The California Legislature reconvenes this week and the politicians may be on the verge of a major miscalculation because they don’t understand how real people think.
The members of the political class in Washington and our state capitols are certain they know what Americans are thinking. Just ask them. After all, they read polls and this convinces them they know how we view Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, high-profile politicians and policy issues like “sequestration.”
What they don’t understand is that most folks don’t spend much time thinking about any of these issues or politicians. The politicians might be surprised to learn that “quantitative easing” is not a popular topic of dinner table conversation.
What real people care about is the welfare of their families, their jobs and their homes — most folks spend a lot more time thinking about their favorite sports teams than they do about politics. Politics becomes important when it impacts their families, jobs or homes. When it gets personal, they start paying close attention.
Look at Obamacare. When it was approved by Congress three years ago, for most people it was theoretical and it was not clear how it would affect them. After all, even then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi famously admitted that members of Congress did not know what was in it. So it makes sense that average people refused to put a lot of time into thinking about something that even the powerful in government did not understand.
Now that the health care plan has been rolled out with the result that over 6 million Americans have lost their health insurance, and it has been revealed that the president’s assurance that those who liked their current policy and doctor could keep them, was disingenuous at best, real people are seeing a real threat to their families. The public outrage meter is so high that it is in danger of bursting. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has warned this puts his party’s future control of the Senate in jeopardy and other members of the Washington, D.C. political class are admitting they may have miscalculated.
In Sacramento, where the Legislature returns to work this week, the politicians may be about to make a similar miscalculation.
Last year Senate leader Darrell Steinberg announced that 2014 would be the year to examine Proposition 13, and this coming year may be the most dangerous yet for Proposition 13 and the taxpayers who depend on its protections.
A number of anti-Proposition 13 bills are currently active in the Legislature. Especially threatening to homeowners is legislation that would make it easier to increase “per parcel taxes.” Parcel taxes are taxes on property, which under Proposition 13, require a two-thirds vote. The politicians want to lower the vote requirement, which could cost homeowners billions of dollars.
It is possible that a half dozen anti-Proposition 13 bills will be rushed through at the end of the legislative session this summer and these constitutional amendments placed on the November 2014 ballot. It takes only a majority of voters to approve an amendment to the constitution and, while Proposition 13 remains extremely popular with the general public, millions of dollars will be spent by backers of higher taxes to portray these changes as increasing “local control” or as enabling “investment in the community.”
However, proponents of dismantling Proposition 13 underestimate what will be the reaction when real people learn that their homes, jobs and families will be negatively impacted by the destruction of these taxpayer protections. It might best be summed up by the quote attributed to Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander of the Japanese forces that attacked Pearl Harbor: I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.
Those who are not members of the political class, and want to understand more about these threats to Proposition 13, are invited to visit www.hjta.org.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.