There is a famous poster, dating back to World War I, that shows Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer over the words, “I want you for U.S. Army.” Of course, at the time, the message was directed to young men.
Today, an updated Uncle Same poster would say, “I want you to pay higher taxes,” and he would be pointing at everyone.
In California, the passage of Proposition 30 last November shows that some voters believe that taxpayers are someone other than themselves. After all, the measure was sold as a tax on the rich, and many overlooked that it also included an increase in the regressive state sales tax, which impacts everyone. If you are unemployed and need a new shirt for a job interview, you too will be paying a little more to keep Uncle Jerry happy.
Taxpayers are all of us, and we are being attacked on all fronts. Here is another example from the Sacramento politicians that many have overlooked. Beginning this year, If you are planning a home improvement project for yourself, or you have been hired to do it for someone else, better add a little to your budget because the state has approved an additional 1 percent tax, on top of the new higher state sales tax, on lumber.
In short order, expect to see even more efforts like this from the Capitol to increase the tax burden. With new majorities of tax sympathetic representatives, lawmakers are lining up to introduce legislation to increase taxes on average folks or to make it easier to do so in the future.
And if you live in the Los Angeles area, a center of economic decay, everyone is the target of new taxes. The county is promoting a “rain tax.’” Supervisors want to dun property owners to clean up storm water runoff. This means an addition to the property tax bill from $20 for a condominium, to hundreds of thousands of dollars for owners of large properties, including school districts. In spite of existing programs to clean up this water, the county Uncle Sams are reaching for property owners’ wallets. They are doing this for the simplest of all reasons: They can.
And then there is the city of Los Angeles, the poster child for government mismanagement. The city is struggling to meet the unsustainable pension obligations City Council members have approved over the years in return for electoral support from the public employee unions. In response to this dilemma, the council has placed a half-cent sales increase tax on the March ballot. This tax will hit the city’s poor especially hard. Of course they, along with everyone else, already pay an additional 1.5 percent sales tax for transportation projects that seem to have benefited few, other than the owners of the companies that have received the construction contracts.
But this is not enough for Los Angeles officials, who are also looking at a $3 billion bond that will cost average homeowners about $117 annually for 29 years; money they claim will fix the potholes in city streets and restore deteriorating sidewalks. The city has an infrastructure maintenance crisis — at the current rate it would take 60 years to catch up — because council members have put a higher priority on providing high pay and benefits to city employees, than on servicing and maintaining infrastructure already paid for by taxpayers.
For a better understanding of how those who run City Hall think, consider the ordinance they passed which requires that those who park at a broken meter receive a $63 ticket. In Los Angeles, as in most communities, parking enforcement no longer serves the purpose of making parking spots available to everyone looking to patronize local businesses. Parking fines are now regarded as tax revenue and the more the better is the official position.
But, no matter where you live in California or how little you earn, don’t ask at whom the Uncle Sams — government officials who go by names like Jerry, Gloria, Zev, Antonio and hundreds of others — are pointing, they are pointing at you, and they want you to pay higher taxes.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.