Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Starve the Beast

A few weeks ago, I received a flyer from a colleague with the encouragement to distribute it to my college students. The flyer was being passed out on the San Francisco State campus, the email explained and we should feel free to distribute on our campus as well.
Curious, I read the flyer.

On the cover was a picture of Dracula with the title: "There's a Vampire Sucking the Lifelood out of Public Education, Health and Social Services in California." I thought it was a joke, a pardody perhaps. I read on.
The flyer asked: "Why Is This Happening Now?" And went on to explain. It's not the fault of the professor who has no room in the class you need. It's not that California has been "on a spending spree"--spending increases only reflect population growth and inflation. (The dogmatic inaccuracy of that statement took my breath away. ) It's not mothers on welfare or home health aides "taking advantage of the system" to quote Gov. Schwartzenegger's scapegoating remarks. (Context please.) It's not even the current economic downturn. (Really? What happens to tax revenues when unemployment rises? The current rate in California is over 12%--the highest in recent memory.)

The flyer goes on to say the problem is increased spending on prisons which is gallantly and conveniently illustrated by an official looking chart showing prison spending increasing 126% from 1984-2004 with no sourcing data for context. The flyer makes a variety of outrageously innacurate statements meant to foment opposition to the rich, oil companies and Proposition 13 (more on that in a minute) without supporting any of the claims with facts OR bothering to mention that the legislature in California has been led by the Democratic majority for much if not all of the time period cited. (Exact dates to come--still waiting for the government office to open at 9:30 a.m., the one that knows the answer to that question.)
Proposition 13 is once again under attack. When I was in Prague studying this summer my professor (who makes his home in Iowa) told me Proposition 13 was the source of all our problems in California. Repeal it, start paying property taxes and all will be well he told me. When I told him we DO pay property taxes to the tune of 1.25% with an annual inflation increase built in, he was befuddled. He asked me if I was sure? Yes, professor, I am sure.
I lived through Proposition 13. I saw average people lose their homes. People like my mom and your mom, my family and yours. Average people who tally up their income each month and spend according to what they earn. Unlike the government that simply spends. My money and yours. Never enough.
It's time to starve the beast.

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