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Stefan Sharkansky- Contributor
Commentator, Premier Blogger, and Software Consultant. A former San Francisican now relocated to Seattle. Mr. Sharkansky keeps a watchful eye on Robert Scheer and Nancy Pelosi. He has created a very useful tool for dissecting Robert (former Black Panther and apologist for North Korea and Cuba) Scheer – it’s called the Canard-o-Matic and is very useful in understanding the dark mind of this Los Angeles Times communist columnist.

Scheering Prop 13
The rich get richer and some avoid taxes

[Stefan Sharkansky] 8/20/03 (Editor's Note: Stefan Sharkansky provides a valuable ongoing service deconstructing LA Times "columnist" Robert Scheer.)

In this week's column, Robert Scheer takes on California's Proposition 13, the 1978 ballot measure which strictly limits property tax increases. Headline: A higher tax on all your houses. A more honest headline might be "A higher tax on all my houses", because Robert Scheer and his wife own at least three houses, while most of the rest of us own at most one house. Prop. 13 is in the news again, because Warren Buffett, in his role as Arnold Schwarzenegger's economic advisor suggested last week that California's property taxes are too low.

There are legitimate criticisms of Prop. 13. As a recently former California homeowner, I agree with those who say that Prop. 13 gives the state a silly property tax structure. Not so much for the aggregate amount of tax revenue collected, but for the way the burden is unevenly distributed. Because property values are reassessed to market value only at the time of a sale, there is an enormous advantage to long-term owners at the expense of those who enter or re-enter the market. It is precisely a form of rent control with the same undesirable side effects. Do you want to give young entrepreneurs with growing families a reason to leave California to start their businesses elsewhere? Prop. 13 is the solution for you!

Scheer, inexplicably, resorts to the politics of resentment and class warfare:

Proposition 13 must be changed because it mainly benefits the rich -- most of whom are now running for governor, it would seem. The proposition was sold as salvation for poor widows, but the law makes no distinction between commercial and residential properties, thereby artificially lowering the tax on profitable enterprises. Leave the tax break for homeowners with low and fixed incomes, but Buffett is right -- guys like him should pay more taxes than they do.

Since Robert Scheer brought this up, I think it's only fair to observe that although he plays a populist class warrior on television, Robert Scheer is actually one of those rich people who benefits as much from Prop. 13 as anybody else in the state. And if Robert Scheer believes that guys like himself should pay more taxes than they do, why doesn't Robert Scheer start by paying more taxes himself?

A peek into the public property records of Los Angeles and Alameda counties shows that Robert Scheer and his wife, Narda Zacchino, own the following properties:

a) A 3 bedroom, 3 bath 1902 sq. ft. condo on 15th St. in Santa Monica, purchased in 1992 for $555,000, with a current assessed value of $664,345.
b) A 3 bedroom, 3 bath 1722 sq ft. condo on W 1st ST. in downtown Los Angeles, purchased in 2000 for $380,000 with a current assessed value of $395,351.
c) A 10 bedroom, 4 bath 3754 sq ft. "single family dwelling converted into a boarding house" on Forest Ave. in Berkeley, purchased in 1979 with a current assessed value of $198,564

I'd say that Bob has done pretty well for himself. Especially since the fair market value of his properties is probably closer to $2 million than to their assessed value of $1.26 million. And even though he sounds vaguely envious of those who

take out the untaxed increased equity in their homes through low-interest refinancing and second-mortgage loans

the public records show that Mr. and Mrs. Robert Scheer have refinanced their various homes on numerous occasions.

I don't begrudge Robert Scheer his success. On the contrary, I read his own descriptions of his early life -- he was born to a poor, unwed immigrant mother, and he was dismissed in school as "dumb and slow" back in the days before his dyslexia was well understood -- and I think what a great country that someone who faced such challenges early in life could grow up to be a famous journalist and the owner of three houses. That's as good of a true-life Horatio Alger story as any I've ever heard. Not least because Scheer has been able to buy real estate in Berkeley since at least as early as 1969 when he only 33 years old and earning what was presumably a meager salary as the editor of an underground Communist newspaper.

One would think that Scheer would use his bully pulpit to find something nice to say about the United States and its capitalist system which has given him so much in exchange for so little. Or that he would at least drop his class warfare shtick long enough to tell his readers honestly, "Yes, I own millions of dollars worth of property. I'm grateful for my good life.". Or that if he wants the rest of us to pay higher taxes, he could set an example and voluntarily donate some extra money to the government along with his tax payments.

Or at the very least he could pay all the taxes that he owes, on time and in full. The Los Angeles County Treasurer tells us that he owes some back taxes on the Santa Monica condo; Alameda County tells us that he had a federal tax lien back in 1976 (released later the same year) and that he still has an unreleased city tax lien from 2000.

[Sources: Alameda County Clerk, Alameda County Treasurer, Los Angeles County Assessor; Robert Scheer's various addresses may be found by doing a WHOIS search for and by searching the Yahoo! white pages]


copyright 2003 Stefan Sharkansky



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