Shrieks and Moans and Spending Cuts

It’s been said that taking a dollar from a bureaucrat -- and a politician too, for that matter -- is like taking a piece of raw meat from a hyena -- a lot of shrieking ensues.

The howls coming from Washington, D.C. over spending cuts required by sequestration, could cause the uninformed to believe that civilization, as we know it, is about to end. An $85 billion reduction from a $3.6 trillion budget -- a cut of 2.3 percent -- is being described by the Washington elite, including the president, as potentially decimating support for schools, the poor, law enforcement, medical research, boarder protection and the military. The Air Force saying it will be likely to cancel air shows, may have been one of the few honest, and probably unintentional, revelations of the actual impact of the sequester that is -- wait for it -- the brainchild of the Obama White House.

The dire predictions emanating from the White House are so bizarre that even the normally supplicant main stream media is beginning to get suspicious. Case in point: Congresswoman Maxine Waters predicting that the sequestration will cause the loss of more than 170 million jobs. What? There are only 150 million working Americans now. Obviously, the hyperbole is reaching heights never seen before.

If this all seems familiar, it should.

California observers are reminded of a time, 35 years ago, when the governing class of the entire state issued shrill predictions of doom in response to a ballot measure that would limit tax revenues. Compared to Proposition 13, Attila the Hun would have been given a more hospitable welcome by these officials.

A recent caller to a national talk show spoke of the parallels between the extreme statements of opponents of Proposition 13 and those now objecting to sequestration. He told of working in law enforcement in Los Angeles County when Proposition 13 was on the ballot and being told that the fire department had rented property in the desert to be able to store equipment from closed fire stations. During that time, taking the word of Proposition 13 opponents without question, the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial claiming, “Los Angeles County would eliminate all the Fire Department’s paramedic units and close half of the 129 fire stations,” if Proposition 13 passed.

The public sector was willing to go to any length to discredit Proposition 13. A sign posted by the San Francisco Public Library stated, “Notice! If Proposition 13 passes on June 6, the San Francisco Public Library Will CLOSE EFFECTIVE JUNE 30, 1978.” The chief administrative officer of the City of Los Angeles said, “The approval of Proposition 13 would bring the city’s operations to a complete halt,” while a representative of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors chimed in with, “If the initiative passes we can probably move the entire county (operation) into the library’s Quonset hut and auction off the new county building.”

But that’s lightweight stuff. Former Governor Pat Brown, Jerry Brown’s father, sent out a letter from his law office saying, “If I were a communist and wanted to destroy this country, I would support the Jarvis Amendment (Prop. 13).”

As a result of these and scores of other extreme and unfounded attacks on Proposition 13, Howard Jarvis, the measure's author, received death threats, but he did not let these, or any other form of bullying, distract him for a single moment from his campaign to bring tax relief to the people. And Proposition 13? It passed by a two-to-one vote, public services continued unabated and, as economist Arthur Laffer has observed, it led directly to over a decade of economic prosperity for Californians.

Based on the experience of Proposition 13, the public would do well to dismiss the strident rhetoric coming from government insiders. Charges from the White House and Capitol Hill that budget cuts will be a catastrophe are ironic in that American workers saw a 2 percent increase in the payroll tax at the beginning of the year. If working families are expected to survive on 2 percent less, it is hardly unreasonable to ask government to tighten its belt as well. It is important for Americans to ask themselves, which is worse, a 2.3 percent cut in federal spending, or continuing to borrow trillions of dollars from foreign nations in an effort to maintain a level of spending that is unsustainable?

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.