Tag Archives: LACMTA

Yes, LA, Please Tax Us

One of the newer entries into the California right-wing blogosphere is Fox and Hounds Daily, a project of the Small Business Action Committee and its head, Joel Fox. Fox was the longtime head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which helps explain Fox’s absurd anti-tax screed about various local taxes on the LA ballot.

Whenever right-wingers start expressing concern about how taxes will impact working people, those working Californians should immediately be skeptical. Since when have conservatives expressed genuine concern for the needs of the poor, or the shrinking middle class? Conservatives have long used taxes to attain populist credibility with working Californians but a close examination of Fox’s article shows that this is based on a lie. The right-wing anti-tax movement is directly responsible for the dire straits working Californians find themselves in today, and the proposals Fox criticizes would do much to help save them money.

This is the core point that Democrats and progressives need to be repeatedly hitting – taxes save you money. Take for example the proposed LA Metro sales tax that Fox uses as a prime target:

The MTA wants a ½-cent sales tax hike for thirty years to cover various transportation projects. When implemented (if passed), L.A.’s sales tax will be 8.75%. That assumes there will be no state sales tax increase that may come along in a state budget deal. If that happens, along with a successful MTA sales tax increase, Los Angeles residents will be looking at a sales tax over 9%.

Nowhere in the article does Fox mention what the tax would be used for. It’s a typical disinformation move – complain about higher taxes but fail to explain what it would provide. As gas prices soared, working Californians’ wallets were squeezed, perhaps nowhere moreso than in Los Angeles County, which has a growing mass transit system but remains overly reliant on automobiles for commuting.

The LACMTA proposal would address that by providing billions for desperately needed mass transit projects, whether it’s the Subway to the Sea, the Foothill Extension of the Gold Line, or some other project. Mass transit saves people money. Real money. That’s why ridership on the LACMTA’s rail lines soared this year. Southern Californians are desperate for mass transit options so that they can save money. Why does Fox want to deny them that option?

More over the flip…

Small businesses have an especially strong interest in mass transit. Many of their workers have been priced out of the LA city center and have to move to the suburbs. Rising gas prices hit them hard, and that makes it difficult for LA small businesses to retain workers. Of course, when people pay more at the pump, their retail spending drops. Big chains can weather that decline far better than small and medium businesses can.

Of course, Fox is merely advancing an ideological agenda under the cover of defending small business. Otherwise why would he oppose Antonio Villaraigosa’s plan to hire more cops? Small businesses can’t afford to hire their own security the way the big chains can. And small businesses need good schools to provide the trained workers that they need to survive.

It’s not just small businesses that ought to reject Fox’s concern trolling. Working Californians have seen widening inequality over the last 30 years – which just so happens to be the same length of time that anti-tax politics that have dominated our state. They’re suffering largely because they don’t have the same public services that produced the prosperous middle class in the 1950s and 1960s. Tax cuts have meant higher college fees, higher transportation costs, and higher health care costs for fewer services.

The legacy of tax cuts in California is a destructive one. But until Democrats and progressives start explaining that tax cuts actually cost more to small business and working Californians than higher taxes, conservative faux-populism will continue to dominate our state. Fox is overt about his strategy:

But turnout is unlikely to counterbalance the piling on effect taxpayers will feel from all these tax measures. Constant talk of tax increases will blur the different measures in taxpayers’ minds and some, if not all of the measures, could face a voter backlash.

The response, then, is to constantly talk about the savings that these public services will provide – and the costs of not approving these taxes. How much money will Southern Californians have to shell out at the pump over the next ten years without the LACMTA sales tax?

If we are to defeat folks like Fox, we need to provide the answers to those kind of questions.