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Jon Coupal- Columnist

Jon Coupal is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website] [go to Coupal index]

King George and the Rose Parade
The arrogance of the anti-taxpayers...
[Jon Coupal]

Anti-taxpayers. Who are they? If you like old Humphrey Bogart movies, they can be labeled as the "usual suspects" who believe themselves superior to productive, taxpaying members of society. They consist of most -- but certainly not all -- politicians and bureaucrats. They are those who receive their paychecks courtesy of ordinary citizens who rarely receive as generous compensation -- including huge benefit packages -- for their work. The anti-taxpayers also have an extraordinary sense of entitlement.

Speaking of entitlement, the anti-taxpayers also include those on the public dole in all its manifestations. Welfare, subsidies, grants, free tuition, free medical assistance or other benefits are typical of those who have a vested interest in sustained or expanded government programs. Direct money transfers are not necessary as anti-taxpayers also include the "extended infrastructure" of government. These are corporations for which contracts and business relationships with government comprise the greatest share of their enterprise. Although such businesses are technically in the "private" sector, their lifeblood is taxpayer dollars. The construction companies which give vast amounts of campaign contributions to bond measures calling for school and highway construction are merely hoping for a good return on their investment dollar.

Finally, the anti-taxpayers also include many elites. Persons who are very wealthy but have lost touch -- assuming they ever had it in the first place -- with ordinary working class citizens. A sprinkling of high tech billionaires and the majority of those in the entertainment industry who are politically active are in this category. They can blithely advocate higher taxes with such arguments that "it would only be the cost of a latte a day" without knowing that most people drink coffee, not lattes.

Many anti-taxpayers object to the characterizations above as divisive and simplistic. After all, they will argue that they are taxpayers too. Perhaps. But their interests and status as net tax receivers far outweighs their interests and status as a net tax payers.

Besides, we've heard this all before. A common complaint against Howard Jarvis was that his rhetoric was both inflammatory and simplistic. The other side of that coin, however, is that the majority of taxpayers -- those paying the bills -- appreciated both the strength of his advocacy and clarity he brought to public issues of the day. Howard's popularity was measured at the ballot box on several occasions.

The ballot box is, of course, the taxpayers' best ally. While focused special interests are able to turn out large protests at the State Capitol, working families can rarely take a day off to protest the follies of government. When community colleges are threatened, thousands of teachers and students will protest. The same is true for those on welfare when their programs are threatened. But what are taxpayers supposed to do? Protest every day? Paid and unpaid advocates for more government spending are legion. Advocates for less government are few and far between. Thus, the anti-taxpayers are shocked when voters reject the status quo on election day.

But there is one characteristic of the anti-taxpayers that shines above all others. It is arrogance. And it manifests itself on a daily basis. Recently, City of Los Angeles officials engaged in scare tactics in response to their budgetary problems, including the potential loss of car tax revenues. They repeatedly threatened public safety cuts that would endanger the entire city and lead to devastating impacts. At the same time, they approved $175,000 on building a float for the 2004 Tournament of Roses Parade.

The anti-taxpayers believe that taxpayers are too stupid or are simply not paying attention to have an impact on the way we are being governed. They are poor students of history. Rise to Rebellion, a wonderful book by talented author Jeff Shaara, recounts the events leading up to the American Revolution from the perspective of key figures on both sides. A common theme is how the British government so grossly underestimated the frustration and anger of the colonists.

Will history repeat itself? Maybe it has already started. California's recent recall of its governor may be the Lexington and Concord of a new war. There is no doubt that King George III was the quintessential anti-taxpayer. Unfortunately, his philosophical progeny populate the Golden State in vast numbers. It is going to be a long campaign.

copyright 2004 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association


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