jingle bells to all. Have a happy New Year.
Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor and state senator, retired judge and current member of the SF Ethics Commission.