Councilwoman Atkins Struck a Nerve

Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association was moved to write from somewhere about Councilwoman’s Linda Atkin’s My Word last week.  I say “from somewhere” b/c I’m assuming that he does not live in Humboldt given the blurb associated with his piece in the TS yesterday. Here it is…

“Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California’s largest taxpayer advocacy organization, which can be contacted at HJTA has several thousand members residing in Humboldt County.”

Jon Coupal

According to this blurb, Jon is connected to Humboldt b/c he is the spokesperson for all of these members that we are to take his word exist.  You would think the Times Standard would choose an editorial from one of the actual, robust HJTA membership rather than depending on the President to come down and attack as a “screed” an important perspective from one of our elected officials.

It’s more difficult that time will allow to come up with relevant numbers for year-by-year tax revenues in California since, say 1975.  I’d like to compare those to overall revenues and estimates of total property values before judging Jon’s chosen stats.

But it’s pretty clear, stats aside, where Jon is coming from.  You don’t need to go any further than the links in the previous post to get the picture – and it’s in the 460’s.

Below the fold in my screedish (as in long and angry) response to John Fullerton’s comment I linked to this previous LH, CA post that included snapshots of mid-election contributions to two of the most contested State Senate races in 2014 – SD 14 and 35 – Vidak v Chavez (SD14) and Nguyen v Solorio (SD 35).  In both cases the Republicans one big and in both cases the HCDCC contributed to the losing Democrat and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association contributed to the winning Republican – $8,200 in each case.

And Mr. Coupal’s talking points are clear and well worn.  The problem lies with…

  • Local governments that over-tax and over-regulate:  “High taxes, heavy-handed regulations and marginal public services has resulted in a massive exodus of businesses, the wealthy and educated young people out of California.”
  • Local officials : “When analyzing the challenges faced by local governments to meet their budgets, it is also important to look at the culpability of elected officials.”
  • Public unions (since private sector unions are no longer relevant): ” Many communities start behind the eight ball because of the sweetheart pay and benefit deals officials have made with government workers.”
  • Nomenclature: “California Taxpayers Association — which is not a “right-wing” think tank” and “Atkins implies that fiscal conservatives are anti-government. We’re not”
  • … but definitely not us:  “None of this can be blamed on Prop 13.”

If all this sounds familiar, it should.  It’s the party line for a party that is no longer effective in California but has found ways, like Prop 13 to maintain it’s priority of funding as small a government as possible with the most regressive of taxes as possible.  Don’t forget that politicians that Jon Coupal would be forced to support like Supervisors Bohn, Sundberg and Bass will vote for regressive sales taxes like Measure Z.  Just don’t raise those taxes that will affect those with money and might begin to address the dangerous and growing problem of inequality.

These are the dividing lines of party politics in California and it is no coincidence that the President the HJTA felt the need to talk down to Eureka voters about one of their own.  And as far as the importance of Prop 13, and how important it is to the anti (big) government right, don’t take my word for it, here is once CATO institute’s and now Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore on Prop 13 from 1998.

Political analysts often argue about when the modern-day conservative movement in America began. Some say that it began with Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964. Others say it began with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. I believe that the conservative, anti-big-government tide in America began 20 years ago with the passage of taxpayer advocate Howard Jarvis’s Proposition 13 in California.

Proposition 13 was a political earthquake whose jolt was felt not just in Sacramento but all across the nation, including Washington, D.C. Jarvis’s initiative to cut California’s notoriously high property taxes by 30 percent and then cap the rate of increase in the future was the prelude to the Reagan income tax cuts in 1981. It also incited a nationwide tax revolt at the state and local levels. Within five years of Proposition 13’s passage, nearly half the states strapped a similar straitjacket on politicians’ tax-raising capabilities. Almost all of those tax limitation measures remain the law of the land today.

The common wisdom through years of effective advertising and rhetoric is that government is the problem.  This is nothing more than a very effective set of talking points or narrative that the right has sold to us, and after 24/7 of infomercials we call Rush/Sean/ Fox etc., we’ve bought.

Funny how we never hear about the straitjacket now.  What we hear about are right-wing think-tank theories like the laughable “Laffer Curve” where decreases in taxes result in an increase in tax revenue.  Basically the jist of this theory in English is people don’t like to pay taxes and if they are rich enough they won’t.  So tax the rich less.

What I find much more compelling and true than Mr. Coupal’s, Mr. Moore’s, or our Republican/Libertarian supply-side arguments  is how Paul Krugman ends his opinion piece Friday.  He ask’s himself this question…

“…outrageous fiscal mendacity is neither historically normal nor bipartisan. It’s a modern Republican thing. And the question we should ask is why.”

“What you’re left with (after budget cuts and mysterious revenue sources) is huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, who would see big tax cuts. And the simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.

But this is, of course, not a policy direction the public would support if it were clearly explained. So the budgets must be sold as courageous efforts to eliminate deficits and pay down debt — which means that they must include trillions in imaginary, unexplained savings.”

And here is Linda again stating what has to be said and by the looks of it, nailing it as it required a response from the president of another sadly influential “pressure group”.

“To understand what’s happened, we have to look at the history of funding for cities in California. With the passage of Proposition 13, all commercial property was protected from being reassessed, sometimes forever. This staggering decrease in revenue to local governments just got worse every year as inflation gobbles up the tax base we used to have for local services. We have more expenses and no way to pay for them except by reducing our staff and eliminating the maintenance of our infrastructure (paving streets, sewer repair, etc.).

I’d add – and pass regressive sales taxes in a desperate attempt to make ends meet.

Both Mr. Coupal and Councilwoman Atkins are claiming ownership of the “facts”.  Seems like the simple fact that all our local leaders agree that the most regressive of taxes is required to keep government’s door open is a hint that we should be looking at other sources of revenue.   These funding sources should help to level the economic playing field produced by our economic system – not exacerbate it.  That is a problem that Mr. Coupal, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Prop 13 will not or cannot address.


4 thoughts on “Councilwoman Atkins Struck a Nerve

  1. Henchman Of Justice says:

    It is HOJ’s opinion that Humboldt fails because the people in power and control exhibit poor economic behavior and focus mostly in inbred family politics and its shoulder rubbers. Humboldt and LIE

    Are synonymous.


    1. MOLA42 says:


      I have to agree with what you’ve said. But the question that must be asked is HOW they manage to do this?

      They are not fools… They simply took advantage of the tools provided by Jarvis and his fellow travelers.

      They get away with every less than above-board maneuver by using scare tactics aimed at the very limited number of people who actually vote to fall for their agendas.

      The “Recipe”: Don’t fix the problems; just scare the people into going along with you so you don’t have to. Use the problems to stay in power.

      Jon: Now that HOJ is a reader you’ll have to up the readership count to seven. You’ll be up to a dozen before you know it.

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