Humanitarians, Reiner, Hastings, Don't Measure Up
A new class of self-appointed…
[by Jon Coupal] 3/7/06
make humanitarians like they used to.
ago, if someone were asked for an example of a humanitarian,
chances are Mother Teresa, who devoted her life to helping
the poor, would come to mind.
ago, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who brought modern medicine to
a remote area of Africa, was a humanitarian icon. When he was
the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 he used the $33,000 to expand
his hospital and build a leper colony.
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]
One hundred years ago, Andrew Carnegie was busy giving away
a fortune, much of it to public libraries and education. The
Scottish immigrant made his money in the steel industry. At the
time of his retirement in 1901, he was recognized as the world's
richest man. By the time of his death, nearly two decades later,
he had dispensed 90 percent of his fortune.
What all these great humanitarians have in common is that they
all gave freely of themselves and their fortunes, no matter how
great or meager, to aid others.
While, today, there are no doubt millions of people who strive
to do good for others, most labor in anonymity.
However, in California, we are now seeing the
rise of a new class of self-styled humanitarians, who, instead
of giving of
themselves for what they perceive to be a worthy cause, have
chosen to misuse the initiative process to compel others to give.
The two individuals who stand out for the most adroit use of
this "humanitaxian" approach are actor-director Rob
Reiner and Reed Hastings, whose DVD rental company Netflix provides
his foundation of support.
Hiram Johnson, the father of the initiative,
referendum and recall in California, said that the intent of
was to "...place in the hands of the people the means by
which they may protect themselves." The initiative process
made the people the legislature of last resort when elected lawmakers
proved too corrupt, too incompetent or too indolent to properly
conduct the peoples' most important business.
Proposition 13 was a classic example of the proper role of the
initiative. Using it, voters were able save their homes when
the Legislature refused to take action.
However, in recent years, Reiner, Hastings and
other "do-gooders" have
seized upon the initiative process as a way to fund their pet
causes. In 1998, Reiner succeeded in placing on the ballot the
Californian Children and Families Act, Proposition 10, which
raised taxes on tobacco products to fund child development programs.
Since smokers now enjoy the status that lepers held in the Middle
Ages, the measure passed.
In the year 2000, Reed Hasting backed two measures to make it
easier to increase property taxes for school bonds. Tapping his
billionaire Silicon Valley colleagues, his campaign spent $60
million with the eventual result that Proposition 39 was narrowly
passed and ordinary homeowners are now paying billions more in
In 2004 Reiner was back, this time with the California Teaches
Association, promoting a ballot measure that would have increased
property taxes for education. After spending $2.5 million to
gather signatures for a measure that would have cost taxpayers
$10 billion annually, backers were made aware of fatal drafting
errors and the effort was suspended.
This year both Reiner and Hastings are back. For the June ballot,
Reiner has qualified Proposition 82 that would increase taxes
on high income Californians to provide preschool for all at a
cost estimated by the Reason Foundation of $109,000 per year
for each additional child that the program would cover. Reiner
is now embroiled in a well-justified controversy because the
First Five Commission, which he chairs and is supported by revenue
from the Proposition 10 tobacco tax, spent $23,000,000 taxpayers
dollars in advertising to promote universal preschool while signature
gatherers were working to place Proposition 82 on the ballot.
Hastings, meanwhile, has begun the process to qualify for the
ballot the Classroom Learning and Accountability Act, which would
establish a universal statewide property tax. Under his plan,
a Silicon Valley billionaire in his mansion, a retired couple
in a bungalow, and newlyweds in a tract home would all pay the
Both Reiner and Hastings could have chosen another path and
received the acclaim of the community. Each could, no doubt,
afford to endow scholarships, and each could use their fame and
wealth to speak out to require greater accountability for the
billions of dollars -- over half the state budget -- that we
already spend on education.
Instead, they have become self-appointed experts on what our
children need, and they are determined that others will pay to
see that their visions are realized. CRO
2006 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association